Tag Archives: salvaging

Limestone unlimited

I was about to enter salvaging heaven!

The porch tear down only generated a limited amount of salvaged lumber, and we recycled the concrete foundation. The old limestone foundation, however, was something I have been salivating over for a while.

There was not a stone to be wasted here! This is priceless garden material. But we first had to disassemble it stone by stone.

Well, the excitement about the limestone was a little muted once we started with the demolition. The material was a lower quality than that of the building foundation. A lot of the larger stones separated along the sediment lines into smaller, thinner slabs. This was particularly prevalent at the location of the old downspout where the hydrostatic pressure had built up.

We found the biggest and best quality stones in the two corners. It was at times a challenge to lift them out of the pit. All of the salvaged stones, large and small, are now waiting for their new garden assignment.


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Back porch tear down

I had scheduled the removal of that eyesore that was attached to the back of our building – our old back porch – back in late March. We had to wait for the snow to clear but finally proceeded with the cosmetic surgery.

The surgeon’s tools of choice: Crow bars, sawzall, large scrapers and sledge hammers.


It got interesting from the get go!

The first job was to separate the porch roof from the main roof. The crew cut through the existing roofing and began to scrape it off.


We knew the porch was in bad shape and not safe. But I now got to see what “not safe” meant, as the decking along the porch edge was partially rotten. That’s the kind of skylight you don’t want!

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Looking at the cross section of the roofing threw me back to the deconstruction days of our deep energy retrofit, when I felt like I was conducting an archaeological dig, peeling back the construction layer by layer.

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We have an impressive 2 ½ inches of very old, pretty old, not so old, and newer roofing on our building. One layer after another. Can you imaging the weight of this? If I assume 90 pound roll roofing at ?” per layer, we have a least 18 pounds of roofing per square foot. That is about ¾ the weight of an extensive green roof!


One and a half days, and our eyesore was gone, including the clean up.

Why is it so much fun to watch this planned destruction? It was fun watching it while it was in process, and I still have a blast revisiting the time lapse. Or even just this little video of the west wall coming down.

Waste reduction?

I spent some time walking through the old porch, looking for items that could be salvaged, reused, repurposed, recycled or otherwise diverted from the landfill. Because pretty much everything was painted, the majority of the porch was in a non-recyclable state. I managed to pull out a handfull of items, such as a door and some two by fours, along with a number of floor joists and some nice posts. I’ll either find a use for them or see if I can find a taker, despite the paint on the lumber.

The one thing that surprised me is that our contractor fit the whole porch into two trailers, with which he hauled it off site. I would have ordered a big dumpster, and it would only have been half full.

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Basement kitchen bragging

Oh yes! I will once again invoke my bragging rights and tell you how much of a cheapskate I really am…

The big secret: You don’t need to buy new. If you schedule it right (by leaving yourself enough time to go scavenging) you can save a lot of money and resources by turning to the salvage and reuse market. You can begin to reshape your own footprint.

Take the wall and island cabinets. The former was a steal we found on Craigslist, while the latter was purchased at the ReBuilding Exchange. Ok, the island cabinets needed some work (cladding on the back and side). But I took care of that with our salvaged old growth lumber.


While I am on the subject of salvaged old growth lumber: It also provided us the material  for the open counter top base to the left and right of the stove.

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The stove was a Craigslist purchase, whereas the dishwasher came from the ReBuilding Exchange.


As you have recently read, the solid surface counter top was a purchase from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The heavy duty, cast iron sink with white enamel also came from the ReBuilding Exchange, while the backsplash stone tiles were a salvage item from our 1st floor kitchen installation. They were also bought from the ReStore.


Some items are more difficult to purchase from the salvage and reuse market than others. This can be due to scheduling constraints (i.e. I need that thing now!), or availability. Here is a list of the items that we had to purchased new:

The items we were able to source from the salvage and reuse market are:

We spent an estimated $1,880 on materials for the basement kitchen! If I add the miscellaneous hardware items, we may have spent as much as $2,200.

That is our kind of price tag and our kind of kitchen!

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Open counter top base fabrication

L-shaped kitchens are nice, but I find U-shaped ones to be even more functional. And the basement kitchen space has U-shape written all over it. One could sort of detect the beginnings of it when we moved into the garden unit.


We had two functional plywood counter top spaces. But to complete the U-shape, we need counter tops left and right of the stove. And this is where it gets unconventional, due to my favorite topic: moisture management.

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Maximizing air flow

I did not want to use base cabinets left and right of the stove. I am concerned that they would restrict air flow across our exposed limestone foundation wall. If so, that section of the foundation wall may have a difficulty drying out. And that in turn increased the potential for indoor air quality (IAQ) issues and mold.

Instead, I had planned for an open counter top base and wire shelves, thus maximizing the potential air movement across the foundation wall. That means I have to test my carpentry skills and fabricate an open base, which is nothing more than a table without the table top. Well, there is the awkward angle shape on the ends…

Resource efficiency

“Cradle to cradle” comes to mind. Years ago, when we deconstructed the basement, I saved all the old growth lumber because I had been told it is good material for furniture making. Now I can clean up those studs, de-nail them, and mill them into the needed shape. The de-nailing part is somewhat tedious, because it has to be done very diligently, or it will dull our saw blades during milling.


Building the base

Drew found a simple table base template online that suggested to use a combination of wooden dowels and screws. We cut and fabricated the legs and horizontal connectors and used a cardboard template to make sure the base was assembled correctly and at the right angles.

We had a little difficulty getting started, but ended up cranking out two bases in no time. They turned out to be a surprisingly sturdy construction. Next step: taking them into the basement kitchen to see if they fit.

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Back to the basement

When we moved into the garden unit in early 2011, we did so in a hurry. I managed to get the kitchen functional with a stove, a sink and a few kitchen cabinets.


But I didn’t get to install a counter top or a back splash. Instead I put down ¾” plywood to tide us over.


In order to rent the garden apartment, the plywood must go. And timing was on my side. Someone had dropped off two crates of solid surface counter top sheets at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Addison. Most of them had hideous colors or patterns, but I found a few sheets that were rather nice and would nicely fit into the garden unit.


This made me rather happy as it did not only fit our budget, but also our philosophy of relying on salvaged, reused or repurposed materials. Plus, the solid surface counter top is relatively easy to cut, fit and work with. I could fabricate the solid surface material myself, unlike the limestone we used for the 1st floor kitchen.

With the material on hand, it was time to put the finishing touches on the kitchen. Our first step was to remove the sink base and extend the cement board upwards to accommodate a tiled back splash, similar to what we have on the 1st floor kitchen.

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Before we got to play with the new counter top, I had to think about layout and test my furniture making skills. More on that in the next post.

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