HOMEWORX – One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

When local contractor Mark Wexler was having an upscale home in Forest Hill gutted as part of a renovation project, it wasn’t only to the future benefit of the home’s owner.

Wexler partnered with the Greater Toronto Area’s chapter of Habitat For Humanity, which sent a half a dozen volunteers to salvage whatever they could during the demo. In this case, items such as a wrought-iron railing and granite counters were spared from the landfill.

Efforts like that are central to Habitat’s ReStore initiative, which sees unwanted items, from furniture to window frames, shipped off to ReStore retail locations, where they’re sold for affordable prices.

“It’s a lot better than calling someone from Kijiji, placing an ad on Kijiji, and having strangers come to your home,” says Wexler, who runs Wexmark Homes.

But this is just one of the plusses of Habitat ReStore, which began 25 years ago in Winnipeg and has since spread across Canada and south of the border.

Carol Davies, the GTA chapter of Habitat’s senior marketing and communications director, notes the profits (minus expenses) go towards Habitat’s ultimate goal of building homes.

Not only that, but those who donate items get a tax receipt for the price ReStore intends to sell them for, so long as the value is over $25. “It’s actually a wonderful model because it is self sustaining,” says Davies.

Donating through a renovation is a popular way homeowners get involved with ReStore, but there are others. ReStore volunteers will also come to pick up larger items free of charge. Conversely, you can drop off smaller items at any of ReSale’s locations, including 10 in the GTA.


Last year, Habitat for Humanity GTA alone kept 87 truckloads—that’s more than 3,000 metric tonnes—of materials out of landfills through their involvement with 239 renovation projects.

“That’s a lot of stuff that is perfectly good stuff, and some of it’s great stuff,” says Davies, who estimates last year’s hauls equalled close to a million dollars worth of donations.

Of course, volunteer efforts played a big part in this. In all, volunteers across the GTA spent about 61,000 hours on what Davies calls “deconstruction.”


For Wexler, who first heard of the initiative about eight years ago and has worked with Habitat repeatedly, getting involved with ReStore made sense for multiple reasons.

“It’s multi-faceted,” he explains, citing the benefits to the homeowner, as well as the volunteers and the fact that it helps others. “Retirees are getting some work,” he says.

“There’s good material that’s going to Habitat and goes for sale for very little. So, it’s benefitting somebody else in need,” he says.

Davies notes the role contractors like Wexler play in the organization. “He’s one of a number that we work with, and we’re always open to working with more contractors,” she says. “It’s a wonderful service.”

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