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DeConstruction + Bulding w. Salvaged Materials  RSS feed

 
Fred Winsol
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Location: Sierras
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There's an entire field called 'eConstruction'  involving salvaging, reusing, recycling, etc.  It's a growing business.  There are trade associations, local contractors... and entire industry built around this.  I think a lot of people building/remodeling their own places can save LOTS of money doing this.

The Building Materials Reuse Association http://www.bmra.org/
has lots of great information and a directory of places.

Many construction RFPs (request for proposals) give extra points for reused materials.  In many locales the deconstruction people are overwhelmed and 'cherry picking'.

I built my own place out of 80% salvaged/reused materials from Restore (Habitat f.Humanity places - there's probably one close to everyone) and other places.
http://www.habitat.org/cd/env/restore.aspx

The only BIG hassle is waiting for the right materials to show up.  most mainstream contractors can't do this unless they have a large storage facility.
 
Dale Hodgins
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  I've made my living from deconstruction for 16 years and have hired approximately 500 guys in the process. Most of them are street types who only work for a short time but there are a few who I've known for a dozen years or more. This is a perfectly viable business in any market where dumpage rates  approach $100 per ton.

      The viability of this business in any given city is determined by dumpage rates and demographics. If you live somewhere where lots of people are into recycling and where it costs quite a bit to get rid of junk then there is good money to be made. Another important factor is restrictions on dumping certain items in the local landfill. A city which bans the dumping of drywall, metal, oils and other toxic or recyclable goods will be a more profitable place to operate. If your town does not have these bans you can initiate them through lobbying. Any new rule which makes it more expensive to crush a building and throw it all away will benefit the hand salvager. Even if you're only salvaging for your own use it makes sense to do in a location where you can charge for removal of the material.

    Your competitors most of whom will be excavation companies will calculate their prices based on the weight of the building and any costs associated with disposing of banned substances. You can generally charge whatever the local dump rate is plus 30/$50 per ton for trucking.

    The best way to market any recycled items which you don't need personally is to have a demolition sale. Hand written signs in spray paint always bring in a better crowd than if you had spent money on fancy signs. Avoid hauling all this stuff to some other location for sale. Not only will the transportation costs eat up your profit, this other location is unlikely to have the same curb appeal as an active demolition.

    If you are a customer looking to recycled materials seek out demolition site in your area. Salvage yards should be a last resort. If you purchase this stuff before it gets transported to an expensive location you'll save lots of money. You may also find that you can get the stuff for nothing. I have given away huge amounts of insulation, stick lumber and other stuff to customers who demonstrated the ability to salvage it safely. I've also given away thousands of truckloads of firewood.

      When I first started in a city of 80,000 people there were two guys who were into hauling crap home and selling it from there. I began selling everything directly from the jobsite and was able to market materials for much less money while still earning a good living. My competitors were out of business within one year and I had the city to myself. Later I moved to Victoria which has 300,000 people. The only large salvage yard closed down two years after myself and my brother began having demo sales all over town. The old guys who ran the salvage yard sold materials for approximately double my price. Their lumber, Windows, doors and other crap would sit in the rain for months while mine usually sold within two days plus I never experienced trucking costs and the labor associated.The salvage yard guy was spending $60,000 per year to rent his spot in an industrial park with mostly industrial traffic. I spent nothing on retail space and often had jobs on the side of highways with thousands of potential customers driving by every hour.

     Do not get a fancy, schmancy location!!!

     Most of my customers have not been professional builders but rather they are homeowners, part-time craftsman and farmers. One exception to this are the customers for tongue and groove flooring and you should call everybody in that business when you get a good run of flooring. Many of my customers enjoy salvaging their own materials and I've made many deals that involved some labor. I've also traded for salable items, organic produce and meats, pickup trucks and any other useful item that my customers want to get rid of. Sometimes I have a hot location which can sell materials far faster than I'm able to produce them. When this happens I get every other salvager to dump their stuff off and I get a commission. When I have a bad location I get one of them to market my stuff. In this way all of us have prime retail space without cost.

    The West Coast is good because the quality of wood is generally higher than in the East. Houses from the 1940s and earlier are usually good candidates for recycling unless they have experienced extensive, shoddy renovations. The poorest quality houses for deconstructing are those built in the 1970s and more recent buildings which contain lots of OSB/Aspenite or whatever they call glue impregnated crap board in your region. Newer buildings also use lots of glue and any sheeting materials are generally destroyed if you try to pop them apart.

     This is a good job for fit individuals who are not accident prone. Fortunes have been won and lost in this business. Failure is more common than success in the deconstruction field. The most common causes of failure are that people grossly underestimate the time and labor costs associated, they failed to put in key clauses in contracts which deal with who owns any toxic substances found, huge safety or environmental fines bankrupt the business or the new contractor injures himself.

    I have watched all of these things happen to people who got into this when they shouldn't have. But if you have your head screwed on straight you can avoid the pitfalls and access vast quantities of resources that you are paid to remove. I was just over one year into this business when a free house fell into my lap and I moved it to a nice lot. My family lived in it for 14 years .

    Things you'll need. Good quality gloves, hardhat, work boots and, earplugs and most importantly a really high quality asbestos grade mask. Wear your mask whenever it's dusty since it will protect you from all types of airborne crap from fiberglass to dry rot spores to airborne rat and bat droppings. These things can kill you.

