11 Jul Demolition vs. Deconstruction
There’s a big difference between demolition and deconstruction, as my husband and I learned. We had long dreamed of a net zero house, such that we produce as much electricity as we use, and now in later years, we wanted something that would serve us into very old age.
Here’s the snag. We really like where we currently live in Spryfield, within walking distance of so many amenities, but we can’t have two houses on one property, so what could we do with the old house? And what are some options if you yourself are considering what to do about housing as you age?
We didn’t want to simply tear down the old house and build a new one. Instead, we looked at renovating the old house and connecting it to the new house, such that we would be allowed by city planning regulations to have both houses. We could then use the old house for new purposes, such as for rental income, or to establish the houses as a small co-housing setup. That would mean private rooms for individuals, and shared amenities such as kitchen, dining room, and laundry. It sounded lovely, but we couldn’t afford all the upgrades that the old house would need and also build new. What else might we do?
It would be wonderful if someone would buy our old house for next to nothing, and take on the cost of moving it and creating a foundation for it. We live near the edge of the city, so there wouldn’t be a lot of costly raising of power lines during the move process if it were going outside the city. Also, the one-story kitchen/dining end of the house would have to be removed and added back on, because a house should be no wider than 24 feet to move it. I can see lots of options for revitalizing our old house. Is anyone interested in taking it away to create a home for themselves?
What about tearing down the old house, and reusing all that wood? First of all, each piece would have to be certified as safe for reuse as construction material. Also, we would have needed to find someplace else to live for many months during construction.
On the other hand, there will be a lot of materials that we can reuse or repurpose, such as all the hardwood steps (they would make lovely book shelves!); kitchen cabinets repurposed as storage units for the workshop and back entry; and some light fixtures we can reuse. We also have a lot of carpet that we plan to cut into strips, lay down as garden paths, and cover with wood chips. We’ll also have enough old carpet to cover grassy areas we want to kill to turn into growing areas for other things.
Where will we get a lot of wood chips? We’ve been doing a lot of cutting back and clearing out of shrubs and a couple of trees in order to make room for the new house and construction access, so all that woody material will all be chipped. We like the idea of keeping organic matter on the site.
Someone else’s treasure
Fortunately, there are online resources (e.g. Freecycle, Kijiji, Craig’s List) for selling or giving away things, and reuse stores that will take many of the materials you don’t need. Habitat for Humanity, for instance, has two restores that will take many construction items as well as furniture, and give a charitable receipt to you for any of your items that they are able to sell.
Demolition vs. Deconstruction
Finally we get to the issue of what to do with everything else that is left in an old house. It would be less expensive to hire someone to come in and demolish the house. This would result in a mixture of materials that would cost more to leave at a construction and demolition (c & d) recycle site.
The alternative is the more expensive process of deconstructing the house, such that a house is taken apart carefully, and sorted materials can be delivered for less cost to a c & d site.
I was astonished to learn that c & d sites will take dry wall and gyproc, asphalt shingles, composite and painted wood, plastic, treated wood, brush, metal, and aggregate materials such as bricks, cement, and concrete without reinforced steel. There is also a small treasure trove in electrical wiring that can be stripped for its copper and sold at regular recycling sites.
It seems to me we will be learning a lot more about gleaning resources from our old house instead of simply demolishing it. Ecology Action Centre has an excellent resource about construction called the Waste? NOT! Toolkit.