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Cast-off building materials and furniture are ‘ReStored’ to glory

Kathy Rich with her greenhouse created out of salvaged materials, with her contractor husband Jimmy. Photo by John Tlumacki/Globe StaffJohn Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Homeowners embarking on a renovation project can protect the environment, save money, and help others by reusing or donating salvageable building materials.

Typically, the leftover materials from building and renovation projects end up in already overflowing landfills. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, 569 million tons of construction and demolition debris was generated in 2017 alone.

But there’s an alternative, right in our backyards. Habitat ReStores, a network of independently owned stores operated by local Habitat for Humanity organizations, accepts and sells reusable building supplies and decorative accessories.

There are more than 900 ReStores throughout the United States and 14 in Massachusetts communities, including Ashland, Billerica, Carver, Hanover, Lawrence, Peabody, and West Roxbury.


“Our motto is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, ReStore,” said Steve Cheatham, manager of Merrimack Valley ReStore in Lawrence. “Since 2011, MV Restore has diverted 550 tons of trash that would have been sent to landfills and all proceeds from the store go to build Habit for Humanity homes across the Merrimack Valley."

Lawrence, where nearly a quarter of residents live in poverty, has "a significant amount of substandard housing,” Cheatham noted. “As part of our mission, ReStore provides quality building and renovation materials at a fraction of the cost of new materials.”

Located in an old Wonder Bread factory on Andover Street, MV ReStore offers a bright, well-organized retail showroom similar to national home improvement chains. It attracts savvy bargain hunters along with designers who are looking for items to repurpose or redesign.

Kathy Rich of North Reading is a frequent MV ReStore customer.

“I look for unique finds, items that I can make my own,” said Rich, a designer who has 40,000 followers on Instagram (@r.house_). “I go in once a week looking for items that I can breathe new life into.”


Rich saw a greenhouse constructed out of vintage windows on the social media network Pinterest. She shared the idea with her husband Jimmy, who is a contractor.

“Well, Jimmy is a can-do kind of guy. Four days later, he came home with vintage windows reclaimed from a house in Boston,” recalled Rich. “It was an amazing jigsaw puzzle. Once he started assembling, he knew he needed more windows. We went to ReStore and found a huge window that became the focal point for the greenhouse.”

The finished approximately 12-by-14-foot greenhouse is an eye-catching marvel.

Once the greenhouse was completed, Rich purchased pieces at MV ReStore to create the interior furnishing.

“I bought an old pedestal and a tabletop for $12. I refinished them with a weathered, time-worn look and put them together to create a table that fits perfectly,” she explained.

Shopping at MV ReStore is a treasure hunt, as the inventory is unpredictable. One day there are architectural columns, a mantelpiece, and porch posts from an antique home, the next there are boxes of new lighting, roof shingles, and floor tiles. Plumbing fixtures range from brand-new tubs to vintage, and the inventory of windows and doors is extensive. The MV ReStore website, mvrestore.org, provides inventory updates and a list of accepted donation items.

A sample of inventory prices has interior doors starting at $15 each and exterior doors at $49. In the plumbing department, pedestal sinks are $49. Washers and dryers start at $149, with high-end stainless steel models selling for $249. A selection of new, in-the-box chandeliers that were originally priced at $1,500 are marked between $199 and $299, depending on the size.


“Much of our donated building material inventory comes from area contractors. A homeowner, for example, will want a new kitchen and instead of sending perfectly good kitchen cabinets and counters to a landfill, the contractor sends them to us,” said Cheatham. “We even have a truck that will come and pick up donations.”

Stephen and Susan Howell of Boxford, owners of Howell Custom Builders in Lawrence, encourage clients to donate reusable materials to MV ReStore.

“I have about 10 projects a year where the homeowners agree to send reusable materials to ReStore,” said Stephen Howell. “I had one where the clients purchased a brand-new multimillion-dollar home in Andover. They did not like the kitchen, so they hired us to disassemble the new cherry cabinets and granite counters and send them to ReStore before installing a kitchen more to their taste.”

“We do get used cabinets, appliances, and lighting, but we get new items, too," said Cheatham. "We have received donations from a Wayfair photo shoot and new lighting and plumbing fixtures from showrooms that have been updated. We have products that are still new in the box. A blind company recently donated samples from their showroom.”

MV Restore is open for bargain hunting Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For those with reusable items that no longer give them joy, MV Restore asks for photos and condition information before scheduling a pickup. Drop off also is available during business hours.


Linda Greenstein can be reached at greensteinlm@gmail.com.

Sid Hussaini of Metheun walks past a wall of lumber at the Merrimack Valley ReStore. It has an inventory of lumber, cabinets, appliances, plumbing fixtures, lighting, and general hardware available for purchase. (David L Ryan/Globe Staff ) David L. Ryan/Globe Staff