    The most common failure I see in construction and demolition and salvage is that people have complete disregard for their lungs. One of my friends died because of his cavalier attitude concerning airborne contaminants. I bitched at him constantly about it but he considered himself a tough guy and figured he'd be fine. Randy Primeau. Dead at 42 from lung fungus, probably from dry vermin droppings which are common in attics and crawlspaces of old buildings.
 
Dale Hodgins
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     If you're looking for a building to deconstruct the simplest way to find them is to check the books at City Hall where they record permits for all sorts of things. Permits are public record and available to everyone where I live. In some towns I've  had to squalk a bit but generally they cough up the information. You can also advertise on craigslist or other such websites. Unless a building is absolutely perfect for your needs, don't do it for free. Find out how much it would cost to crunch the building with an excavator and dump the debris. Charge a little less than this and you're in. On a shed or garage you can often salvage 80% or more by weight. On houses which contain drywall, plastic, carpet 70% is a good rough figure. So you're still going to need to pay dumpage on 30% of the stuff. Plan for that.
 
Wella Manger
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deconstruction or demolition is a tough job.. you should learn, understand and plan ahead of time. evacuate and inform neighbors. There are possible risk when deconstructing, one of which is all the dirt collected or asbestos. nevertheless, just hire a professional and they'll know what to do.
 
Dale Hodgins
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     Definitely no need to evacuate neighbors when tearing a building down by hand. I've done about 250 of these without ever endangering the neighbors. A totally different story if you're blasting but that's not how salvage work is done.     Unfortunately most of the professionals I know are winging it and have little idea of what to do and many don't follow any sort of plan. It's advisable to have an environmental survey done on any building you choose to tackle and make it clear in your contract that you are not responsible for dealing  with toxic or controlled substances. There are plenty of hazmat companies which handle this stuff.
 
Reginald Morgandorfer
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Location: Australia
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man I'd love to work in the demolition game

all the old timber I see getting sent to the dump is painful at times!

thanks for posting up your experiences dale, that was a great read
 
Dale Hodgins
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  If you're really interested in gathering materials through deconstruction I would gladly help you out with pricing the job and with your order of operations. I've done this before with my brother who lives 3000 miles from me. All I need to know is what the dumpage rates are in your city or town, I need a list of banned substances and it would be handy to know how much you are paying for labor if you're hiring any. With this information along with the cost of trucking we should be able to come up with a fairly competitive bid.

      I can't think of anywhere I've been in North America where this business model couldn't work but it works a whole lot better if the cost of dumpage is high since we are diverting most of the product from the dump but the cost of dumpage is our key pricing item.

If you have $200, the common sense to protect yourself from hazards and a strong back you just qualified to become your local demolition guy. The reason you need so little start up money is because you're going to get signs up right away and start selling all of the components of your building that you don't personally need.

     Feel free to call me and I will gladly lead you through some of the steps you'll be taking. 250-588-3366   Dale
 
david tremaine
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Location: Spokane, WA
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Dale, I really appreciated your comments on professional deconstruction, and at the risk of asking too much of you, I'd love to learn more.

I'm a young guy in Eastern Washington trying to figure out what, if anything, I want to "do" with my life. So far, salvage seems like 1) an under-represented profession in my area, 2) interesting, and 3) intermittent.
2 and 3 are tops on my list, and 1 leads me to believe a semi-smart/skilled salvager could be very successful here.

When you write a book, I'll gladly buy a copy. Meanwhile, can you offer any more helpful hints, or perhaps even walk us through a typical operation?
- What sold best? worst?
- What wasn't worth salvaging?
- Were there top-dollar items you saved, transported, stored for niche markets?
- How important is being licensed and bonded, or having insurance?
- Are companies so eager to save a couple dollars that they're willing to have someone they don't know come in, or was it that you were able to build up a good reputation?
- What, aside from absolving oneself from responsibility for hazardous waste, is important to consider in a contract?
- ***How did you get started?
- How big of a job was "too big"?
- Essential equipment that a beginner might not think of?

You seem inclined to share your knowledge; I am eager to gain it, that I (and others lurking here) might better decide on whether to pursue such a career, and if so, how best to begin.

Also, winsol, thanks for the link to BMRA. The library on their site looks like a great start 
 
Fred Winsol
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Location: Sierras
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David:  I look forward to reading Dale's reply also.  A couple years ago i assigned projects to my class (college green biz) on deconstruction... and  a couple guys formed a business and they are still at it... with a lot of ups and downs... their big issue was storage and inventory control...

there used to be a big web site run by the state that connected buyers and sellers... kinda like a commercial 'freecycle' thing... http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/   maybe washington has one too... u can watch that over time and see what's moving.

With the economy in the tank, the Habitat for Humanity Restores, Hospice stores,  and other retail salvage places are getting a big increase in traffic/business.
 
