Can I build a new house using the wood from my old house that I tore down?
Yes you can in most places. There are by-laws in a lot of places that state that you must use lumber that has been stamped and approved, depending on the age of the lumber it might not have that stamp and the building inspectors might give you a hard time about it. A simple call to your local building department will answer that question.
There are several problems with using lumber that has been reclaimed out of an older home;
• Since the home that you are salvaging the lumber from is older you will not be guaranteed that it will be the same size as new modern lumber. Older lumber is wider and thicker than today’s lumber. You will be hard pressed to find modern lumber that will match the older stuff, to make it match you either cut the old lumber down or you have to make sure that when using the older lumber you only build with it. That requires you to build some walls in the house with new lumber and other walls completely with the older material.
• Rot and insect damage. Be very careful that you are not using old lumber that is water damaged or infested with insects. There’s nothing worse than building a new home and having it infested right away. The rot and insects don’t already have to be there, they can find their home in the lumber once it’s removed and piled on the ground.
• Once you have removed old lumber from a house and then exposed it to the weather it will start to take on moisture. The more moisture it takes on outside the more it will have to shed that moisture later once it is in the house in a dry environment. Along with the moisture the sun will make the lumber twist and swell. You must make sure that the lumber is stacked tight and bound so that it doesn’t get the chance to move, also place it on sleepers so that it is off the ground.
• You must remove as many nails out of the lumber as possible. Cutting, drilling and handling old lumber can be dangerous and expensive if every time you cut a piece of wood you cut through an old nail and damage the blade.
• Don’t be surprised if some of the lumber doesn’t meet today’s code. The rafters you take off the old house probably won’t be sized large enough to meet the new code.
• You must make sure that when reusing studs they must be clean of all lath and plaster, nails, screws and anything else that will cause bumps or rolls in the finished drywall.
Since you are planning to re-use the lumber don’t neglect to budget for more new lumber to be put in the new house.
Remember one thing about re-using old lumber it is very time consuming, the cost for the old lumber might be free but the labour cost of the removal and prep to be reused is much higher.
You will be facing a higher demolition cost by saving the lumber because the amount of man hours it will take to take down the building will be higher, the alternative is to have an excavator tear the building down, separate it and have the debris taken to the dump.
When talking about being environmentally friendly it is better to reuse the old lumber, but if your demolition contractor is able to separate the material when the house is torn down with a piece of heavy equipment then the amount of stuff that will end up in the landfill will be a lot less then you think. When you actually separate the pieces of a house that has been torn down you end up with 4 categories;
1. Metal. There is actually a lot of metal inside a house that can be picked out once the house is torn down or removed before it is torn down. The metal is sent to a recycler and so it never ends up in a land fill. The metal that is sent to a recycler you will be paid for by the pound instead of you paying to have it put in a land fill site.
2. Wood. There is a tremendous amount of wood in a home, when it is torn down it can be separated into a wood only loads. What this does is allows the landfill site to put it through an industrial wood chipper. Once all this wood has been chipped then it is used to layer the landfill so that vehicles can drive in and out without getting stuck in the mud. None of the wood is wasted because landfills do not want to buy wood chips. The wood chips will rot and biodegrade overtime leaving nothing but fertile soil, they are probably one of the few things in a landfill that will do this. The rate that you pay to dump all wood loads is significantly less then typical garbage.
3. Garbage. There are certain things in a home that just can’t be recycled. These must be removed and taken to the landfill; there really isn’t any way around that.
4. Re-used items. Things like old windows can be sold to people that are building green houses or sheds. A lot of pieces of old houses can be sold or donated for these purposes. This helps keep things out of landfills. Other things like old kitchens, doors or plumbing fixtures can be donated to charities like Habitat for Humanity.
So if you have the time, patience and money then you can re-use a lot of things out of the old home like the lumber, but make no mistake it will be a labour of love.
Village Builders Inc.