It’s exciting to plan a flooring project. Deciding on the style, color and material keeps you busy and allows you to customize your home’s environment. But you might spend so much time envisioning the new floor that you don’t stop to consider what happens to the waste from the old flooring. If you’re replacing hardwood floors, you can reduce your impact on the environment by recycling them.

Benefits of Recycling Hardwood Flooring

Most people are familiar with recycling glass, metal and paper. However, you may not realize that you can also recycle your hardwood flooring.

Reduce Deforestation

The primary benefit of recycling hardwood is that it prevents trees from being cut down to make wooden products. Many hardwood planks are restored and sold as reclaimed pieces to lumber yards and flooring manufacturers.

Prevent Waste From Ending Up in Landfills

Recycling old hardwood floors also reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Although landfills are necessary for containing solid waste and preventing it from ending up in other areas, they have detrimental impacts on communities and the environment.

Wood makes up slightly more than 8% of the solid waste in landfills. With some states running out of landfill space, it’s more important than ever to repurpose or recycle garbage, including hardwood flooring.

Landfills also produce greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change and pollution. Natural habitats are decimated to make room for landfills. Garbage dumps further damage ecosystems by leaching chemicals and toxins into the ground.

Moreover, landfills can be smelly and noisy. They reduce the value of adjacent land and create health risks for nearby residents.

Produce New Materials

Whether you send your old hardwood floors to a recycling center or repurpose them creatively, you support the creation of new materials. This practice protects natural resources and reduces the amount of energy that is spent on production of new materials.

It also reduces costs. Disposal fees for recycling facilities are often lower than those for landfills. DIY recycling saves you money on these fees and prevents you from having to buy new materials for projects. Manufacturing products from recycled materials also tends to cost less than making items from new raw materials.

How to Recycle Hardwood Floors

Part of the process of renovating your floors involves making decisions about how to dispose of the old materials. Coming up with a plan ahead of time can make the recycling process easier. Here are some ways to recycle hardwood floors.

1. Repurpose It Yourself

If you’re handy with woodworking tools, you can make just about anything with the planks that you pull off of the floor. Some creative ideas for things to make with reclaimed wood include:

  • Shelving
  • Furniture
  • Decorative facades for cabinetry
  • Accent walls
  • Headboards
  • Home decor
  • Artwork

Old floors often have discoloration and imperfections. However, sanding and refinishing the surface provides a clean look. You may not be able to get rid of all of the flaws. However, this aspect of repurposing hardwood gives your projects extra character.

Reclaimed hardwood is an excellent material for many home improvement projects. It is often harder and denser than wooden planks that are available at hardware stores. If it’s still in great shape after being tread on for years, it will deliver the same resilience wherever it ends up. Plus, reclaimed wood adds character to projects.

2. Contact a Recycling Facility

You can’t put old hardwood floors with your other curbside recycling items. Wood contaminates the city recycling facilities, which cannot process this material. Look for an independent recycling center that deals with other materials.

Some recycling facilities work directly with construction and demolition companies and accept large loads of wood. They may offer recycling dumpsters, which you fill up at your pace. Recycling companies that accept hardwood should even be able to haul off the material for you. You’ll typically have to pay a fee to use a recycling service.

3. Sell or Donate It

Building with reclaimed wood is a popular way to protect the environment and save money. You may be surprised by the number of people who are looking for inexpensive sources of reclaimed materials for their projects. You can try to sell the hardwood on local marketplaces, on Craigslist or at yard sales.

You might even have takers if you set the material by the curb with a sign indicating that it’s free. However, you can’t guarantee that the person who picks it up will recycle it.

If your old flooring is in great condition, or even if you bought too much, you might want to contact a local salvager or flooring contractor. In addition, you can donate it to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.

4. Use a Removal Service

Some contractors will dismantle a hardwood floor for a fee. The benefit is that they’ll clean up after themselves and haul away the old material. If you choose this option for your hardwood floor removal, ask about what they do with the planks. Eco-friendly companies will recycle it, making it an efficient option for those who don’t want to get involved in a home improvement project.

Dos and Don’ts for Recycling Hardwood Floors

Before you make provisions for recycling your floor, ensure that it’s made of true hardwood. Engineered hardwood flooring is harder to repurpose because it may be glued down. Also, the click-and-lock mechanism on engineered hardwood planks often gets damaged as the wood is removed.

The condition of the wood makes a difference if you’re using the wood for another project. Pieces with extreme damage or rot won’t be suitable for upcycling. If the hardwood is in bad shape, the best option is usually to have it hauled off to a recycling facility.

If you are planning to reuse the wood, take care when you’re removing it. Start by removing the baseboards. Easing planks off of the substrate with a flat bar is an ideal way to get them up. Try to remove several rows at a time to avoid damaging the tongue-and-groove areas. Older wood floors have been subjected to temperature and moisture changes for years and may be susceptible to cracking. Be gentle, and follow the directions of the nails. If you use too much force, you might split the wood.

Find out how you should prepare the wood for the recycling option that you choose. You may need to sort the material, discarding planks that are in poor condition. Some facilities require you to remove nails and other fasteners from the boards.

Although creating a bonfire sounds like a fun way to dispose of your hardwood flooring, it’s not the best idea. The planks likely contain finishes and chemicals that are harmful to your health and the environment. When you burn them, you put yourself and your neighbors at risk of breathing in the toxic smoke. The chemicals in the wood also make it a poor choice for using as mulch.

Take the proper safety measures when you’re working with wood. Wear gloves to protect your hands from getting splinters. Use a mask to avoid inhaling particles when you’re sawing or sanding reclaimed wood. With the right precautions, planning and creativity, you can recycle your hardwood floors, contributing to the preservation of the planet and potentially saving yourself money in the process.