Mike Dayton
Posts: 149
Location: sw pa zone 5
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If you are planning on charging a fee to the owner of the building for doing the demotion work you are setting yourself up as a Business.  Making a charge to pay for hauling and dumping fees makes alot of sense,  but you are a business.  You need Liability Insurance which is pretty expensive if you buy it by the year.  I knew of one small company here in Pa that would sell it by the Job,  they charged 10% of what ever fee you were charging to do the work subject to a min premium.  If you hire any helpers you will need Workers Comp coverage.  That is not only expensive but hard to get from most normal companys.  Here the State Workers Comp Fund would write it,  I didn't know of any other Companys that would write WC on Demolition.  It is a very high risk ocupation.  You can make money in Demolition but if you think you can start a business for $200 for safety tape, a wheel barrow,  a crow bar and a sledge hammer you will be in big trouble from the get go.  Do some research befor hand about your up front costs. 
  If you do not make any charge you may have Liab coverage for your personal activitys under your Home Owners Policy.  I would check with your Agent about that befor you did any work though. You maybe able to make a contract with the owner for you to do the work and have them pay for hauling and dumping fees.  My advise is to check with your Insurance Agent and maybe an Att befor you start taking any buildings down.  My advise is normally worth what you pay for it,  lol, just my thoughts.
 
Dale Hodgins
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    I've been away from the forum for a while and realize the need for in-depth coverage of this issue. I will very soon produce a step-by-step/order of operations guide which will be available free. I'll include the types of buildings both construction style and age which are most profitable and let you know which ones to steer clear of. Anyone wishing to salvage a building may contact me and I'll give you a list of questions to answer from dumpage rates to your abilities and experience and I'm sure we will come up with a workable game plan. You'll owe me dinner one day after your house is done
 
Abe Connally
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Location: Chihuahua Desert
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Dale - I'd be very interested in that information.  Where I live, I doubt it would pay as a business, as folks here are VERY resourceful when it comes to materials (I'm in Mexico).

BUT, I ave tons of friends and family that could benefit from said info.  I have been involved in demo/recycling non-professionally for about 15 years.  You are completely right that there are lots of opportunities, but also lots of obstacles that need to be addressed.

I look forward to your information.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I'm going to do this piecemeal on this thread and then cobble it all together at some point.

   For a beginner salvager it's very important to not bite off more than you can chew. I would suggest nothing larger than a three-bedroom house or a small commercial building for a first attempt. And even this is assuming that you have some construction background. If you don't then hire someone who does and let them lead the way. If you're quite inexperienced you might want to start with smaller outbuildings.

    My favorite type of job is a smash and grab. This is a building which is slated for mechanical demolition with no time for complete salvage. I pay a small amount usually less than $200 for the rights to grab every useful item from the building before it comes down. On average time spent doing this pays more than time spent disposing of entire buildings but there are not enough of these jobs in my region for this to be a full-time thing. So the following paragraphs will assume that you're salvaging entire buildings. I'll do a section later on how far you should go with a smash and grab. Basically you keep at it until the machine shows up and time runs out or until a point of diminishing returns is reached.

    Before getting into any detail on order of operations or how to market materials etc. it helps to know what sort of buildings are likely to be profitably recycled. My most profitable jobs have been flat roofed smaller commercial buildings especially gas stations. There are several reasons why these buildings are more profitable.      1. Single-story flat roofed buildings provide a safe stable platform for roof stripping that isn't a mile off the ground.     2. Generally the roof will be framed with 2 x 10 or larger framing so you get an immediate return on time invested since this material and the sheeting covering it are salable.      3. Buildings like gas stations and small warehouses are mostly hollow space unlike houses of similar size which are broken up into dozens of different spaces.    4. Concrete block walls are easily salvaged if there isn't too much rebar and even those sections containing rebar are not expensive to dispose of. I generally contract removal of all wood, roofing, insulation, and other garbage but not the concrete. This will be dealt with by an excavator after you're done. I commonly sell concrete blocks for $.50 each and have been able to produce more than 100 per hour on buildings of this type.

    Many commercial buildings are located on busy roads so that plenty of people will see your signs advertising recycled materials. With a good location you should be able to sell out of everything and also give away lots of free firewood and other products which cost money to dump.

      One problem you may find with these commercial sites is that you may be put on an extremely tight timeline since they want to build the new gas station or warehouse as soon as possible. I did a huge gas station with five bays and had only six days to complete. Luckily everything went right, my workers showed up on time, the weather was agreeable and the prime location brought in so many customers that the materials sold very quickly and were not underfoot.

     The next most profitable jobs are high-quality houses built in the 40s or earlier. The reason these houses are more profitable relates to the quality of wood, windows, doors, and most importantly tongue and groove flooring and wall coverings. And these materials do not contain huge amounts of screws and glue. Buildings containing square nails are great because these nails are tapered and lose holding power as soon as they are pulled out slightly. I have done many older houses and quite often tongue and groove wainscoting and flooring make up half of my total sales. So all of the two by fours from the roof and walls, ship lap sheeting, floor joists, bricks, windows, doors and other fixtures are worth about as much as the three-quarter inch layer of high quality floor and wall materials. With this in mind it's very important to ensure that these floors are salvagable before taking on an old house. If floor tiles have been glued to the tongue and groove or if the floors have been sanded down many times they can be worthless. Without this material this sort of house is unlikely to be profitable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Very small houses are often not good candidates for recycling unless they can be moved intact. They tend to contain materials which are cut too short for most future uses and because they're broken up into very small rooms everything you do will be less efficient. For instance whenever you salvage flooring materials there are some losses against the edge. Small rooms have more edge. If you're able to tear up 200 ft.² per hour in a large living room you'll probably get less than 100 ft.² per hour done in 80 ft.² bedrooms. On a small house most roof framing is 2 x 4 and they are often warped from years of snow load and bearing their own weight. The walls also will be framed with low grade 2 x 4 and quite often below standard height. Most of the stuff goes in my free firewood piles.

