My salvaging experiment

We went in on Monday night to work on salvaging what materials we could from the little tudor bungalow.  I had the help of two friends, my best friend's dad (AKA Dad), plus my oh-so-patient husband.  We got a call from the demo company at about 4:15pm, then met at the house at 5.

My first surprise was that I had been expecting two days to work on the house, but the company told me that they were going to demo it on Tuesday morning.  That gave us only 5-6 hours to grab what we could.  I'm still upset that we couldn't get in sooner, since Shayne and I were both off on Sunday, and we could have gone in then.  But oh well...

My first mistake was in not having a clear plan.  I knew I wanted flooring, windows, and beadboard, but I didn't do a great job of organizing my labor.  It took about 45 minutes for us to really get down to work pulling up the floor in the living room.  Meanwhile, Dad grabbed a screen door, well pump, sump pump, a bathroom vanity and sink, and some other odds and ends.  Obviously he wasn't wasting any time!  Lesson learned.

I tried to get the beadboard from the kitchen, but had limited success.  It was new, for one thing, and very thin.  Since it was painted over, it just cracked and splintered when I tried to pry it up.  I abandoned it and went to help on the living room floor.

With 3 guys working, the oak flooring came up quickly.  Dad also pulled the antique toilet, which was requested by a member of Old House Web forums.  Dad got the bathroom lights as well.  Do you notice a trend?  Dad is one mean salvager!

We tried the windows next.  Our original plan was to cut around the windows, then take them out whole, trim and all.  After Dad ruined two chainsaw blades, we nixed the idea.  I started bashing out plaster around the windows, thinking that he could just cut through the lath and exterior wood.  By the time I was done, most of the living room floor was up, and we decided to break for dinner.

After dinner, we started to pull up some pine upstairs.  There was a bit of learning curve to it, and we initially started on the wrong edge.  The boards are nailed through the tongue, so you have to pry them up that way or they splinter and break.  After sacrificing a few boards, we realized our mistake and started on the other end. We got about 15 or 20 boards, which was more than I needed to patch the holes in the living and dining room.

Two of our helpers left after dinner, so things slowed down.  We got a bit more oak flooring from the living room, then tackled the windows.  Instead of removing them whole, Dad thought it would be better to pull the trim.  That worked pretty well.  We took out the sashes, then the exterior trim.  The windows then just pretty much popped out.  We didn't realize how not-secured they were, though, and we dropped the first one out of the house and onto the ground.  Thankfully, nothing broke.

The second one went quicker.  But in the middle of that, I went onto the little sun porch to start taking off the trim from those windows.  I examined one, then turned around to go back into the living room and noticed a very unhappy skunk in the corner looking at me.  Yikes.  I tactically retreated and told Shayne and Dad that we needed to get out sooner rather than later.  Shayne took another peek on the porch, and the skunk was now ass-end out with his tail raised.  Definitely time to go.

We pulled the second window, packed up our tools, and loaded the trailer.  In the meantime, we also took off the arched front door with its storm door and the half-lite kitchen door.  By the time we pulled out the driveway, it was 10:30 pm.

All in all, we got 2 double-windows with vinyl storms, 2 doors, 1 arched storm door, 200 sq ft of oak flooring, 50 ft of 8" wide pine baseboard, 15 pine floorboards, a toilet, 2 bathroom sidelights, and a 3 ft tall door and frame from the upstairs attic.

The next day I went back, and the house looked like this:

I know we did well under the circumstances, but I'm a little disappointed with what we got.  There was so much more in that house that was salvageable, but we just didn't have the time.  And we didn't really know what we were doing.  Once we conquered the learning curve on each task, it went quickly.  But not quickly enough to get everything.  And the skunk kind of threw a wrench into things.

I had high hopes of getting every single window out of that house.  They all were in great condition, and we could have used them when we build our new home.  Same with the oak floor.  There was another 600 or so sq ft.  And the kitchen cabinets would have been awesome.  But we learned a lot, and I'm definitely going to do it again if I can find a suitable house.

And, even if I didn't get everything I wanted, I got the best of what was there.  The windows we got had never been painted or refinished, and they worked very smoothly.  The doors are very nice, and we got enough flooring for a whole room.  Not what I was hoping for, but certainly much better than nothing.

My other issue with the whole experience is my disgust at the waste.  That house was in perfect shape.  Really.  We could have moved right in.  It was clean, well-maintained, and very cute.  It pisses me off that it was destroyed just because it was in the way of some distant future progress.  So much was lost, even though we saved a little.  I feel guilty because I couldn't save more.

Indiana University is expanding into a neighborhood west of campus soon.  All the houses there will be auctioned and salvaged.  I have a feeling our learning experience will be helping us soon...

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