Salvaging Wood from Burned Home? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 01-29-2018, 10:46 PM Thread Starter
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Salvaging Wood from Burned Home?

A house in my town burned down a few weeks ago. It was a total loss as a house, but there seems to be lots of good wood that might be harvested for projects. It is close enough to me.

The house is wood framed, with lath and plaster walls, built in the late 1950s. The center part is the most damaged, but it seems like much of the outlying parts of the home are relatively okay.

I assume that crews will come to demolish the house. I wonder whether it makes any sense to go over during demolition to see if I can harvest boards.

Here are my questions:

* Is the wood worth salvaging? I wonder whether 1950s construction lumber is high quality. Is it dense and good enough for projects?

* Are there issues from heat, smoke, fire department water damage, etc.?

* Has anyone here attempted anything like that? How did it turn out?
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post #2 of 7 Old 01-30-2018, 06:12 AM
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More than likely the wood has absorbed smoke, the smell of which will be there essentially forever.

Not worth the bother to use.

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post #3 of 7 Old 01-30-2018, 07:53 AM
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If the house is taken down board by board the folks doing it will probably keep or sell any usable wood. More than likely they will use a bulldozer. It's safer and not as labor intensive. Your best chance is if you know the people that own the house and offer to take the house down for the wood. If you don't know them they would be afraid you would get hurt doing it and sue them.
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post #4 of 7 Old 01-30-2018, 09:18 AM
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If you take down the house, you might also be responsible for cleaning up all the leftovers. A church in central KY agreed to let someone demolish a house for the wood. They took off and the church was left to do the cleanup.
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post #5 of 7 Old 01-30-2018, 10:36 AM
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As a professional firefighter my advice is don't do it. The amount of carcinogens and bad stuff in smoke would shock you. You will never get rid of the smell and it's not worth the risk. I have seen three guys in my station go off the job in the last couple years from some sort of cancer....not worth it.
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post #6 of 7 Old 01-30-2018, 11:20 AM
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I know a home that was burned badly and restored. Even after many years there was a faint burn oder that couldnít be eliminated. Someone said the studs should have be painted with aluminum paint to seal them off before the finished wall was applied. I donít know, but thereís too much wood to go after burned, partially burned or smoked wood IMO.
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If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?
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post #7 of 7 Old 01-30-2018, 12:59 PM Thread Starter
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Great advice from all.

There is no way I would take responsibility for demolishing the house and cleaning it up. I don't have the time, resources, or liability tolerance for that. I am just a hobby woodworker, not a professional with a crew i could call on.

My original thought was that someone (owners? the city?) would bring in heavy machinery to knock it down and then use those giant jaws and skip loaders to load the debris onto trucks to take it to the landfill. I had thought about going to the site and digging through the debris to find nice boards and beams after the demolition, but before they load it onto the trucks. As they say, "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Having read everyone's advice so far, I will abandon this idea for a source of wood. Thanks to all for their responses. I learned a lot from you.
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