    The most profitable job I ever did contained a flat roof commercial building which I recycled and sold along with a very high quality 1940s house which I moved to a lot. My family lived in it for many years.

     When I was new at the business I was very keen, too keen to get every job and I took on many buildings of marginal value. When I look at all of the work I've done most of my money has been made in the best 10% of my jobs. 90% of the total work I've done has paid me less than half of the total revenue over the years. I'm much more selective now and don't mind missing out on low-quality buildings.

    Don't go and grab an old house right away! We haven't yet discussed safety, legal issues, job pricing, material marketing or an order of operations. Roughly your order of operations will be to do things in the reverse order to how the building was constructed but I'll get into that another day.

 
                                  
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Dale, I am also interested in deconstruction for reuse. I have an old building on our property that we would like to take down and use for building a place in the mountains.  I would eventually like to get a plan with a materials list and start collecting stuff in order.  Any ideas?
 
Dale Hodgins
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  I never build from a firm plan.  Chances are if you are working from one of those plans you can buy, the materials you need won't match up with whatever building you are tearing down. And stock plans are often worthless anyway since they aren't site specific. Sometimes you can go down a street and find versions of the same house on both sides of the street which is evidence that solar orientation and other site considerations didn't influence home design.

  A much better route to take would be to find a building that is likely to produce plenty of what you need. Once you have a big stack of materials you can design your building  to make efficient use of the available resource. So if you get 24 foot floor joists design around that. If you get 28 footers your house is going to be 28 by something.

    I have designed dozens of small cottages with my customers and we always design around the materials at hand. This works out very well economically. Quite often I will have a dozen thermal pane windows for sale at $20 each. The person who is willing to design around these will have $240 invested in enough Windows for a small house. On the other hand if you designed the home and then custom order windows and doors to match your preconceived plan it's likely that each unit will cost more than the entire package bought secondhand.

    The greatest savings to be had are in the purchase of larger dimension lumber, windows and doors and sheeting materials so if you have a secure storage spot begin gathering whatever you can and then design around it. Whether you're producing your own stuff or buying at yard sales it's no big deal if you end up with twice as many windows and doors as you need so long as you don't have much money tied up in them. You have the option of building a barn or shed later or you can have a junk sale after you're certain that some items will not be needed.
 
Fred Winsol
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good points Dale... one of the keys to using salvaged materials is TIME... or a big storage shed and TIME.
All the windows in my house are from a ReStore at HfH and I had to wait 6 months to get some good Millard windows and then had to change the design of the wall to be able to use them. 

I think 90% + of regular contractors shun this type of build/design - to wait until you get materials and then design around them. They all spec the materials and buy 'em off-shelf at premium cost.

Good Windows and doors are expensive items and a good place to start with de-construction - it's easier to change some non-load bearing walls to accommodate them.
 
Cris Bessette
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winsol3 wrote:
....one of the keys to using salvaged materials is TIME... or a big storage shed and TIME.
All the windows in my house are from a ReStore at HfH and I had to wait 6 months to get some good Millard windows and then had to change the design of the wall to be able to use them. 




I agree. I've been holding onto some windows and doors for 6 months or more.  Just recently I was given the equivalent of thousands of dollars worth of treated lumber that had been a boat house destroyed by a tornado last Spring.
These items and some Habitat Restore materials and have been able to close in and make a screen porch / sunroom for practically nothing.

I still need some more windows so I am just going to put plastic in those openings in my sun room until I find what I need.

I think there is a point , a thin line between collecting materials for a project, and just being a pack rat

Where I live you can tell the red necks by the number of cars on blocks in the yard. I wonder how many stacks of lumber on blocks I can have before I've gone too far?

 
Dale Hodgins
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   Thank you for the personal messages. Haven't checked my e-mail for some time since work got really busy. The offer is still out there for anyone who wishes to set up a building materials salvage company. The next installment of our deconstruction manual will be on job pricing.

    I started two new threads related to this. One concerns getting nails out of recycled wood and the other concerns driving new nails into it. You'll want to pick up many of those techniques to pass along to your future customers and employees.
 
                                  
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I sure wish you all were in the western NC area, I could definitely use all your mentorship!! Dale when I said I had a building that I would like to move I meant only select pieces of it, much of whosh isn't viable.. However the roof keeps the water out and I can store many things in it in the meanwhile!! Is yjere any way to find buildings that people want removed other than word of mouth? And Winsol do you have any suggestions for building a passive solar home? Thanks for your great resources!
 
                                        
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Dale Hodgins
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Dale Hodgins
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  In most municipalities you require a demolition permit to remove a building. This information is a matter of public record and you should be able to access it at the building Department of your City Hall, County registry or whatever it's called in your area. Sometimes they just give the name of the owner and the property address and a description of what type of building but at other times phone numbers are also included. When I first started this was my primary source of new customers.

  You should also advertise on craigslist and other Internet sites. Don't offer to do anything for free. It costs money to demolish buildings. Just offer to do it a little cheaper than the machine guy who would crush it and take it to the dump.

