Behind the Build: Deconstruction
Deconstruction of this 1923 home in Kenilworth allows the owners to donate high-quality and hard-to-find building materials – such as 14-foot wood flooring, slate roof tiles, solid joists, double-hung windows, unique bricks and mahogany doors – to charity, so they can be repurposed. Deconstructing a home piece-by-piece (instead of just bulldozing it) is a labor of love, but very green and renewable behavior.
There are lots of ways to be a green builder and deconstruction has a huge impact. You can read about some local Chicago area resources for finding salvage materials like the ones we recovered from this house in a previous blog.
Here’s also a look at the deconstruction from the air.
This house was built in 1923 and we were thinking about remodeling it, but it was just too expensive so we are doing a deconstruction. The owners have elected to pay our deconstruction contractor to take it apart piece by piece and we’re going to take all the building products and donate them to charity.
We’re going to reclaim this front door and it’ll be a donation part of the deconstruction. Come on in. So this is the house with all the plaster stripped off of it. We’re going to take off all the old flooring, all the ceiling joists, floor joist all the banisters, all the studs. We’re going to take all the brick off the house. These slates are 97 years old. They’re going to be able to take these and sell them off in the open market and then roofers who are replacing little patches on old roofs will be able to use these and they’ll match better than new slate.
So the guys have taken up all the hardwood floor piece by piece and then they rebundle it to be resold. We cannot buy hardwood flooring that’s fourteen feet long anymore. I mean there’s a real market for that. We start by doing the roof first. We’ll take all of this apart and we’ll have this floor to stand on, then they’ll pull the floor and they’ll pull the rafters and they’ll keep working on the floors. They don’t undermine anything below us and so they have something to stand on as they work.
So there’s a ten-foot radiator that you would never be able to buy. This window sash is in perfectly good condition. All you do is strip it, repaint it and put it somewhere else. Here’s a 97 year-old copper downspout and these guys will recycle this material. This is the original boiler from 1923. When we got here, it was covered in asbestos so we had an asbestos abatement company cleaning all the asbestos off of it. You would just turn this thing on and this beast would just cook through energy. Could you imagine just getting the thing down here would be a major event.
They were building most houses using balloon framing, so I was surprised when I saw the masonry block. This is not something that we can sell. This will be crushed up and we’ll use it in road fill. This is a piece of wood that they would have had planed and made that shape. This is another piece of wood that would come out of a block that they curve in two directions and then calculate the angles of each connection. It’s pretty amazing craftsmanship to see how they did it. That’s something that you don’t see.
All the nails have to be pulled from all the studs. They’ll take all those out, restack all those two by fours, bundle them up again and sell them off in the market. They do try to reclaim everything. They’ll take all the brick off, which was from 1923 as well. They’ll take it off, put it in pallets and sell it off again.
Here’s the reason why we’re not remodeling this house. This house has no insulation in it. It’s a cinder block wall over brick veneer. There was asbestos, the basement floods. The basement isn’t very deep…So the things that people want in a new house aren’t here. Me and Scott built that house and that coach house 6 or 7 years ago, so it’s kind of fun to be having an adjoining property. By being a design and build firm that has 30 years of experience, we know how to do this. We know the benefits. We know how the donation values are done. We know how there are tax benefits that are done. We know how long it typically takes. We know the risks involved. We can look at a piece of property recognize, which ones have a lot of donation value and which ones don’t.
They always save a little something and put it back Into the new house. In this case, we have a couple light fixtures we’re going to save and put back in. These guys are here and they’re doing this labor intensive job pulling 100,000 nails and so I keep asking them “Is it worth it?” and they keep going “Yeah, this is worth it.” They have to get out on ropes and they hang from like a rope almost like a mountain climber on a belay line and they pull the slates out and pass them in and we stack ‘em up here. There’s an old classic chimney over there. You have to take it down just eight feet at a time because when leave it standing up it could fall over. I don’t know where it’s going to go. Be neat to someday find out, oh, they took this apart and they built the restaurant wall here. All this lumber that you see here – this is 97-year-old two-by-four. It’s likely going to be put somewhere else and last another 97 years. And if I just crushed up and made it into paper, someone would have printed a fax and thrown it in the garbage again, you know? So, that’s the idea.