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A mega-scrounge project (not mine)

In the olden days, people around here built garages (or perhaps they were originally carriage houses) on steep, otherwise useless, hills. The front of the building faced the street while the rest of the structure stood on posts.

These great old garages had magnificent 4 x 12 treated floors you could have parked a tank on. But the combo of wooden understructures and unstable soils of the hills doomed the buildings. Ninety or a hundred years later, most of them are gone and those that remain look like this:


Until a couple weeks ago, this one was still completely shingled and there was stuff stored inside that nobody had touched in decades. I pass this sad old beauty every day. I tend to think of myself as a decent scrounger. But it never occurred to me to ask the owner if I could take it apart and haul its pieces away. Even if I’d had the thought, I’d probably immediately have concluded, “Too darned dangerous.”

Another neighbor wasn’t so chicken. She asked and it was given. I don’t know her well, but she’s a beautiful woman about 40 with impressive artistic abilities. Oh, the projects she’ll make from this!

She first emptied the contents, and now has begun prying off the shingles. Isn’t it cool how the formerly hidden parts of 100-year-old cedar (there on the mid-left side) remain fresh and red when the exposed parts long ago turned gray and grew layers of moss?

I admire that lady’s chutzpah for taking this on. Never mind that she’s got six kids and has recruited all but the youngest to help her; it’s still a daunting and dangerous task.

I might just have to ask her what it would take to buy that old floor from her when she gets down to it. Those ancient floors make great retaining walls and, cut up and set into a bed of sand, could become unusual and attractive patio blocks.


  1. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty January 28, 2016 10:24 am

    How interesting! There are so many old buildings, often of logs, here and there around the area. Most are not likely to be good for anything but poor firewood, but there might be all sorts of salvage possibilities too.

    I’ve come across a good number of things in the woods and along the roads that I’d like to take home, but I usually can’t lift them, and most won’t fit in the car anyway. Wish I could have kept the terrific pick-up truck we had when my husband died.

  2. A.G.
    A.G. January 28, 2016 10:42 am


  3. Bob
    Bob January 28, 2016 11:43 am

    I’ve run across several projects similar to this. The deciding factor has always been the timetable. The owner’s has always been, “I want it gone right away,” and mine was always, “I’ll putter along on it but eventually it will be gone.” Mine was never acceptable to the owner. You’re right, though, about the quality of the material they contain.

  4. Tahn
    Tahn January 28, 2016 11:55 am

    I took down an old barn on my Grandpa’s property 45 years ago to build the first structure here in my gulch. The barn was probably 75 years old then. Parts of my original construction are still here and working fine, especially the old metal roof and great wooden beams.

    The secret is to take off first, the last thing the builders put on. You debuild it, in the exact opposite order that it was built in. If you can.

  5. Karen
    Karen January 28, 2016 12:00 pm

    Oh I’d love to have seen what was inside! And I can envision a privacy fence/garden wall from those garage doors. Too bad you missed out on the opportunity, but I suspect you really do already have your hands full with your house. 😉

  6. b
    b January 28, 2016 12:28 pm

    THe thing that damages cedar and woods like them is UV (and ozone).

    Anywhere that the UV cannot hit, the wood is like the day it was installed.

  7. Fred
    Fred January 28, 2016 3:34 pm

    Non-electric items that are often left and forgotten in places like that can be very useful in a grid down situation and some can have resale value as vintage or antique. Interesting.

  8. just waiting
    just waiting January 28, 2016 3:58 pm

    Demolition??? I see “country cabin in rural condition awaiting someone’s vision and TLC”

    From what I’ve been read, this is a $4500 month rental in Palo Alto.

  9. capn
    capn January 28, 2016 7:44 pm

    I am considered a “good scrounger” by friends and family but I am more like Bob than an actual demolition contractor.

    I usually don’t get the “contract” due to a too slow estimate of time to finish date.

    That sure does look like a bonanza in materials and who knows what in “left behinds”.

  10. A.G.
    A.G. January 28, 2016 9:39 pm


  11. Laird
    Laird January 29, 2016 8:33 am

    I would be interested to know about the “stuff” that was stored inside. There could be some real treasures there. (Although probably just junk!) Old signs and farm implements are sought out by collectors (and Cracker Barrel restaurants!).

    The framing timbers probably have true dimensions (i.e., real 2x10s or whatever, not the skinnied-down sizes we have today). They’re hard to find, and probably have some value.

  12. Scott Norris
    Scott Norris January 29, 2016 5:42 pm

    I live South across the border from you in Smith River. That’s not cedar, its redwood. I just pulled a barn down made of the same stuff.

  13. Claire
    Claire January 29, 2016 5:48 pm

    I don’t live where you think I live. 🙂

    Cedar, I guarantee you. But I grew up in California and love redwood, too. A whole redwood barn? I hope you kept the materials!

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