    Finally it would be wise to contact everyone in the excavator/dump truck/bin truck business since they get plenty of demolition work. Many of them get calls for demolition but don't want it because their machinery is unsuitable or they've had bad experiences with damaged equipment.

  Well since I promised a building recycling guide I guess this portion will be part of the  " locating suitable buildings"  section. Happy hunting:  Dale
 
Dale Hodgins
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    I've just created a post in the Homestead section called "ealing with bureaucracy – covert tactics"which concerns how I've gotten bylaw officials off my back while conducting demolition sales. Vitally important for anyone concerned more with doing the right thing than with following the rules.   Soon I'll post a fun story of how I got the Ministry of labor off my back when I disposed of a useless employee who wanted to be paid forever to fritter away time
 
Dale Hodgins
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  Demolition guide continued.          Hiring help

    If you don't have a background in building then it is vitally important that you hire someone who does. Other than the one person in charge no one else on the job really needs to understand the whole process. They simply need to play safe and follow instructions. Unless an organization is very large I believe the most efficient structure is a dictatorship

    If you're advertising for workers or picking them up at some location where available laborers gather, question them on their applicable experience. If they look too drug sick or booze sick to work, they probably are. But I've had plenty of luck with workers who have lived hardscrabble lives and who are far below average in appearance and intelligence. I've also known some really intelligent guys whose lifestyle and behavior would lead you to believe otherwise. When in doubt look at their hands. If a potential worker claims to have done lots of hard work but his hands are soft as a baby's bum, he may be stretching the truth.

    Quite often I interview potential workers who claim to have all manner of skills. If they claim to be experts in 20 different fields it's much more likely that they have bounced around from job to job and been fired from all of these things. Someone who claims to only be really good at a couple of things such as drywalling or carpentry is more likely to be telling the truth. Sometimes I'll ask " are you good with a hammer"?. If they answer yes then I inquire as to whether or not they own one. Most do not own this extremely expensive item

    But the proof is in the pudding. Whenever I hire a new guy I put him at some simple task which requires him to move his ass. If he exhibits a willingness to work, we move on from there and if he's naturally lazy I end it within four hours. I never put a full day's pay into someone who isn't going to work out.

    On a rather funny note, the ability to operate a push broom without breaking it or working extremely inefficiently by sweeping up hundreds of little piles or trying to push materials for hundreds of feet is a major indicator of employee usefulness for me. Those who are unable to master this simple task generally don't work out at other things either. The ability to walk around in an attic without putting your foot through the ceiling is something that some guys get immediately and others never do. I think it's genetic and is therefore not a learned trait.

    Generally what I'm looking for is endurance over strength, willingness to work, the ability to master simple skills, and someone who is naturally cautious and who doesn't constantly put themselves in harms way. There's always a weeding out process as many of the workers turn to alcohol the moment they receive their pay. I would guess that approximately 80% of the money which I have paid out over the years has gone into cigarettes, alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs which are being used inappropriately and prostitutes. The reason this number is so high is because I live in a city which has become a magnet for all of the social ills of Western Canada since we have very generous programs to help the downtrodden. I no longer get invited to the meetings held by social workers and community groups since they are much more interested in promoting various social theories than they are in examining the truth of what all of this "help" has created. Well, I almost went on a 10 page social Darwinist rant just now so I'll pick this up another day

 
 
Dale Hodgins
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  Demolition guide continued.           Choose a sensible sized building for your experience and skill level.

    When I look back at the approximately 250 buildings that I've torn down it turns out that my biggest most elaborate jobs were not the most profitable and did not yield the best materials for my own building purposes either.  Generally very simply built structures which are square or rectangular in nature without multiple roof planes will come down faster and will yield materials suited to owner builder needs

    Old service stations, equipment sheds, small barns and very simply built houses make the best choice for someone seeking to produce their own building materials in this manner.

    Simple salvage jobs where I purchase the rights to grab everything good from a building but I do not take responsibility for its complete removal have been on average the most profitable. Generally I can count on making about $500 per day or more on these. But you don't find one of these every day unfortunately. The market for these has slowed and I probably deal with only 6 to 8 a year now but it's still a nice cash influx. There is no giant financial risk involved since I'm not promising to complete anything. I simply grab everything of value until I reach a point of diminishing returns. This part of the job is a treasure hunt and I love it. Although I am moving beyond being a full-time demolition guy I will always keep 1 foot in just so I can cherry pick these exceptionally juicy morsels. If you're only looking to salvage enough product for one house that you're building, this may be the way to do it. Although you won't be producing the heavy lumber since it would not make sense to do that without being paid, you could get all of the expensive Windows, doors, electrical components etc.. Do a few of these and have a demolition sale and you'll have plenty of money to buy your lumber. When all you need is lumber and you don't really require the fixtures it makes sense to tear down and implement shed or barn. Unheated outbuildings must be checked very carefully for powder  beetle, carpenter ants, termites or whatever plagues buildings in your area. You don't want to take on a building only to find that it's made of garbage.

   The story below will illustrate what can happen if you decide to really go for it.

