House & Business Deconstruction Appraisals

When remodeling or demolishing a house or business, some people overlook the benefits of a charitable donation. Many architectural elements and fixtures can be salvaged and donated to receive a tax deduction.

Although it is probably a great way to relieve stress, think before you take a sledge hammer to the cabinets or tub. Many non-profits will even come pick up your items.

Here are just some of the items that can easily be donated and deducted:

  • Light Fixtures
  • Cabinets
  • Sinks, tubs, toilets
  • Washer and Dryer
  • Ovens and stove
  • Hardware
  • Crown molding
  • Carpentry trim
  • Doors
  • Lumber
  • Garage Doors, frames, motors
  • Windows

Once you have a list of your items, now what?

Take pictures of the object before removal and note the condition of the item.  A picture and list of the items will go a long ways to give substance to your deduction. If your donation is going to amount to more than $5,000, an appraisal must be completed to substantiate your deduction.  If any one item is worth more than $500 and in poor condition, an appraisal must also be completed.

When choosing a non-profit to donate your items, choose one that’s mission is geared towards accepting these types of donations (Tax Reform Act of 1986).  Non-profits across the country either resell the donated items to builders or consumers or use the items directly in their builds.  Non-profits that are accustomed to receiving these types of donations can also stretch your donation much further than a random non-profit.

The first deconstruction appraisal I did was over a year after the initial deconstruction.  With pictures of the rooms and a list of items donated, the owners were able to give me enough information to write an appraisal.  The non-profit agency actually suggested that they find an appraiser to walk them through the process of a non-cash charitable deduction.  If it was not for that suggestion, the home owners would have walked away from thousands of dollars of charitable donations.

What details to include in your art inventory?

In a perfect world, everyone would have an appraisal and inventory of personal items in case of an unexpected life event.  If you are like most people, this is not feasible.  When asked what information is needed, most insurance companies will provide a list for customers.

Here is the list I use when inventorying art, before I start researching an item to determine value:

  • Artist
    • Note any biographical information about the artist
  • Title
  • Medium
  • Size
    • Include the sight size, the art work and the frame
  • Signature
    • How did the artist sign the piece? Is the piece numbered? Are there any other details on the front of the piece?
  • Purchase details/Provenance
    • Include any information about price, seller, location that may become pertinent
  • Subject matter/description
    • This includes a description of the frame
  • Current location
  • Condition
  • Current picture
  • Comments


… and the list goes on and on.  Include any information big or small that you know or observe about the piece.  If you do not have some of the information, it is okay.  Just include what you can.  The more information provided makes for a faster identification or in some instances a faster appraisal.

In case of an emergency or life event, it always helps to have accumulated this information in advance.  Once you have compiled the information, make copies and let your lawyer or loved ones know where your are keeping this information.  If you are going to bequeath an item to a specific person, this would be a good place to record it.

If purchasing new art, retain a copy of the artist and/or seller’s business card and a copy of the receipt if possible.

If you only have time for a quick inventory, the most important aspects to record are: artist name, medium, size and any purchase information you may have.  If you do not have time for even that aspect, take pictures!