For many typical remodeling projects, homeowners hire a contractor to remove the old and bring in the new. But at a time when supply challenges surround certain building products, what if some of the materials used in new-home builds or remodeling projects weren’t brand new?
In the past couple of decades, people have come to see how disposable society can be and many have started to favor reusing items because it’s environmentally conscious, is more affordable, and can offer different design styles. Companies like Craigslist, Goodwill, Facebook Marketplace, and local consignment shops are examples of where to buy used household items, such as furniture, appliances, or decor, but Baltimore-based nonprofit Second Chance takes the concept further by salvaging unwanted building materials from single-family homes.
Founded in 2001, Second Chance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that “provides people, materials, and the environment with a second chance.” The social enterprise deconstructs old buildings and homes, salvages usable materials and additional donated items, and uses the revenue generated to provide job training and workforce development for people with various employment obstacles in the Baltimore region.
Founder and president Mark Foster began with a team of four employees that specialized in deconstruction and has quickly grown to a company that employs 250 people in deconstruction, salvage, retail, operations, transportation, and customer service.
“We started off with architectural salvage and preserving historical elements, ensuring they don’t go away,” says Foster. “Fortunately, over a period of time, it diversified. Now, when you come in to our store, you see the full gamut of things that would be part of building and furnishing a house—that could be artwork, furniture, floors, doors, windows, appliances, pretty much the whole spectrum.”
On average, the organization deconstructs roughly 250 homes—with an average size of 2,500 square feet—each year stretching from Maine to Florida, with many requests from home builders that are clearing away an existing property to make room for a new structure. Second Chance employees also take apart partial projects, including interior guts or remodels, where they will strip everything but leave the framing and foundations. Plus, the organization picks up more than 1,000 donations of materials and furniture from small remodeling projects by professionals and DIYers.
All of the items gathered are displayed in the company’s 250,000-square-foot retail location in downtown Baltimore, which sells the wide selection of donated and reclaimed items to builders, designers, collectors, and the general public.