    The largest and most elaborate job I ever did was the demolition of the Finning Equipment building in Nanaimo British Columbia. It was a huge cavernous metal building with 24 foot tall roll up doors and many overhead electric cranes. This was the main service depot for the servicing of Caterpillar logging equipment. When I first walked into the building my jaw dropped and I was consumed with greed. This was a building which cost millions of dollars to construct and it was mine, all mine.       I was completely out of my depth. It costs so much to tear this thing down that after a 4 1/2 month marathon seven day a week test of endurance I was $3000 poorer than the day I started. Labor costs, steel cutting costs and equipment breakage gobbled up money every day. The only thing that saved me from complete financial ruin was that I traded some materials for an old crane which I learned to use in one day and by using this I saved myself about $50,000 worth of machine time. The removal of this building was a very expensive lesson. I'm basically a one-man operation who hires unskilled labor when it's needed. I had about 75 jobs under my belt when this one came to me and I figured I had finally hit the big time. That's ancient history to me now but whenever I dream of tearing down a Walmart or shopping center I remember that humbling experience.

   Years after this experience I still had the occasional dream where I would be using a crane which is far too small to move materials almost vertical above my head at maximum reach and lift capacity of the machine. This wasn't some contrived nightmare, it was simply my brain warning me not to do that again.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Here are a few building components that are mine for free. I may do a $7000 job or may take the free stuff and run. Depends on weather we come together on price and timeframe. Either way I'm glad the phone rang. This one fell into my lap A few hours have passed. The people next door just gave me some new thermopane windows. KA CHING
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Rusty Bowman
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Though I don't have any where near the demo experience Dale has, from what I have done though... combined with my construction and design background, I believe his info here to be absolutely spot on!

Thanks Dale for so freely sharing your knowledge on this subject. Thanks to Fred also for the links and starting this thread.
 
Dale Hodgins
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So, my price was $1500 cheaper than that of his builder. The builder then came back and offered to do it for $5oo less than me. Rather than continuing this downward spiral I've decided to bow out and just take all the free stuff.

I can't see how the guy will make a profit with no goodies to sell. He is planning to dump anything that I leave behind.

The big winner is the homeowner since the price has dropped by $2000.

When I finally get to start on thursday I'll discover whether the asbestos guys have stolen or wrecked the best stuff.

And that's how it goes when people are scrambling for work in a slow market.
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Neal Wasser
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Hi Dale. I'm in Victoria and looking for someone to deconstruct a house I am removing in Fairfield. Are you interested?

Neal


Dale Hodgins wrote:So, my price was $1500 cheaper than that of his builder. The builder then came back and offered to do it for $5oo less than me. Rather than continuing this downward spiral I've decided to bow out and just take all the free stuff.

I can't see how the guy will make a profit with no goodies to sell. He is planning to dump anything that I leave behind.

The big winner is the homeowner since the price has dropped by $2000.

When I finally get to start on thursday I'll discover whether the asbestos guys have stolen or wrecked the best stuff.

And that's how it goes when people are scrambling for work in a slow market.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Yes definately. You can reach me at 250 588 3366 .

See kids, If you put it out there the people beat a path to your door - occasionally. If this works out and it's OK with Neal, I'll post photos of all of the recyclables and other details from start to finish.

Some houses are totally recyclable while others are of marginal value. Fairfield is a better area of town, so that's a good sign. If this house is too far gone, I'll get Neil the best possible price on mechanical demolition by playing the best couple companies against one another. Of the dozens of people in town with an excavator, only a few are competative on demolitions. Most bank on customer inexperience and go for it with a high quote.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Neal Wasser wrote:Hi Dale. I'm in Victoria and looking for someone to deconstruct a house I am removing in Fairfield. Are you interested?

Neal


It looks like you can't drop the quote in after posting. oops. While I'm here , thanks Rusty for your positive review. I hope this thread will help some of our less experienced builders to access the mountains of good stuff that are landfilled every day.

Since many of us plan to build rocket mass heaters I'd like to mention here that plenty of free brick is available from demolitions and reno jobs. The red bricks are great for benches and other areas away from the fire. I sell the best of them and then give away what's left. I'll check with Ernie Wisner on whether used firebrick is advisable for other areas or if new bricks are a must.


This is Neal's house. There's a little more damage than I like to see at the beginning of a new job.

The view is into the basement from the main floor.

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Dale Hodgins
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"The best laid schemes o' mice and men , gang aft agley .... ". Robert Burns

The house has had almost every useful item removed already. Ray, a crusty old scruonge whom I've known for 15 years has removed the floors, joists and all. He also salvaged any useful doors and he has removed the chimney bricks. The only other item worth a nickel is the copper pipe and wiring. Neal is 80% finished with that.

This was not much of a house to begin with, being covered in stucco and having had shoddy add ons. So what they have done represents the highest and best use of the resource.

I've included the photos as an example of what a properly conducted floor salvage should look like. After removing the t&g fir flooring, Ray cut out the joists and left only the small beams.

Notice the scrap metals which are separated into grades with no steel attached to any of the copper. It will bring top dollar. Whenever you have lots of good scrap, call around to get the best price. Quite often the price quoted on the phone is higher than what you would get if you just showed up. The scrap metal industry has had a long history of price fixing, downgrading, screwing customers on weight, favoring those from certain ethnic groups at the expense of others, environmental violations and connection to organized crime. I Think Tony Soprano was in scrap. Do your homework.

