Construction has begun on a Beausoleil Architects designed residential remodel with a new second story in Los Altos, California. The project will feature sustainable design in many aspects of the construction, but what is most interesting so far at this stage has been the deconstruction.
While most remodeling projects include materials to be taken out of a home; old cabinets, sinks, flooring, wood framing, etc. , and generally a portion of these items are recycled (Los Altos is a prime example of an ecologically conscious municipality requiring 50% of materials to be recycled), many items still end up in landfill. Deconstruction, on the other hand, involves the literal reversal of the construction process by carefully pulling the house into its’ component parts: fixtures, lumber, masonry, etc. for direct reuse. It is not only ecological, but economical.
In this particular case, the existing house, built in 1953 was due for some major upgrades. The plumbing, electrical and heating systems needed replacing; there were single pane windows and little or no insulation in the walls and roof. The floor plan was cut up with a lot of small rooms, and did not suit the needs of a modern family with children. A few years ago, the home would have been simply demolished to its’ foundations and over 35 tons of material would have been added to the landfill. The owner opted to look into deconstruction as an alternative and found that it made sense from a financial perspective as well.
Working with the General Contractor, Gerry Jensen of Millenium Enterprises., we obtained quotes for both options, demolition and deconstruction. The deconstruction process obviously takes longer as materials need to be carefully removed, sorted and documented. The beauty of deconstruction though is that instead of simply paying to have unwanted materials removed, the owner obtains a tax credit for donating them for charitable purposes. Working with the Reuse People in Oakland, who are incredibly experienced with the process, the first step involves a preliminary inventory and dollar value provided by an independent appraiser. The cost of this appraisal is borne by the Owner upfront, but their fee is also tax deductible. In the case of this project, the cost for demolition was bid at $12,000; the cost of deconstruction at $17,000 with the additional cost of the appraisal at $3,000. The final appraised value of the goods donated was $83,678. Assuming a tax bracket of 30%, this will leave the owner with a donation credit of $25,103! According to John Morrow of the ReUse People, this amount can be carried over for up to four years, which in most cases ensures a full deduction. Deconstruction does indeed pay off!
So what does the deconstruction process look like? Once the appraisal is done and the contract signed, the deconstruction contractor, Marcan Enterprise in our case, came to take away all the cabinetry, appliances, interior doors, plumbing and lighting fixtures. I was really impressed with how neatly they had all the material sorted and organized on site.
The contractor then had to come in and do some abatement of hazardous materials that were found in old tile and sheetrock, for example. Once the potentially hazardous materials were removed, it took approximately 1-1/2 weeks for Marcan to take apart the home, brick by brick, stud by stud. Over 5800 lineal feet of wood framing alone was salvaged!
The only materials not salvaged were old asphalt roofing shingles, lumber under 6 feet in length (recycled instead), a small amount old rigid insulation, and single pane aluminum windows (no longer allowed for energy reasons). Single pane wood casement and double hung windows are salvaged.
So what is done with all these donated materials? Well, in Oakland at the ReUse People’s retail outlet at 9235 San Leandro Boulevard, anyone from the public is welcome to come by and purchase materials at an incredibly discounted price. (Check their website for additional operations and retail locations in southern California, Denver, Kansas City, Sacramento, and New Britain Connecticut.) Who are their typical customers? According to John Morrow, there are several categories:
- People who cannot afford to buy new
- People with income properties
- People looking to be especially environmentally conscious and reduce their carbon footprint
- People looking for authentic period pieces for their remodels
- Artists, including furniture makers, whose purchase of old lumber accounts for 25% of The ReUse People’s sales
When my husband and I remodeled our own 1920’s bungalow in the Westwood Park neighborhood of San Francisco some years ago, we purchased salvaged interior paneled doors, scrap marble slabs. A single pane wood window for our garage, and period glass doorknobs. We saved a lot of money, but we also purchased items that were in keeping with the original design and craftsmanship of the home, so that the addition felt as though it had always belonged.
We encourage you to consider deconstruction for your remodeling project. It is suitable for any scale project, from a small kitchen or bathroom remodel, to a large addition or tear down. It is the right thing to do, both for the planet, and for your pocketbook!