Photo: Steve Veroneau
Photo: Steve Veroneau

At 8 a.m. on demo day, the framing I'm about to tear out and junk is a perfectly functional floor or roof system. By lunch, I'm paying to have it carted off. So, on my latest tear-down, a 25-foot-by-44-foot ranch, I explored saving framing and reusing it on the new project going up in the old house's place. I hoped to save material and money, and to do my small part to keep my landfill from becoming land-full.

Ripping and Running. My skilled carpenters removed the 2x6 rafters and ceiling joists and the 2x8 floor joists. With $25-per-hour carpenters disassembling a house, rather than pick each board apart we square cut them as close to their connection points as possible for fast removal. A laborer (my 14-year-old son, Tyler–welcome to the trades, lad!) cleaned the stock of nails, staples, and other debris then stacked and staged it for the new building. Salvaging studs wasn't worth it; they were peppered with plumbing and electrical holes and too few were clean enough to justify the effort.

New Life. While saving space at the landfill is a nice thought, the lumber does me little good unless I can reuse it right away. The 2x6s became my basement stem walls and garage wall framing. The 2x8s became headers and my cantilevered roof overhang detail. I even used scraps for mid-wall fire stop or cabinet blocking.

Numbers Game. Here's how the math works out: I salvaged about 120 2x6x12s and 50 2x8x12s. In my area a 2x6x12 costs $6.44 and a 2x8x12 costs $9.48, making their store-bought value about $1,250.

As for costs associated with the actual salvage, I looked at it this way: A certain portion of the labor involved demolishing the house would be spent anyway, so I estimated the additional time spent at 30 hours of skilled labor at $25/hour ($750) and 16 hours for a laborer cleaning and stacking at $12/hour ($192). This puts total labor at $942. But I also saved half a Dumpster for a credit against that cost of $250.

So the salvaged lumber cost me $692, a net savings of about $560 compared to buying new stock at $1,250–for doing work I was going to do anyway.

Final Analysis. This process isn't practical for every job, but it saved enough money and material that I'll do it again. Even at break-even, I'd do it just for the intrinsic value of salvaging lumber and saving on landfill space.

–Steve Veroneau owns Transformations Inc. in Falls Church, Va., and is a contributing editor for Tools of the Trade.