The only error that was made here is that a couple of the joists should have been left in place in order to prevent the walls from splaying out and possibly collapsing when the excavator scrunches the house. Neal's new house is 6 ft. away. I'm doing a little work here, removing the oil tank and furnace. If we're able to get the machine operator that I use, I'm sure he can pull it off.

After checking out this project we drove a few blocks to a future tear down. It is likely to produce very little salvage since it's a cheaply built slab on grade bungalow. We have seen many really nice homes torn down for re-development in Victoria. Neal is not contributing to that enormous waste. He only tears down total crap.

Small World --- We met through the internet but it turns out we spend time in the same part of town. My last big job was less than a block from Neal's house and I store my truck 3 blocks away.

The oil tank --- I'm going to cut the old oil tank from this house into sheet metal fasteners for post and beam construction. This is accomplished with a grinder and cutting wheel.




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Dale Hodgins
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This was my best find ever. I took down a ceiling tile in a basement and out dropped two envelopes. One peek revealed the glory within.

It took discipline to do what I did next since every instinct said to count the loot while squealing like a girl. --- I slipped it into my pocket and then calmly sent my helper Amir on a clean up mission far from the basement. Then I locked the door and drew the curtains and carefully dismantled the entire ceiling myself. Didn't find another dime, but it was an exciting hour as I dreamt of hitting the mother lode.

At the end of the day I sent Amir off and I counted the loot. ----- $1350 ----- much less than I had imagined. Most of it was $5 bills, so the envelopes were quite bulky. I spent some time poking around every concievable hiding spot in the house. Nothing.

The newest bills were from 1969, so this was a long forgotten stash. The $20 bill in the photo is from the 1950s. Canadian money is constantly changing in order to keep ahead of counterfeiters. Artists compete to get their work on the money. Prominent natural features are usually depicted. Colour variations help the visually impaired to not accidentally pass a 50 for a 5. Whenever I handle American money,I'm very carefull to watch the numbers since it all looks the same.


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Dale Hodgins
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Salvaging Plywood that is nailed down hard.

Sometimes I encounter nice thick plywood that is really attached to the framework. If nails are large, rusted. numerous or galvanized, the plywood will fight you every step of the way.

The photos below show my method for getting 1 inch ply from the floor of an old walk in freezer. A project this difficult requires skill and resourcefullness. This stuff was well nailed and condensation guaranteed that every nail was slightly rusted into place. I've never met any other salvager who would have saved this stuff, since few bother to figure out how. Pay attention. In half an hour I got $75 worth of 1 inch ply.

The starting point is always at or near a corner. Using a 2 to 5 lb sledge, drive the head of the first 3 ft prybar into a nail free area. Hopefully this will open up a gap large enough so that another bar can be inserted. If not, rock it a bit and then hold pressure with one bar as you insert another. Once two bars are in place, they can be worked opposite one another. Move your arms like you're jogging or boxing. The noise should be enough to make your ears bleed. Wear protection. Sand, rust, nails and other dirt may jump 8 feet off the floor. Wear eye protection and a dust mask.

Wood blocks, the sledge hammer head or whatever is handy may be used as blocks to hold the ply in a sprung position.

Photos- 1. The plywood has come up enough to allow the bar to be completely laid over. The wood is sprung by 4 inches. When a second bar is added,it's job is made easier by this pressure. CAUTION--- A bar under pressure can be flipped up quickly and unexpectedly. Kicks like a horse. Castration or other injury is a possibility. Keep one foot on the bar while you work another one or stay well clear.2. On wood that is really well nailed, it often happens that even after the edges have been lifted, there are other nails a foot or more toward the center which hold fast and prevent further gains. In this photo I have three bars holding the wood with a huge amount of spring pressure, but it still refuses to pop up. The next step is to stand on two of the bars and smack the center of the sheet with a sledge to send a shock through the sheet. This is almost always successful. It is thunderously loud with the sound of the hammer and that of a dozen nails popping at once. It's the sound of victory.

3. Now that the sheet has popped there are still some tough nails along the edge by the wall. I have tossed a bar into the gap. Now a mighty heave downward on the sheet, brings up the final edge. Lots of dust. Wear your mask. A 2x4 or a steel pipe work great for this. The pipe is best since nails will not stick into it. Always toss the bar or pipe into the gap. Don't go under a nailey sheet of heavy plywood. When you heave downward on the sheet, keep your feet well clear of the drop zone. Steel toes won't help much if you slide the sheet down your shins and it comes to rest on the top of the foot near the ankle. I've watched this but never been a participant.

Must return to work. I'll pontificate further a little later.

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Dale Hodgins
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A WORD ABOUT PRY BARS.

1. The majority of pry bars available look like this. (I'll take a picture at the hardware store) They aren't good for much. The angle of the head is all wrong, they roll over unexpectedly when under pressure, they dent up the wood, and they are useless for ramming wall surfaces from the inside. As with most bars of this quality, this one is so thick in the teeth that it can't be slipped into small cracks. When I used to buy this junk' I had to re manufacture each one using an angle grinder to thin out the teeth. Then I would bend the head to the desired shape and angle. When all of this was done I had a suitable but still sub standard tool. What a huge waste of time. Now several places, including Home Depot and Lee Valley carry better bars.

