Saving some good woodwork from the chopping block

BELLEVUE Some people would look inside the 100-plus-year-old abandoned home at811 Molland Avenue in
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010



Some people would look inside the 100-plus-year-old abandoned home at811 Molland Avenue in Bellevue andconclude it's empty.

Not Nancy Smith.

Even though the insides are blanketed in dirt, and not a piece of furniture remains, as far as she is concerned, the home is filled with gold.

The gold looks more like wood to everyone else.

Smith cannot walk into a home built at the turn of the century without spotting some woodwork she has to have.

She was not always this way. Working as the manager of the ReStore, 11001 U.S. 250, a furniture, lumber and electrical shop which gives its proceeds go to the Firelands Habitat for Humanity, has caused her way of viewing the world to evolve.

"I can sit in a restaurant and go, 'Boy, I could really use that outlet. And I could sell that woodwork for a ton of money,'" said Smith, who spends a fair amount of her time gutting homes in north central Ohio.

Armed with a pry bar and cordless drills, she and a small team of volunteers deconstruct about 10 homes a year. Some they merely cherry pick. Others, they takeeverything but the cobwebs.

Smith estimates ReStore grosses around $150,000 each year by selling items obtained through home deconstructions and community donations. That money is used to help build homes for needy families in the area.

On Tuesday, Nancy and two volunteers were hollowing out the Molland Avenue home. The Bellevue Hospital owns the residence and is leveling it soon. Before doing that, they wanted to give ReStore a crack at it.

The value she attaches to wood is not shocking. While much of it is old and dried out, its quality is undeniable.

"You can't get wood like this anymore," said Paul Kamann, a volunteer. "Most of the stuff they now peel off the trees has knots and curves in it."

Custom ordering a solid-wood door with glass in it would ordinarily cost around $400, Smith estimates. These same doors cost between $45 to $50 at ReStore.

A reproduction of a glass door knob would be $65, not counting shipping costs. ReStore sells the original glass knobs at a fraction of that price.

The wood products are often transformed by their buyers into baseboards. Still other people also use it to build crafts projects.

"Some people make them into coat racks. Some people use them as plate racks," Smith said. "People in older homes doing restoration, they want the older stuff."

But wood is not the only precious extraction.

Cast-iron furnace grates are a hot item. And the basements of older homes tend to be filled with copper piping, the scrap prices of which continue to climb.

Any aluminum siding is also removed and recycled. Downspouts and gutters are hauled off to the ReStore as well, usually to be resold.

Retro light fixtures that would make some people cringe to look at are in high demand among other buyers, Smith said.

ReStore encourages people to think twice before they junk anything. It may be gold disguised as wood.