Monthly Archives: November 2011

It’s in the papers on an almost daily basis, yet another house or business broken into, resulting in extensive damage.  It’s no longer the infrequent break in by a  drug addict, selling stolen electronics for pennies on the dollar to buy a fix.  Or a burglar, taking more valuable property that can be sold to ‘the right connections.’  It’s an unfortunate reflection of our times (caused in part by a lack of work and high scrap metal prices), that more people are willing to commit burglary to tear out copper plumbing and other metals. 

scrap metal galore

Sadly, one may get $200 for stolen scrap, but cause thousands of dollars in damage. And to think, I have a whole house full of metal, which needs to be torn out and scrapped.  As a matter of fact, the house has all sorts of scrap metal, including old electrical wiring, obsolete iron gas pipes, split copper plumbing, cracked cast iron radiators, sheet metal around the furnace, and so much more.  Oddly, the scrap metal is the most valuable thing in the house, and the only reason I lock the door. 

the scraps

I am curious how much money I will actually get for the all the scrap metal.  Whatever I get (to be put toward the renovation) will be appreciated, drop in the bucket though it may be. The cast iron radiators weigh sixty to a hundred pounds each, and there are ten of them   The cast iron tub must have weighed a couple of hundred pounds, which has now, thanks to Evan and the sledgehammer, been reduced to manageable pieces.  There is also the odd steel tank that was bolted to the basement ceiling (shown in the photo above, standing on end), the purpose of which is still a mystery to me.  All of the various metals are getting cut out, separated, and neatly stacked. 

oil tank - rest in peace

There was an old oil tank in the basement too, which seemed to have some oil in it as well.  I can only imagine the oil was quite old since the last form of heat in the house was a natural gas furnace.  The tank was quite large and very heavy.  I couldn’t imagine its value in scrap being more than $50, and I would also have to do something with the oil.  So I put an ad in, offering it free to anyone who would haul away the tank, and the oil.  Sure enough, craigslist came through and there was great interest. 

for every 'knob' (and tube) wire insulator there are many feet of very old wire

Funnily enough, I happened to share a mutual friend with the first person to contact me.  We didn’t know this when he came to look at the oil tank though, and we both did not remember that we had actually met before (I guess we are both bad with names, and faces).  After looking at the tank, he wanted it.  However, we had to coordinate our schedules, for a time that I would be able to let him in, and his son would also be available to help.  This scheduling was quite difficult, and I ended up having to miss a party for a friend’s son celebrating his first birthday.  As we strained and grunted hauling the tank out of the house, he mentioned that he would rather be drinking a beer poolside at a birthday party for his friend’s son.  It clicked.  Too funny.  I had to agree. Small world. 

Dayton was grateful for the tank and oil, and I was very grateful to be rid of it.  As it happened, the oil tank, even drained of the oil, was even heavier than I thought.  Fortunately, he had the right equipment – a strong son (and a rolling car jack, iron pipes, and a strong back).  Since I helped him remove the oil tank, I asked if he and his son would help me remove what I believe to be a double soapstone sink from the basement.  

10 ton sink

For those that don’t know, double soapstone sinks weigh more than a not so small elephant, and believe it or not, are about as awkward.  Despite the rolling jack and iron pipes, his son, and his strong back (and my herculean contribution, of course), the sink really didn’t move very far at all. Luring it with peanuts would have had the same result.  The weight of that thing is actually quite remarkable. 

