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Archive News

SLIDESHOW: Deconstruction brings new life to dead wood

La Grange, IL

Ken and Marianne Levinson of La Grange loved their old farm house on Stone Avenue — but it just did not have good bones.

Instead of merely tearing it down and sending it off to a landfill, they chose to deconstruct the house and salvage interior features to be incorporated in a new, Victorian-style home that fits in with the character of their neighborhood.

They employed The Reuse People, a nonprofit group that has diverted more than 260,000 tons of reusable materials from landfills.

Materials are shipped to The Reuse People retail warehouses located around the country for sale and distribution to the public. Some of those materials are used as raw stock by furniture, cabinet and flooring manufacturers. Larger dimensional lumber is shipped to mills that resurface and cut the lumber for reuse in homes and commercial buildings.

Once deconstructed, the materials are appraised and homeowners receive a tax deduction based on that appraisal.

Project manager Ken Ortiz said a crew of six workers will generally take four weeks to carefully deconstruct a home like the Levinsons’ — where it would take a bulldozer less than a day.

“The original house was probably built in the early 1900s,” Ortiz said. “It had original tin ceilings and we’ve gotten most of the flat sheets. Of course it’s got all the original old grove timber. The joists are really 2-by-12 inch, the studs 2-by-4 inch. The flooring is kind of interesting because it was a mixture of maple, pine and oak. It’s kind of a traditional old house, but the nice thing about their house is the material was in nice shape.”

Marianne Levinson said the decision to take the home apart and reuse materials came much easier than the decision to completely rebuild a new home.

“I love when I see an old house restored, but our house just didn’t have good bones,” she said.

For starters, the three-bedroom house’s foundation was supplemented with rail timbers at its corners and was not insulated.

“It needed everything,” Marianne Levinson said.

The new three-story Victorian-styled home will have four bedrooms, a basement and the design incorporates many green features for energy efficiency.

“Right now we have an unattractive garage and no front porch, while every house on the block has a porch and a detached garage,” Marianne Levinson said.

The experience has been a good one for the Levinsons’ children, Spencer, 9; Leo, 7; and Sam, 4. Marianne Levinson said she has tried to use the project to teach them the value of recycling.

“It has been fun, surprisingly enough we haven’t shed a tear,” she said. “The kids have enjoyed seeing how the house was built and what was in their walls.”

Pieces of the old house will eventually find its way in many other homes, Ortiz said.

“When it’s all said and done, we’ll probably get about 85 percent of the house to be reusable material,” he said. “But the advantage to the homeowner is the tax break. All the material that comes out of the house that is reusable becomes a tax donation for the  homeowner. It’s usually very significant.”

Marianne Levinson also credited the village for its cooperation in the planning process.

“The village has been phenomenal with getting our demolition permit early so we would have enough time to complete the deconstruction project,” she said.

The lot was expected to be cleared before Tuesday, Sept. 1

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