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Mike Holmes: Plan ahead for an eco-friendly reno

Tackle waste management at the start of your renovation project, Mike Holmes advises.
Tackle waste management at the start of your renovation project, Mike Holmes advises.

Walk by any construction site and you’ll see them: Those giant bins overflowing with construction waste. If you were to take a look in those bins, you’d see things like broken drywall, old pieces of wood, asphalt shingles and, in some cases, even full cabinets or vanities that have reached the end of their life cycle.

Waste is inevitable when you’re doing a renovation. Some materials will be beyond reuse or repair, and they need to be properly disposed of. But I admit, I hate seeing bin after bin get filled up with trash. Especially when it could have been safely reused or donated.

Last week on my Facebook page I asked what new products or services people have discovered during their quarantine, but here’s my favourite answer: none. One clever homeowner had completed some DIY projects using only materials she’d already had on hand that had been leftover from previous renovations.

To me, that’s smart. Had she not been creative, those materials likely would have gathered dust in her basement for years, until they eventually went to the landfill. Now, they’ve got a second life, she didn’t need to spend any extra money and no new waste was created.

Taking that to a larger scale, how can we cut down on construction waste as contractors and homeowners?

Deconstruct, then demolish

If you want an environmentally friendly renovation, you need to plan for that at the very beginning. Before you begin the demolition phase of the project, start with the deconstruction phase.

This is when you’d go through the renovation area and earmark which materials are still in good condition and could be salvaged and reused. Now, you may not want them for your home — but items like cabinets, appliances, and doors can find a new home elsewhere.

The deconstruction phase takes longer than doing a simple demolish, so you have to actively plan to participate in it. It’s worth the extra time — organizations like Habitat for Humanity’s Habitat ReStore can help redistribute your reusable items to families in need.

It’s not just about finding which materials can be reused. A lot of building materials can be safely recycled. I’m talking items like metal, window glass, brick, plastic, concrete and a lot more. Not everything needs to find its final home in the landfill.

Having extra bins on site can keep your recyclable materials separate from your waste. It can make a big difference in the amount of trash that ends up in the landfill. Don’t overlook it.

Eliminating waste during construction

Modluar building is when large portions of the home are built in a factory setting in different modules. These modules are then transported to the final building site of the home and assembled on site to create a home that looks like any traditional site-built home. Once the foundation is poured, often, the home can be fully assembled within a day.

Now, I’m a fan of this process for a few reasons, but waste management is a big one. Because they’re built indoors, and on an assembly-line process — typically, it’s a lot more material-efficient. Instead of having to order enough materials for one home — you can order in bulk, passing any leftovers onto the next project seamlessly.

It happens to the best of us, but sometimes we make a human error on the job site. When we accidentally leave building materials uncovered overnight during a storm, it can completely ruin them. Modular building leaves Mother Nature totally out of the picture during the construction phase. When built in a controlled environment (dry, and at the right temperature) we’re ensuring that the materials we’ve purchased remain healthy and usable.

As prefabricated models, they’re much more susceptible to the deconstruction process before demolition, so when you’re ready to make changes to your modular home — start by deconstructing.

Reducing construction waste benefits us all. It keeps out landfills less full, helps preserve Mother Earth — and has a financial benefit to you, too. Dropping off waste isn’t free, so anything you can recycle or reuse will save you money.

To find out more about Mike Holmes, visit makeitright.ca

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