Monday, December 15, 2014

Timeline - Gathering Sustainable Materials

Beginning Four Years Ago

We will be buying very few lumberyard materials for the house; most will be either salvaged or fresh-sawed hardwoods.  It will be this in combination with DIY labor that will contribute the most towards meeting our tight budget (budget and estimate).

First house; the owner had already begun the tear-down 
Beginning four years ago, I have dismantled board-by-board three old houses, two garages and several farm out-buildings.  The boards have been de-nailed and stacked under cover.  As an example of the size of the cache, there are over 400 2 x 4s seven feet or longer plus hundreds shorter than seven feet. There 
Second tear-down owned by the City of Collinsville
are all of the 2 x 6s we think we will need. There are 2 x 8s, 2 x 10s and 2 x 12s.  There will be enough one-bys to sheath the exterior walls and enough fir flooring for one upstairs room, not to mention a bunch of old-fashion stained (not painted) wainscot.  And I have picked up a few free lots of lumber from Craigslist.  

My step-son, Keith, and I finished salvaging the timbers from a 19th century barn after a fly-by-nighter knocked it down for its barnwood and tin roof then left the timbers unprotected.  We were able to use some of the better timbers for the house we built recently for Keith and Dawn.  Few of the rest may be salvageable for re sawing. Next spring, we will obtain, for the price of freight for a few miles, up to twenty timbers that support the floor of early 20th century house that our friend is tearing-down.
Third tear-down -- a combination of house, garage and out-buildings

Sawmill lumber
When we were interring my son's ashes in the family plot in my hometown Walnut Ridge Cemetery in 2011, I noticed that a huge nearby walnut tree (probably dating from the mid-1800s and probably helped to give the cemetery its name) was sickly.  I inquired about it, found that it had been struck by lightning and needed to come down.  The cemetery board said it was mine if I paid to have it removed.  The timber guy was happy with $200 to fell it and haul it to the saw mill.  The mill guy was happy with $250 and let me guide the custom sawing of the big logs.  Step-
Half of the main walnut log on the sawmill
son, Keith, and I used his smaller mill to saw up the limbs, some of which were as thick as many saw logs.  The outcome was over a thousand board feet of choice walnut that has been air-dried and stored under cover.  The walnut is destined for kitchen cabinets, dining room furniture, built-ins and we don't know what else yet.

During the winter of 2013, I purchased and helped saw up about the same amount of red oak.  It is "stickered" (stacked for air-drying with tiny boards separating the layers of lumber) and stored under cover.  The oak will be used for all interior woodwork, doors and stairway -- at a cost of about $3,000.
Red oak "stickered" for air-drying

Legal Concerns
There are liability issues associated with doing a potentially dangerous tear-down on private property.  The second house I dismantled was for the City of Collinsville whose City Attorney drafted a document that absolved the City of liability.  It also spelled out respective responsibilities as to deadlines, ownership of salvage, dumpster rental, disconnecting utilities and filling the basement afterwards.  I used the City's document as the template for a generic document suitable for the other properties I salvaged. 
Salvaged lumber stored for proper air circulation -- off the ground, leveled, covered with metal and stickered between alternate layers.  The stack to the left with the ends painted white is the walnut stickered for air-drying.  Click on the image for a closer look.
Proper Storage of Lumber
We naively started out storing the denailed boards close to the ground on 4 x 4s, 6x6s and railroad ties under tarps.  Not good!  Fortunately, we found the termites while they were only eating the scrappy 2 x 4s and reconfigured our storage methods. Four years later, I can recommend the following storage technique.

1.  Spread ground cloth -- geo-textile fabric or old carpet, carpet pads or tarps -- to control weeds and discourage varmints and insects
2.  Use concrete blocks (ours were salvaged from the tear-downs) to support 2x cross-members on which to rest the lumber;  space them about three feet apart across the stack and four feet apart longitudinally 
3.  Use a long straight edge and plenty of wedges to make sure the supporting 2xs are level longitudinally (level across the stack is not important except for sheet goods)
4.  Use stickers (1 x 2s or narrower) about 2' apart between every other layer and lay in the boards so that there is at least a half-inch gap between adjacent boards, thereby assuring that each board has at least three sides exposed to the air (for air-drying sawmill lumber, the stickers go between every layer and are closer together)
5.  Cover the stack with salvaged metal roofing panels or the equivalent rather than wrapping the stack with plastic sheeting or tarps, again so that air can circulate freely through the stack; a certain amount of water infiltrating the edges and ends of the stack when it rains horizontally is tolerable as long as there is exposure to the air
6.  Weight the metal down with heavy stones or concrete blocks; use plenty, don't underestimate the heft of a 50 mph wind.  As an insurance policy against tornadoes, consider running heavy gauge wire around the stacks in several places and tensioning it enough to secure the stack (since tornadoes are unpredictable, it might also be a good idea to offer alms to the gods, if not your firstborn).
7.  If space permits, position the stacks wide enough apart to accomodate your lawn mower so as to minimize weed-eating.

Recent update:  As of the end of 2016, most of the dimension lumber had been used up and I can report that the suggestions offered above proved valid.  There were a couple of instances of carpenter ants ruining a few boards but I have yet to see any termites.  If I were to do it over again, I would take the time to use stickers for every layer instead of every other layer to minimize trapped moisture between boards that could foster mold alnd encourage ants.  Although it was not a big problem, I did end up saturating some boards with undiluted vinegar to kill mold before using them.  And there were a few instances, when it was just easier to ditch a board than to disinfect it.