Ultimate Recycling?

This construction site is on one of the routes I take when I walk the town in the IMG_0218.jpgafternoons when the weather permits and I’ve been watching it with some interest. It may not look like it, but this is a major recycling project. The photo doesn’t do those two houses justice because it was a rainy, dreary day and I was using the cell phone, but those two little houses are actually really quite nice, with new brick facades on the living quarters and a matching stone facade around the garages. Once they get the landscaping done they’re going to be really very nice.

This is actually a very ambitious and rather complex project, because those two houses were actually a single duplex that was moved to that site from another location. The duplex was literally cut in half, separated into two individual houses and garages. While it sat there on the big dollies that were used to transport it, they dug basements, poured foundations, then mounted them on the foundations, then gutted both of them, completely remodeled both, put on new roofs and gutters, did the brick and stone facades, did new heating systems, electrical and plumbing, basically completely rebuilt both of them.

So they took an unwanted old building, moved it to a new location, and turned them into two nice little houses that in the near future will be the pride and joy of their new owners.

It seems like a great idea, doesn’t it? It’s the ultimate in recycling. Instead of tearing down an old house, move it to a new location, remodel it, turn it into a desirable property. So if it seems to make sense to do this, why isn’t it done more often?

Cost, of course. I’d be willing to bet that the total cost of this project is going to be darn near as much as it would have been if they’d built both of those from scratch. Maybe even more.

Back in, oh, the late 1970s or early 1980s, a friend of ours bought a big old farm house. Big, sturdy, very well made. Bought it for $1. Seriously, one dollar.

The catch? He had to move it. In the end that $1 house cost him more than $40,000. And this was at a time when you could get one hell of a nice house for around $35,000. Heck, I could have bought an 80 acre farm with a small house and barn for $18,000 at the time. Wasn’t much of a farm, true, but still, $18K? The owner of a restaurant I’d used to work at in the early 1970s offered to sell me the restaurant, including fixtures, stock, inventory, equipment, etc, for $15,000. (Aside: The place is no longer there, but another restaurant about the same size, just a couple of blocks away, is now on the market for $169,000. So it goes.)

So If you ever wonder why they don’t do this more often, the reason why is the cost. Moving buildings is very expensive, very complicated (just think of the logistics involved in moving/lifting power lines, etc.) and very tedious. And once you do get them on site, they need extensive renovations, updating, etc.

2 thoughts on “Ultimate Recycling?

  1. Go to youtube and search moving historic houses. Plethora of fascination.
    I like the idea of recycled house. I wonder if it comes out as a net benefit vs recycling all the parts individually.

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    • I’ll have to do that. I’ve always been curious about how they go about moving entire buildings.

      I’m sure there are some benefits to moving and renovating rather than just tearing it down and recycling. A lot of the material can’t be recycled, for one thing. Drywall, plaster, etc. A lot of the boards and structural timber will be useless because it’s too short, the wrong size, etc. and end up going in landfills or being burned. Trying to renovate an old house is difficult. All the wiring and plumbing has to be replaced which can be very expensive. A lot of older homes don’t meet modern building codes so they would have to be brought up to code.

      From a strictly financial point of view, it probably isn’t worth it. But if you factor in all of the other things like not having to cut down trees for new lumber, etc. it would seem a good thing to do. And then there is the emotional satisfaction of saving a neat old building and giving it a new life.

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