Deconstruction Complete

On July 23rd, deconstruction of the old house was officially completed. The process began on July 9th and took 8 business days (2 Monday-Thursday workweeks) to finish. I am completely satisfied and amazed at how this phase went, and I credit the great work of Noel Stout and his team at The RE Store as well as Paul Jensen Excavating for removing a 50 year old mass of brick, metal, wood, and sandstone with the delicacy of a surgical team.

A timelapse is worth a thousand words, so before explaining this phase any further, take a look at the whole process compressed down to about a minute:

Click to play timelapse

Probably the most amazing part about this deconstruction is how much material we saved from going into a landfill. I don’t have the final weight numbers yet, but essentially 40% of the house was resold to other home builders, 50% of it was recycled, and only 10% of it went to the dump. Amazing. For all the talk about building green using expensive solar panels and other technologies, this step has a much greater immediate positive environmental impact, in my opinion. I talked to Paul — the gentleman operating the excavator — and he told me he could have technically knocked the entire house down in five hours if it was all going to the dump. I ended up paying more in labor fees to deconstruct the house instead of demolishing it, but I would have paid more in dumping fees the other way. In the end, it’s better to spend your money on good, honest, environmentally-conscious labor than on dumping fees.

As an extra-added bonus, I had the re-sold elements appraised at Foss Appraisal and they came out to a whopping $18,000… about triple what I expected. This means I can write off $18,000 in donations from my taxes (note: any claim over $5000 requires this third-party appraisal).

The second-most amazing thing about this process was how little collateral damage was caused by it. One of my Japanese maples lost a branch due to a window frame falling and one of the neighbor’s garden rocks got cracked when a dumpster truck bumped into it, but that’s about it. To remove that much house off the side of a cliff with that little damage is astounding to me. The crews were all very nice too and entertained the neighbors with explanations the process.

Finally, the last amazing thing to me about this deconstruction was how freely everyone moved around in the presence of such dangerous machinery. In watching the livecam all day (I have an actual video feed on my desktop… not just the stills), I frequently saw people crossing in front of, behind, and on each side of the moving excavator arm without ever getting hit. The almost unconscious coordination these people have is unbelievable.

On to framing!

Costs accrued during this stage:

Miscellaneous excavation fees$270.00
RE-Store (deconstruction services)$18,611.69
Honeybucket rental$167.19
Appraisal fee for donated materials$270.00
Recycling/dumping fees$7,724.71

20 Responses to “Deconstruction Complete”

  1. Wow. That video was awesome. I don’t think I have seen something like that before.

    But as exciting as that was, framing is going to be even more so. The “property” is going to become “your house!”

  2. The Tim Says:

    Nice video. I especially liked watching the clouds fly by.

    My parents house was deconstructed down in Vancouver, WA last year after the county bought it. It’s amazing how much of the material they were able to re-use out of a 30+ year-old house.

  3. While watching the video I thought to myself, you better be recycling that or else you hired some REALLY slow workers!

    It is amazing that you were able to only have about 10% go to the landfill. That is impressive. Well done!

  4. meks Says:

    Nice view! The neighbors are going to enjoy that, however fleeting.

  5. Devon Shaw Says:

    My favorite part of all this is how the vast majority of your money went to LABOR, not DUMPING. Instead of paying to throw away tons of perfectly-good material in a landfill, your bottom line contributed far more to people trying to feed their families. A+ for your economic stimulation, Mike.

  6. Frank Says:

    I wonder if the crew could give any advice to those looking to do new construction. What sort of materials and techniques should be adopted to make this process as pain-free as possible, when the time comes? What should be avoided?

  7. Amazing what a sense of progress one feels with deconstruction and opening things up… in my current project I am well past deconstuction but still finding small areas of clean up from the demo – 80/20 rule. One of the most exciting parts of this project for me is the opportunity for amazing landscaping – do you have plans yet for it… sublime landscaping can take amazing architecture to another level. If you dont have it, I’d recommend a subscription to garden design mag ( ) another awesome mag for inspiration is modernism ( ), elle decor (from australia) is pretty excellent too – fun to have around while your project takes shape.

    Good luck mike – looks awesome!

  8. Les Fitzpatrick Says:

    Wow, we tore this old house down and by God, there was a view!

  9. Les Fitzpatrick Says:

    That has to be one of the cleanest demolitions I’ve ever seen. I suspect there was deference to the neighbors. In the old days I worked on a demolition crew and our method included taking the structure down as quickly as possible and then hauling.

  10. Heidi McCaffray Says:

    Wow my Dad is awesome! He is the owner and operator of Paul Jensen Excavating and Deconstruction. He has advocated deconstruction for decades, long before it was politically correct. I encourage anyone interested in this type of process to look into it and “Call Paul” at 206-601-7762! Yeah, I know shameless plug! I completely agree with what Devon Shaw said about your bottom line contributing to people being able to support their families.

  11. Frank – regarding your comment: “I wonder if the crew could give any advice to those looking to do new construction. What sort of materials and techniques should be adopted to make this process as pain-free as possible, when the time comes? What should be avoided?”

    You might want to check out King County’s recommendations for Design for Disassembly:

  12. Charlie Says:

    The RE Stores (Ballard and Bellingham) and their decon/salvage crews really walk the talk. These guys are pros and have been at the forefront of “green jobs” for years. Check it out:

  13. It is great to see this house deconstructed and learn about the actual cost savings to the owner and the reuse of 90 per cent of the old materials. WOW this looks like a great way to go! Contractor, cities, property owners think twice when you consider tearing buildings down – this is a smarter answer. Thanks to the Bellingham and Seattle RE Stores!

  14. paisleygo Says:

    VERY COOL! -the artist in me wants to give you a cinematogrphy review — I loved the last few frames where the sun came out in a sort of angelic sort of way. Very nicely done –
    and oh yea – re: the awesomeness of recycling 90% of your house! — kudos for that subject matter too. Wonderful location to build a new one — will you be posting the time lapse of building as well?

  15. Michael McAuley Says:

    Frank….send me your questions and I’ll help you out.

    Great deconstruction. I wish we could get local reuse of asphalt shingle.

    McAuley Building Conservation

  16. Mike D. Says:

    Paisleygo: Yep, the framing timelapse is already posted here, and I will be posting more timelapses as the phases are complete.

  17. Good for you, good for the RE Store, and good for everyone.

    Thank you for promoting this excellent alternative to heedless waste.

    I worked with the RE Store field crew from 2004 – 2006 and though it was grueling–I estimate salvage work to be several times more difficult than new construction (just compare pulling a nail to popping one in with a nailgun)–it was the most all-around satisfying job I ever held.

  18. Kurt J Says:

    Aside from the 18k tax write-off you got, how much money did you make from deconstructing the house?


  19. Mike D. Says:

    Kurt: I didn’t make anything. I just saved a bunch of stuff from going into the landfill.

  20. minerva Says:

    Very very nice!!! We are thinking of tearing down our home but a ??- how do I find a company in my area of the country- currently noone around here does this type of work. Very interested in this process.