The theme of “Unbuilding: Salvaging the Architectural Treasures of Unwanted Houses” is save and reuse what is valuable rather than demolishing and sending everything off to the local landfill. This beautiful new book with hundreds of color photos shows how to recognize and save components of old houses that have resale value.

Dozens of examples show the salvage of ornate hardware, light fixtures, mantels, doors, bricks, and long lengths of hardwood beams and flooring. This unique book explains how to compare the costs of demolition versus salvaging valuable parts of buildings destined for a wrecker’s ball.

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Co-authors Bob Falk and Brad Guy have created a specialized book about the house recycling industry. In addition to explaining which components have profit potential, the authors emphasize the most efficient methods and cost-saving techniques while repeatedly extolling the importance of safety in the process.

The valuable photos explain exact procedures for removing valuable house components, especially wood flooring and long beams, without damaging them. All types of structures are photographed during the process of “unbuilding,” such as military buildings, warehouses, derelict houses that look worthless, and even garages.

Along the way, the authors profile pioneers in the housing component reuse field. Amazingly, many are women who became interested in profitably recycling just about every portion of houses such as bathtubs, interior wood finishings and railings.

A topic that is mentioned over and over is the important process of “denailing.” That means removing the nails from salvaged wood. This tedious but key step often slows the removal of salvaged wood from the premises. Even the salvaged nails are resold for modest scrap profits.

Valuable resources in the book include lists of where to find local recycler sellers of house components and how to find companies specializing in salvaging the valuable items, which often makes house salvage more profitable than demolition.

Heavy emphasis is placed on job site safety, especially eliminating hazards and cleaning up daily to minimize accidents. The handling of lead-based paint and asbestos is also explained, along with how these hazards can slow down the process of recycling materials.

Chapter topics include “Is Unbuilding for You?” “Unbuilding Opportunities”; “Deciding on Unbuilding and Salvage”; “The Materials You Find”; “Getting Started”; “Safety and Environmental Health”; “Site Preparation and Soft-Stripping”; “Whole-House Deconstruction”; and “Estimating the Weight of Building Materials.”

This eye-opener book, which reveals the potential found in buildings to be torn down, does a beautiful job of explaining when it pays to recycle and when it doesn’t. The authors obviously know their subject very well, as shown by their thorough coverage of this little-known portion of the housing industry. On my scale of one to 10, this superb new book rates a solid 10.

“Unbuilding: Salvaging the Architectural Treasures of Unwanted Houses,” by Bob Falk and Brad Guy (The Taunton Press, Newtown, Conn.), 2007, $30.00, 242 pages; available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

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