14 March 2017

"Deconstructing" a house

It's not the same as "demolishing" the house:
Deconstruction... entails taking a house apart, piece by piece, down to the foundation. The majority of what is removed from a house via deconstruction can be recycled or reused. Everything removed from the house and donated to a qualified 501(c)3 charity can be claimed by the property owners on their taxes as a donation at fair market value...

The deconstruction appraiser determines what materials can be salvaged and estimates the value of the donations. As the process unfolds, the appraiser prepares a report that lists every component to be donated and its fair market value; completes IRS Form 8283 for the donor valuing the material (the nonprofit recipients complete the form, too); ensures that the donor has the required documentation to claim full benefits from the donation, and stands behind all this if the IRS has any questions about the donation. The deconstruction company dismantles the house, sorts the materials and transports them to centers for recycling or resale...

Deconstruction costs more than conventional demolition because the materials need to be carefully removed and preserved in usable condition. Stahl says demolition might cost $8,000 to $11,000 for a typical house and take up to a week to complete. Deconstructing the same house might cost as much as $24,000, she says, and take two weeks...

Generally speaking, Smith says, “85 to 90 percent of a house can be recycled or repurposed. About the only things that cannot yet be salvaged or repurposed are drywall, rotted materials and broken pieces of ceramic tile or marble.”

What typically can be salvaged? The list is long: hardwood flooring, carpeting, interior lumber, beams, cabinets, appliances, molding and trim, doors, switch plates, light fixtures, ceiling fans, mantels, bathroom vanities, toilets, mirrors, tubs, shower surrounds, granite and laminate countertops, sinks, windows, vent covers, shelving, insulation, heat pumps, hot-water heaters, air-conditioning units, washers and dryers, screens, siding, slate roofing and sub-roofing, flagstone, bricks and decking.
Kudos to people who do this rather than bulldoze the old house.  More information, and a gallery of photos, at the Washington Post. (embedded photo cropped for size).


  1. Wow, In my area house demolition (in bulk, for the city) costs $3500 and is done in a day. With back fill and compaction for the fill soil.

  2. I've taken down a number of buildings: a 3 storey Victorian house, a barn, an old school. Here are some things I've found.
    Some building departments won't allow the use of reclaimed lumber for framing.
    Lead paint can be a problem.
    Thieves can be a problem at the work site when you're not around.
    The prices for metals have fallen dramatically to the point where you can't even get minimum wage extracting metal and selling to the to metal buying companies.
    You're going to step on a nail among other injuries.
    Every day the project gets messier and more dismal as opposed to hopeful and heartwarming when building something. That's very discouraging.
    On a positive note, you can get many old materials that are higher quality than new.
    And you can learn a lot about old techniques and construction in general.
    Finally I learned through experience what an old carpenter friend of mine said when a 2x12 fell two floors wreaking havoc on the way down: "There's no such thing as gravity. The earth sucks".


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