Deconstruction: Taking a House Down the Way it Went Up – Piece By Piece

By Patti Pagni
Reprinted with permission from The Elmhurst Independent

By print time, the plot on south Prairie St., where a 90-year-old house once stood, may be an empty hole in the ground.

It may look like any other demolition in town.deconstruction

But this demolition site wasn’t bulldozed to the ground in a matter of days. Rather, the home was deconstructed – taken apart section by section – securing any parts, materials, old lumber, fixtures, even concrete, that can be reused for future projects, recycled or even donated to non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity.

The home’s owner, Dana Sidoryk, has always loved the home’s location and especially its backyard. She believes the home was built in 1921 or 1922, and it was showing its sign of old age.

But leaving, and building or buying somewhere else wasn’t an option.

“The backyard is a big reason we are staying. We love it here,” she said.

Because they recently installed some upgrades in their home, when she and her husband Joe finally decided to rebuild, they decided to host a demolition sale.

“We had done some work, relatively new windows, so we wanted to try and salvage as much as possible,” she said. “The main thing was to save anything that was reusable. We knew there was some value in the home, such as six-panel doors.”

Through her contact with a company that handles demolition sales, Sidoryk found out about the ReUse People of America.

The ReUse People is a nonprofit corporation that coordinates deconstruction services, and claims that, “85 percent or more of the materials in an average deconstruction job can be salvaged and reused or recycled.”

Even asphalt and concrete can be ground up and used for base rock for building or roads.

Greg Ortiz, of OBI Deconstruction, is the son of owner Ken Ortiz. OBI serves as the Regional Director for the Re Use People.

“My dad has been in the construction business for a long time. He was throwing away stuff so often. He was working…in some great building stock – and he just thought – how can these things be salvaged,” Ortiz explained. “I took what I knew after graduating from Cornell University with a Masters in Urban Planning and my dad and I pooled our resources [to start the deconstruction company].

“It’s all about sustainability. Reusing is different than recycling. When you reuse something, you are actually taking the embodied energy that went into producing things. You are reusing the hands of the laborer…reusing the milling or transportation that went into making something in the first place. It’s [reusing] the greenest thing you can do.”

Sidoryk said since they already had the demo sale and had moved into a rental, they had some time for deconstruction, which normally takes a few weeks to complete.

The extra time and the upfront cost of a non-standard demolition may be a deterrent of opting for a deconstruction.

But Sidoryk’s research tells her the “deconstruction will pay for itself in the form of a tax deduction. Everything that comes out of here gets appraised in the end and you should make out fine – even make a little money if you’re lucky,” she said.

“The stumbling blocks didn’t outweigh the benefits,” she said. “When we heard 85 to 90 percent [of house and its contents] could be reused or recycled, we said, of course we’ll do it. Even if we have to pay a little more, we’ll do it to make it green.”

The Sidoryks are raising three children in Elmhurst and are torn about physically erasing some of the home’s memories – like her daughter’s pink bedroom.

“Sometimes it’s sort of depressing that my daughter’s room is being wiped out, but I’m glad it’s not going to a landfill, instead some use will be made of it,” she said.

“This house was a good candidate for deconstruction,” Ortiz said. “Old houses have more value than newer homes. It’s nice to keep around old growth lumber. You can’t get certain materials anymore like you used to years ago. It’s nice to keep old joists around…all those forests are gone now.”

Houses are prepped for deconstruction by the inside out. All fixtures, usable wood, material, baseboards, floorboards, tile floors and showers, even some walls are removed carefully from the home.

“There’s a saying we use,” Ortiz said. “The last thing that went in is the first thing to go out. On the outside of the home, we remove any siding first, then we start from the roof, frame by frame, down to the second floor, then the first floor. Our guys take the house apart all by hand. It [deconstruction] takes longer, but there’s so much less waste, there’s a tax benefit to the homeowner and it’s a good combination for the environment. The process is taking notice and slowly growing.”

Mayor Pete DiCianni is pleased to have Elmhurst’s first-ever home deconstruction on the books.

“I feel disassembling a home and recycling or reusing materials is the way of the future,” he said. “Rather than going into a landfill and…causing waste, these materials will be put to good use. In Elmhurst, we have not only residents who are building green, they are now removing their old home in a green way, too.”

Indeed, the number of homes around town is creeping up with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design(LEED) certification.

Once the deconstruction is complete, Sidoryk said, “it’s gonna be a hole in the ground and we will start over.”

Mondo Builders will handle the new home’s construction set to include bamboo flooring, formaldehyde-free cabinetry, LED lighting and more eco-friendly considerations.

“I’m really excited about this…and hopefully other people in the area will learn about this home option,” said Sidoryk. “The less in the landfill, the better.”

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