2. This broad head can be used to draw hard on drywall or plywood which is attached to walls. The bar is slid to the inside of the wall and then pulled quickly. After one wall surface has been removed, it can be used as a ram, to detach plywood, drywall or lath. It presents a flat surface when held horizontally.

3. The rounded nature of the head allows nails to be drawn out smoothly without causing big dents in the wood. I often walk along joists while pulling surface nails. I can stand up strait and the bar is less likely to slip than the blue bar in photo 1. With the blue bar,I would have to work in a hunched position. The yellow bars with the black head (the good one is shown with my hand and in the photo below that)are also great for pulling down ceiling drywall. The large surface area and 90 degree angle lessens the chances of popping the bar through the material.


When working on a floor, it's handy to have a bar that can reach your crotch while the bar is in nail pulling position. For anyone between 5 and 6 feet tall, a 3 ft. bar will do nicely. Someone over 6'6" may need a 4 ft. bar. These are hard to find. Tall guys often end up working in an uncomfortable hunched position while using an ill suited bar. Back fatigue is the result.

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Dale Hodgins
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MORE ABOUT TOOLS

1. Nail pullers with a flat spot to nail on are useful.The ones that are rounded with no flat surface are crap. Stanley and Estwing make good ones. For spikes, get one with at least a 12 inch handle. Some bars are built properly except that the 8 inch handle is too short.

2. All of these hook neck bars will contribute to material damage, squished thumbs and time wasted. Those little bars to the left with the broad, flat foot are great for getting behind window trim.

3. SLEDGE HAMMERS--- Few tools are as misunderstood as the lowly sledge hammer. In the right hands a sledge is a big time saver that can break or separate tough materials like nothing else. In the wrong hands a sledge is a dangerous, destructive energy sapping time waster. Most tasks require a good bar to pry materials apart but I have watched dozens of eager salvagers flail away at bouncy, light materials with a sledge. This will occasionally result in a good chunk of wood being knocked free but it is more likely to produce breakage, physical fatigue and flying debris or hammers.

I never let anyone use the sledge until I check out what their plan is. Often, young helpers will gravitate to whatever tool will make the most noise since they want to appear productive. I used to have a 15 lb. sledge. It was far too heavy to be effective, yet many dummies gave it a whirl when my back was turned. I currently have a 6 lb. and a 10 lb. sledge. I weigh 200 lb and am in great physical condition. A 10 pounder is the most I'll ever need or be able to use effectively.. The lighter hammer gets used at least 4 times as often as the 10 pounder. A light hammer swung at lightning speed is more effective than a heavy one moving slowly. Unless you're a 400 lb. power lifter, you'll never need a 15 lb. sledge hammer.

Sledge hammer operation is all about technique. If I'm looking to break a concrete slab at my feet, each swing starts with the hammer held at shoulder height in front of me. It drops as the knees are bent and is swung in a full 360 rotation before striking the concrete. Try to make it whistle. That means it's moving fast enough. If your arms get tired, you're doing it wrong. The thighs, shoulders and back power a sledge. The arms are along for the ride and to hold on of course.



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Dale Hodgins
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I searched around "topics created by me" for 5 minutes before doing a search which reminded me that this one was created by Fred Winsol. It's been a while. Fred sent me a message shortly after creating this one, so it wasn't hijacked as my lengthly responses might indicate. Thanks Fred.



DISPOSING OF MATERIALS IN A DIFFICULT LOCATIONS - - - This house was allowed to sit for years after being salvaged. The elements were not kind, wind, sun and most importantly moisture took their toll. It had to come down.

Sometimes the most efficient route to success is to give stuff away. All of the 2x4s, shiplap boards, thin plywood, insulation, and shorts for firewood were given away on this demolition job which was on airport land where a sale was not allowed. I brought in only 5 people to grab this stuff.

The house contained 9.2 tons of stucco and plaster with no wire in it. I kept this product very clean and was able to dump it all for $40.00 as it was used to expand a parking area. . If this material was contaminated with insulation or other crap it would have cost $1000 to dump it !

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Dale Hodgins
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The only items sold were the floor and ceiling joists and four beams. The 14 ft. 2x8 fir floor joists were sold to my brother Bevin for $5 each. That's a great deal and he also filled up on free 2x4, shiplap and other stuff on each of his 3 visits. Those joists were planed which made them unsuitable for re-milling.

The full dimension 2x6 ceiling joists were sold to a commercial buyer who makes fancy window sills, flooring and other things from top quality recycled fir. At $1 per board ft. the 2x6 brought $1 per running ft. He also bought all of the 6x8 beams at $3.60 per running ft.

All of the firewood, 2x4, insulation and other good items were given away. It always brings joy to my heart when two or more customers compete to grab up all of the best freebees. Every ton they take saves me around $200. Ahhh

So, I managed to have a successful demolition where 2/3 of the materials were given away and it was still the most profitable small house I've done.



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Dale Hodgins
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There was only one light rain during this project. Fog rolled in a few days before it hit. There were little rainbows everywhere. The first rain in three momths. We're well into the wet season now.

Many turkey vultures watched the process as they used the thermals given off by this gravel lot. This one was working weak lift on the last day of the job. This is the only time one of them was low enough during a 6 week period. It was so hot that I did a split shift each day and a siesta during the heat.

All done, with just the steel remaining.
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I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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