What Happens to Building Materials During Demolition? : Klumm Bros.

What Happens to Building Materials During Demolition?

February 25, 2022

There are not many different reasons why buildings may need to get demolished. Either they are outdated, in poor condition or simply in the way of new development.

In a world in which all industries are growing increasingly focused on sustainability and finding more environmentally conscious ways of doing business, it is natural to wonder what happens to building materials after demolition. The demolition process could create a significant amount of waste, but there are increasingly new opportunities to reuse some of the building materials that might otherwise be discarded after demolition.

Here’s a quick look at what happens to some of these materials upon completion of building demolition.


Steel is far and away the most common framing material used in building commercial and industrial structures in the United States. The good news is that it is extremely recyclable and is, in fact, the most recycled material in the world. Approximately 98 percent of structural steel will be put to new uses, which prevents it from getting sent to landfills.

Steel production relies on the use of preexisting steel to begin with, and the setup of the market makes it so companies are incentivized to reuse steel, as it significantly helps the supply chain.


Concrete is a crucial building component used for laying foundations, establishing floors and walls and reinforcing certain elements of the building. Cement and aggregate used in concrete are not renewable, and there are some barriers to recycling concrete. This is due in part to the core materials that need to be isolated; concrete is often used in conjunction with mortar paste, metals, plastics and woods, which can make it difficult to extract just the concrete for later use.

Typically, recycling for concrete is more downcycling, which is taking previously-used concrete and reusing it in a shredded or pebbled form for roadbed construction, retaining walls, aggregate or landscaping. It’s not a simple process to recycle the concrete for those purposes, but it is common.


Glass is more reusable than one might expect, but there are some challenges. Chief among those obstacles is ensuring glass panels do not get mixed in with other waste during demolition. In addition, colored glass will almost always be sent to the landfill, while clear glass is very reusable.


Drywall is used in the vast majority of today’s construction for walls and ceilings. It is extremely recyclable so long as the layers remain intact. Drywall (gypsum) boards feature two pieces of paper and a gypsum core, and it must be kept as whole as possible if it is to be reused.

The paper surroundings on the drywall can be ground down and recycled like paper and wood, and gypsum can be reused over and over again without losing its performance standards.

For more information about what happens to building materials during demolition and what types of construction materials are most recyclable, get in touch with the team at Klumm Bros. today. We look forward to working with you soon.

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