Archive for the ‘nail puller’ Category

Adventures in Salvaging, Part 1

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

Today is about our very first professional salvaging experience (besides amateur events like salvaging materials from our own remodel).

Over the last four years, we have developed a reputation for having some skills in salvaging materials. Our best score was never-painted oak window and door trim, baseboard, and a beveled glass door that fit our front door space almost perfectly, although I still regret that we couldn’t pull an all-nighter and gotten more trim and Don regrets that we didn’t take the second door. (The house was torn down at 8:30 a.m. the day after we were invited to salvage it.) But, that’s a story for another day — a day when I can find the pictures I took of the house (a Dutch Colonial) before/while it went down.

The first successful salvaging I remember was 400 sq ft of quartersawn oak flooring (and a sink or two). We’d been working our nerve up to do salvage for a while. I’d stalk the Murco web site for good salvage, and I think we’d been to one or two auctions, but hadn’t bid. I guess it was in late summer 2003 — I would have been out of commission in summer 2002, and I was back into it by fall, but it was too hot to be fall 2002.

One Saturday, we drove up to Highland Park, hoping we’d score some bluestone. As it turned out, the bluestone was mortared in place and it bid up too high anyways, so we passed. However, as long as we were in the ritzy suburbs, we thought we’d go through Kenilworth.** While we were there, I saw a house salvage sign. We followed the signs, and found a Queen Anne mansion waiting for us. I went in — we had the baby and didn’t want to take her in so Don stayed with her — and discovered the mother lode of quartersawn oak flooring. We had narrow quartersawn in our Kensington house, and needed more for our addition to flow seamlessly. I asked the price ($1/square foot, cash) and went out to tell Don. (I’d gotten a quote for having it milled new at $9/square foot so we were living on subfloors until we had the money.) He agreed it was a great match.

The challenge, though, would be in removing it. The house was coming down on Monday, we’d never pulled flooring before, and here it was Saturday afternoon already. So, we did what any sensible couple would do. We stopped at HD, found a helpful employee who introduced us to bullnose pliers*, and told us we’d just need prybars to get the flooring out, and then went to visit Don’s folks. His mom agreed to watch the baby on Sunday, and his dad offered to cut church and go with us to pull floor. (He was a trustee of the church — cutting church was not in his nature.) We spent the night, borrowed Don’s brother-in-law’s truck, and drove north Sunday morning, with me hoping all the way that the flooring hadn’t been sold.

Of course, it hadn’t. It was the hottest weekend of the year. The house had no electricity, and had never had air conditioning. (In fact, even if it had had power, central a/c had never been installed. In hindsight, the house was in only moderately worse shape than our orphan Italianate. But the Italianate was a couple of years in our future.) Being near Lake Michigan didn’t help one tiny bit. It was not cooler by the lake that day. The flooring had been under carpet for years, so there was rotting carpet (and rusty tacks) to remove before we could get to the good stuff.

It turns out I am totally lacking in floor pulling skills/muscle, but I can pull nails and organize flooring pretty well. The three of us spent the day pulling flooring or pulling nails. It was early evening, and we still hadn’t pulled all the flooring we’d bought, when Don’s brother showed up. He was fresher, and we got the full four hundred square feet plus we’d bought out of the house and onto the truck.

While the rest of us were collapsed in a heap under a shade tree, Don’s brother was making friends with Frank the salvage guy. (Frank had lent us his specialized floor-pulling tools — prybars that had been bent into an L-shape — so I think he was already fond of us.) He bought the washer and dryer (for a rental apartment), and discussed the fate of the two very early 20th century pedestal sinks in the house. Now, on Saturday, Frank was asking more than a grand each, so I’d put them out of my mind. By Sunday evening, he had no buyers and they were going to be crushed by bulldozers in the morning, so he sold them for all the cash we had left ($100 each). Don’s brother bought one and we bought the other. We haven’t found the right house for ours yet, but my dad saved it from the local contractor recently, who (with good intentions) offered to pitch the sink into the dumpster with the other construction junk. Gack.

I later checked what the Queen Anne had sold for. $1.3 million as a tear-down. The new construction that took its place went for at least triple that or, in local lingo, “upper brackets.”

After we got home, we spent the next week or so pulling nails whenever we had the chance. I sorted the wood by length. I wish I would have further sorted it by whether both ends, the left end, or the right end was missing the tongue or the groove as that would have helped installation go faster, but I was years from installation as it turned out. (Tongue in groove flooring comes with tongue on one long end, groove on the other long end, and a tongue on a short end and a groove on a short end, which makes for an ever tighter installation. However, during installation, one of the ends is cut off when you reach a wall. And, during removal, one of the ends may be damaged and require removal.)

We wound up moving from our Eastlake/Stick house before we installed the flooring in the addition. Instead, we put it into our kitchen and had professionals install it in the front hall in the orphan Italianate. If you click through, you can see that it refinished beautifully. (Dusty, too. Will try to take an undusty picture of it before/if we sell the house.)

kitchenfloor.JPG

I suppose the post on installing it is for another day, but, in brief, we relied heavily on the Taunton Press books and video on wood floors. (The book and video were a Father’s Day present one year.) We had very little waste from our installation. Probably less than 5% (two grocery sacks) for the kitchen, but I took my time to find just the right pieces and we had very long lengths to choose from (up to fourteen feet). I don’t know how it was for the professional installation since I wasn’t there. I would expect more waste, but more haste, too. We didn’t end up doing the refinishing ourselves, due to the rush to get out of the house.

* Well, I’m sure that’s what they were called, but I couldn’t find a good link to illustrate and ours are still at the orphan house. They’re pliers with a rounded bit (like a claw hammer) so you can use some leverage to pull the nail on through the wood and out the back.

** Kenilworth is the ritziest of the ritzy suburbs of Chicago, a small planned community (2500 people, planned in 1889). The median price for houses there has been above a million for years and its median household income is $200,000. (For you non-tech people, that means that more than half the households gross $200k each year.)

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