Building Deconstruction and Salvage Business

With a house deconstruction and salvage business, you can make good money from tearing down old buildings and selling reusable materials.

| July/August 1981

  • 070 building deconstruction and salvage business - 1 truck
    The 1941 truck the author purchased for his building deconstruction and salvage business.
  • 070 building deconstruction and salvage business - 3 empty window hole
    A building ready for demolition/deconstruction.
  • 070 building deconstruction and salvage business - 2 removing window
    Window removal is an early activity in the building deconstruction process.
  • 070 building deconstruction and salvage business - 5 salvaged house parts
    Salvaged windows and other materials ready for resale.
  • 070 building deconstruction and salvage business - 4 gutted house
    A building shell ready for dismantling.

  • 070 building deconstruction and salvage business - 1 truck
  • 070 building deconstruction and salvage business - 3 empty window hole
  • 070 building deconstruction and salvage business - 2 removing window
  • 070 building deconstruction and salvage business - 5 salvaged house parts
  • 070 building deconstruction and salvage business - 4 gutted house

A few years ago—acting pretty much on impulse—I made a deal with the owner of a small condemned house, offering to clear his lot if I could keep the materials to use in a home remodeling project. However, as I tore the old place apart, a number of people stopped and asked to buy the various boards and fixtures. Soon all the salvage from that structure was sold ... and I decided to try to find another demolition job. After all, I still needed materials myself, I enjoyed the work, and I saw an opportunity to bring in additional cash.

It soon became apparent that many landowners and construction companies were delighted at the chance to pay me for building deconstruction services, in order to avoid the usually high prices charged by conventional demolition crews. In fact, on the fourth house I took down, I cleared $325 plus the profit from salvage sales. From then on I knew I wanted to stay in the salvage business. Maybe you'd like to try it too.  

Preliminary Preparations

Before I could call myself a professional dismantler, though, I had to rent a storage yard and garage ... the upstairs of which I converted into a small apartment. (Since a young operation will usually be small, and because the inventory sells so quickly, a 30' X 30' storage area is plenty large. However, you will need room to clean and sort your wares, so the more interior space you have the better.)

I did my hauling with a small pickup truck and trailer for my first two jobs, but soon bought an old (1941) 2 1/2-ton vehicle with a 14-foot flatbed. My tool inventory consists of a couple of crowbars, a steel-shanked hammer, assorted screwdrivers, wire and tin cutters, a small bow saw, a pipe wrench, a magnet (to pick up nails), and a couple of brushes and scraping tools. It's best not to rely on heavy equipment, but rather to work with small tools in order to remove old boards and dismantle fixtures with a minimum of damage.

I discovered at once that good, sturdy work clothes were necessary, too. Before you do any demolition work, be sure to buy some strong, steel-toed shoes with thick soles because you'll often be walking around (and on) nails and shattered glass. Likewise, heavy leather gloves and a helmet will shield your hands and head, and coveralls will both protect your clothing and provide lots of pocket space.

It was also necessary for me to obtain a contractor's license. But that wasn't unduly difficult. The required qualifications vary from one locality to another, but most cities and counties demand that an applicant have liability insurance (I needed $250,000 worth, which—at that time—cost me $50 a year) and a surety bond (I paid a bonding agency about $150 for a $2,000 bond). Once those items were taken care of, the fee for the contractor's permit itself came to about $50 a year.

7/2/2017 8:46:31 AM

Thank so much for sharing all of your information. I live in Michigan and I am dismantling a mid Century modern home (Tech Built). They were designed by Carl Koch, The new owners want the house removed to have a new home built. My goal is to dismantle the home and put it on land and use it as a second home. I'm currently getting estimates for the dismantle the House is 20 x 40 it is a bilevel. My question is what do you think the estimates should be dismantling the home and moving at 15 miles from the current property? Your fees seem very reasonable at $500 for a medium size home. Any suggestions you could give me would be greatly appreciated. This is my first undertaking, I can do a lot of the inside work myself removing cabinets, appliances, bathrooms etc. But I would hire a crew to dismantle the exterior. But it on a flatbed and move it to a new lock. It's a newer roof do you think that it could be salvageable? Thanks Ken

7/14/2007 10:01:32 PM

I found your page very helpful. I live in Alabama and there's not alot of salvage places around to turn to for help or info. My dream is to open a salvage company of my own soon. Through much soul searching I know now that demo and salvage is my calling. In my eyes, everything can be repurposed. My husband just calls me a pack rat. Thanks for the insight. I hope your business makes you millions. There's some one in Alabama routing for you Della


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