Thursday, January 14

.The Demolition Sale

I'm an incurable shopper.

I've been to lots of different types of sales over the years, but my recent visit to a demolition sale was a first for me. I'm familiar with estate sales where they liquidate the contents of a house, but at a demolition sale they liquidate the house itself, one piece at a time.

Here's the house:

It's a well appointed three bedroom bungalow, with a large kitchen, built in an upscale suburb of Chicago just after the war.
I found the ad for the sale on Craigslist. The website for the company holding the sale had several pictures of the bungalow. While perusing the photos, I noticed similarities with my own house. Particularly, the doors and the trim looked the same. There are a few places where I need to install replacement trim (like baseboards in the kitchen, and fascia for the bathroom window), and I figured it might be less expensive to salvage what I needed to make the repairs.

And, really, since I can hardly stay away from any kind of junk sale, especially a new and novel one, I loaded up on cash at the ATM early Saturday morning and drove over to the sale.

Of course I bought way too much. Three closet doors, complete with the surrounding casement; an exterior door with glass panes, in pretty bad shape (but I might be able to salvage a part from it); the fascia from three interior windows; many sections of baseboard; and a kitchen exhaust fan.

The fan is a great example of how sometimes things find me, rather than the other way around. I need an exhaust fan for my kitchen. I know there was one originally installed, since a few of my neighbors still have theirs, but mine was removed some time ago by the PO. The fan originally vented to a small kitchen chimney, and what's worse, the top of it was knocked down and roofed over. So today, the kitchen doesn’t breathe very well and can get pretty warm whenever we are cooking.

I thought it would take me forever to find a replacement fan. Then, all in the same week I discovered two of them. The first was a listing for a vintage Nutone fan on eBay, complete with a retro metal grill. The second was the fan pictured above, which I stumbled across at this demolition sale, installed in the ceiling of the kitchen. I bought the one at the demo sale, it cost me all of $10. A day later the fan on eBay closed with a winning bid of $96. I think I got a pretty good deal.

The unique feature of a demolition sale is that its not just cash and carry, its cash, rip out, and carry. After buying what I wanted, I spent the better part of the next three hours with a pry bar, hammer, and screwdriver removing my purchases, and loading them into the Camry. How I ever managed to get it all in my car, I'm not quite sure. I really miss having a pickup truck.

One thing I was interested in, but didn't end up buying, was part of the heating system. The house had several sections of old Burnham Baseray baseboard radiators installed in the bedrooms, living room, and parlor. I thought they would be great for installing in the attic space when I got ready to convert it to living space.

I didn't lug along a camera to the sale, but the picture below will give you an idea of what the baseboard heaters looked like:

Just use your imagination to picture what they would look like with several different layers of paint accumulated over the course of seventy years (including at least one coat of pink), and you'll get the idea. As the picture indicates, these baseboard radiators are still manufactured today.

Toward the end of the sale, I made an offer for the radiators, and made arrangements to come back the next day to remove them. However, when I got back to the house on Sunday, several of the end caps had gone missing, and some sections had been sold or damaged. That, combined with the fact that it was the old 7” tall baseboard, which Burnham doesn't make anymore, caused me to change my mind about buying it. So now there’s one more thing to add to my want list.
I’m now enthusiastic about demolition sales as a great source for all kinds of vintage house parts, like hardwood floors, kitchen cabinets, toilets, tubs, beadboard, and a variety of other things it might otherwise be difficult to find. All I need to do is wait for the right kind of house to come along.

On a closing note, here's a picture of the back of one piece of baseboard trim:

You can still clearly see the old Union made manufacturing stamp. That's pretty neat.

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