Do you know anyone who may be interested in a well used 400+ pound double maybe soapstone sink? Back to trusty  It will be interesting to see who I (re-)meet this time.

dumpster delivery

A massive 30 yard dumpster has been delivered to the house.  It’s a huge metal behemoth, which measures 22’ long, 8’ wide and 6’ high.  I was given a chance to laugh at myself again by offering to help the driver guide the dumpster into place as it was rolled off the truck.  He curtly told me that he had done it before, and then proceeded to place the dumpster next to the house (for ease of heaving debris from the windows) closer than I had imagined possible.  Good thing I was there to help.  

empty and waiting

The weight allowance is 5 tons!  I haven’t done sustained strenuous, dirty, physical labor all day, day after day, for a long time.  And gutting a house requires just that.  I question how my aging desk bound body will manage.  Have I mentioned that my 19-year-old nephew is here to help?  My brother says he is fit from lifting weights and jogging.  I am too (sort of, well … not really), but demolition work is a different kettle of fish.  It requires physical strength, of course, tearing out, and then carrying, endless loads of debris that may eventually add up to 5 tons.  It also requires a certain mental fortitude, and a lot more protective gear, than one needs in the gym.  Dirt and dust will be trying to find its way into every pore and alveolus.  What with kids nowadays (grumbles this old man), and my aging body, I wondered how we would fare.  A 5 ton dumpster for two weeks, Evan’s help for 10 days, and a house to gut.

Marci suited up

Evan, Marci and I donned tyvek suits with hoods, goggles, respirators with mold filters, gloves and shoe covers.  The sweat started pouring out of us just from wearing the gear, never mind actually working.  We had the required tools as well – sledge hammers (15 lb. and 3 lb.), regular claw hammers, crow bars (big and small), flat bars, bolt cutters, shovels, battery-powered sawsall, brooms, garbage cans and old spackle buckets.  I figured we’d better start slow, and build up as the week went on.  After five hours on the first day (including 50 minutes for lunch and breaks), we were all knackered and gladly quit for the day.  We also enjoyed the opportunity to look at some of the old ‘treasures’ that came out of the walls and ceilings – but more on that later.  Our clothes were soaked and dirty.  When we got home I grabbed some soap and shampoo and we headed for the creek.  This became our daily routine. 

suffocating dust

We worked 8 of the 10 days, only managing an average of 5 ½ hours a day.  Although we maintained only a moderate work schedule, we managed to fill the dumpster – and then some.  The final weigh-in came in at 6.07 tons! Saying that we tore out and dumped an average of 1,500 pounds of debris a day sounds much better than only 5 ½ hours of work a day!  Just as importantly, we managed to swim, fish, walk or bicycle every day together.

morning break day one and all smiles

Thank you, Evan, for your help, your friendship, and not quitting on me and the work!  (there are certain advantages to flying in one’s help from 500 miles away and the spare bedroom being the only home they have!).

We ended up tearing out a lot more than I initially intended.  I was originally thinking that some parts of the house may just need repair, and not

cast iron tub demo

absolute demolition.  I am not one to do things by half measure, though.  So when decisions had to be made on whether or not to tear something out, I erred on the side of tearing it out and replacing it with new (when in doubt, tear it out?).  The bathroom was one of these decisions, including taking out the cast iron tub (the enamel finish seemed beyond saving).  Evan’s initial enthusiasm to smash it up also helped in the decision.  He quickly found out how strong and resistant to a sledgehammer those tubs are!  I had to tell him to be careful at one point, fearing that he may drive it, intact, through the wall, out into the yard (as opposed to breaking it into manageable pieces).  He’ll think twice before volunteering to do that again! It may require more work, and cost more, but hopefully the increase in rent or sales price will make it worth it.  Regardless, I will know it is new, done right, and will last much longer.  So now we are pretty much back to the studs, in the kitchen and bathroom too.  Ah well, what else am I going to do with myself?  Watch TV?  Why not renovate an entire house instead!

success - a full dumpster

Unfortunately, despite a full dumpster, the demolition is not done.  It is now a matter of having to slow down and figure out what else must be removed, and taking care while doing it so as not to create more work down the road (such as having a ceiling collapse on me!).  I must also figure out the process of the remodel.  For example, some floors need to be leveled, which will require


jacking from below.  Obviously this must happen before installing new windows or sheet rock.  Sitting at a desk for a bit and figuring out this process, and how to proceed, is what I do best!