Asbestos, Lead Paint, Demolition, and The Economy

As you can probably deduce from the title, there are several unrelated things to cover in this post. Some more important than others.

First things first: I had NVL Laboratories check the house for asbestos and lead paint last week, and as expected, there’s a significant amount of both (mainly under floor tiles and on the exterior of the house). None of it is airborne, so that’s good, but it presents a bit of a challenge when taking the house down. You’re supposed to have a professional abatement team come in and dispose of the stuff in a special way.

That brings us to the subject of demolition. Build hooked me up with a great local non-profit organization called RE Store that is actually going to “deconstruct” most of the existing house piece by piece and sell the re-sellable elements as “vintage” building materials. Not only will this option save me a significant amount of money in demolition costs but it will save 52 tons of material from going to a landfill. This is really the best type of building decision: the kind that is environmentally friendly and saves you money. As if that wasn’t good enough, I can also write off the market value of the donated materials — $8500 — and get a nice tax refund out of it. It’s a win-win-win.

With regard to the timing of deconstruction/demolition, there is an opportunity to do it as early as December but my feeling is that it should occur as close to construction time as possible (spring). I just don’t like the idea of tearing down a house before the plans for the new one are even approved yet. I also don’t want my across the street neighbors to get too used to their newly sweeping water view. I think they may actually end up with a significantly better view than they have right now by the time I’m done, but their best view is clearly when my house is just a hole in the ground.

So that brings us to the economy. I could probably do a whole post on this, but the long and short of it is as follows: the market and the economy in general have gone from bad in early 2008 to worse in mid 2008 to near catastrophic in October. I’m invested about as conservatively as you can get (mostly cash and muni bonds, very little equity exposure), but even with that conservative allocation, October and now November are really making me fear for the future of the economy. I remember clearly the 1987 crash and the dot-com bubble bursting, but in neither case did I think another Great Depression was possible. When you start to worry about whether your bank deposits are safe, how many millions of people are going to lose their jobs in 2008/2009, and how our government is going to deal with all of it, you reflexively move into “batten down the hatches” mode a bit.

My feeling as of now is that if things stay where they are at or get better, there shouldn’t be any change in my plans, but if the economy dives further off the cliff or I don’t think things have sufficiently stabilized by the spring, I may re-examine my construction schedule. I’ve prepared Build for this possibility, and they of course understand, being plenty in-tune with the markets and the economy themselves. It’s still game-on for now though. Permits are being applied for, documents are being submitted, and the project marches forward. Let’s hope Barry O. has the calming influence on the country and the economy that we think he can and let’s hope the market stops trading “like a lunatic on ecstasy”, as my favorite CNBC guy Steve Liesman likes to say.

Costs accrued during this stage:

Lead and asbestos testing$1,014.00

3 Responses to “Asbestos, Lead Paint, Demolition, and The Economy”

  1. Chris Says:

    hi Mike, The downturn in the international economy means that construction companies and their suppliers will be extremely keen on price. Materials should be readily available and it could possibly be a great time to get your work done.

  2. Mike D. Says:

    Chris: Yep… if the effects of that become obvious by the spring, that means good things for the cost of this project. Strangely however, both real estate prices and construction prices in Seattle haven’t been nearly as affected by the economic downturn as the rest of the country and world. The area is just really resilient for some reason. We’ve been hit, but not exactly hammered. I’m doing my best to keep an eye on the price of building materials, but it’s difficult to find the right info you need. Copper is supposed to be a good indicator and it’s indeed WAY down, and so is lumber, but that’s about all I know. I would love to see a website which tracked weekly “indices” of difficult building elements like copper, appliances, lumber, steel, construction labor, etc.

  3. Steve Says:

    Hey Mike,

    Well done on the demolition. It’s fantastic to see people really making an effort to keep old building materials out of landfills. What’s really impressive is that the toxic materials will be handled appropriately and not end up in the waste stream.