What is Deconstruction?

picture of a man on a construction site with a sledge hammer.

Demolition, Renovation, and Deconstruction are the big three when it comes to building removal. We’re all familiar with the first two, so we’re here to give you a little information on just what exactly deconstruction is and why you should consider using it for your old barns and buildings!

Deconstruction – defined as “construction in reverse” – is the process of dismantling structures in reverse order that they were built. The main goal in mind is to reclaim building material (primarily lumber) for reuse in new projects.

While deconstruction may be less common, it offers many great benefits over its counterparts. It’s typically used on structures that contain a large amount of recyclable material – though it can be used on any building of any age. One of the key benefits of deconstruction is that it provides a source of 100% green, recycled construction material.

Want to learn more about what we recycle? Check out our Comprehensive Guide To Reclaimed Wood!

Why Should You Choose Deconstruction?

Help Save Our History

Deconstruction is one of the most effective ways of saving historic buildings and rare supplies. Materials such as old-growth lumber can only be found in reclaimed structures and are highly sought after for their strength and durability.

Of course, building materials aren’t the only thing we’re saving! Architectural Antiques like gargoyles from ancient churches or chandeliers in a grand stadium are timeless pieces of art. Many famous artists and architects have crafted their legacy into these buildings and it’s our passion to help restore them.

Help Save Our Environment

Buildings are typically demolished by using a “wrecking ball” style of demolition when they reach the end of their “life span”. This creates over 280 million cubic tons of  waste (20% of our national refuse) every year[1 Deconstruction can greatly reduce the environmental damage of demolition because it relies more on skilled labor and less on heavy machinery. Though deconstruction takes longer to complete, the benefits are well worth the investment.

On average, 70% of all construction materials are recycled by the end of a project.

While deconstruction has been in use for centuries, there has been a rapidly growing demand following the rise of environmental awareness and sustainability. The green building movement has greatly increased the demand for high quality recycled materials like reclaimed lumber. It’s stronger, more reliable, and has more character than modern wood, and best of all, it’s 100% recycled and eco-friendly!

How Is Deconstruction Done?

process of deconstruction shown taking own an old barn in different steps

Breaking It Down

American Relics uses a fairly simple three-step process for most buildings.

  1. Non-Structural
  2. Structural
  3. Clean-Up

The concept is easy, but the real challenge comes from dismantling material in a safe, and cost-effective way while still maintaining the highest quality product. The cost and time needed for deconstruction can vary greatly depending on location, weather, size, and age of the structure.

Our Process

We begin by soft-stripping the building of all non-structural items. This includes all appliances, furnishings, windows, doors, trimming, tin ceiling and tiling.

After the non-structural phase is finished we move on to the structural phase. We begin with the roof, working our way down by carefully taking apart the building down to the skeletal frame. This phase is the biggest challenge we face during deconstruction. Great care must be taken to preserve the integrity of all reclaimed materials, as nearly every piece of foundation can be saved.

Some of the most common materials we recycle include:

  • Wood siding
  • Flooring
  • Floor joists
  • Ceiling beams
  • Framing timbers
  • Tin ceiling

After the structural phase is completed, we begin the fun part. Pulling down the framing beams! Once the frame is down, we clean up all non-recyclable waste and clear the site for future construction. All hazardous waste is professionally disposed of following strict EPA guidelines.

A Sustainable Future

Deconstruction can greatly reduce the environmental impact caused by demolition. While we can never fully eliminate the pollution we cause, making smart, sustainable choices can help build a brighter future. By carefully dismantling buildings instead of destroying them, we prevent significant amounts of harmful waste from polluting our cities.

If you’re concerned about the damage of pollution in your neighborhood, read our post on the potential dangers of demolition and how it could be harming your own community.

Help protect your neighborhoods by choosing deconstruction!


  1. https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/construction-and-demolition-material-specific