Micro-Scale Urban Salvage

The Burns bear, perhaps the most valuable widdle bear in the world, could be anywhere. It could be in your house. You could be looking at it right now. It could be right in front of your face as I’m saying this, waggling back and forth, perhaps being held up by a loved one.

– Kent Brockman

Before the big upstairs project started, we needed to clear out all our junk. I tend to be pretty annoyed by having to move items any distance at all, preferring to give them away rather than haul them any further. I’d be a rubbish Sherpa.

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images/Getty

Wonder if they’d notice me ditch a few things before base camp? (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images/Getty)

But before everything kicked off, I did want to salvage a few things that I thought we could use later, mainly door and window parts. It turns out, I’d also be a rubbish salvage person because (a) I’m slow, and (b) I’m made slower by my need to comment on everything I recover.


“This little hatch door is earlier than the house–I bet they bought it used when they finished the attic. Wouldn’t it be a great headboard? The mortise lock looks like someone just took it off the shelf at the hardware store. I wonder if they got it at the old hardware store they tore down last year. What was the name of that place?”

Freezer bags and markers are your very good friends when you are trying to grab stuff like this. Whenever I just pile up screws as I remove them, I always lose one and later stand on it barefoot.


If you are tearing stuff out, the area must not have too many spectacular features (yet). Even so, there are usually good things to be had.

Good stuff to salvage:

  • Door hardware: Door hinges (and hinge pins!), knobs and mortise locks.
  • Window hardware: Sash lifts and locks (on older wooden windows). The paint slides right off!
  • Doors themselves: Ours are weird sizes that won’t work in the future upstairs; we’ll donate to the Restore. If you don’t have a use for the hinges separately, leave ’em on.
  • Switch and outlet plates: Reuseable or donate-able if not damaged. I already have about 20 spare plates from two swap-out projects, but I only found two undamaged to add to the count for the Restore.
  • Smoke and CO detectors: Reuse or donate (if still good) or dispose of appropriately.

Stuff to maybe salvage for donation or sale:

  • Distinctive wood trim: definitely grab if there’s a fair bit of it and it’s stained, maybe grab if it’s painted and in good shape or if you (or someone) might be willing to strip it. Old wide trim is hard to find; the trim up here is splintery, lead paint-caked, and nothing special.
  • Paneling and shelves: ditto.
  • Clothes rods/hooks: always useful.

Stuff to salvage carefully and/or after checking with the demo crew:

  • Light fixtures: Even completely outdated but working lights are welcomed at Habitat Restores. If you have old, original fixtures, you can take them out and restore or sell them (even if inoperable). Or take them out, box and label them as original and leave them in the basement or attic for the next owner.
  • Newer working switches and receptacles: As long as there is no sign of faults or scorching, reuse or donate.
  • Newer insulation: A couple of years ago, we went to Menards on Black Friday to buy insulation. It’s practically new! We suited up (including dust masks) and gathered that stuff up to re-deploy or give away.

Here’s the upstairs all stripped down and ready for demo.


Terrible blinds left for shade — it gets hot up there on sunny days.


It’s all happening!

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