Re-use -
A Solution
For Modern

Church Street
Lower Weedon


Issue 118 March 2000 Page 154
Would You Pass The Site Test?
Buying salvage direct from the demolition site sounds like a good idea - but beware the modern pirates, cellophane wrapped pallets and broken loos, says Neville Griffiths.
Ever thought about venturing on the architectural treasure trail finding a condemned building and trying to salvage some of its architectural wonders? Many people in search of an original feature for their home try to bypass the specialist dealers and buy direct from the source. It all sounds so simple, but beware - as well as the physical dangers of a building site (hard hats are a must), there are numerous financial pitfalls to negotiate.

I remember turning up at a half torn-down hospital, hoping to rescue some of our social history. The pirates were already there - one had an artificial leg, the other a patch, both wounds from past battles with old buildings. They were there to sell salvage direct. Except their booty had already been found and sold six times over. I quickly learned that you need to be extremely careful buying from a house wreck.

This is where the universal language of cash speaks - no cheques, no cards, just holding and folding. Do not turn up, agree a verbal deal and expect it to be honoured. All it means is that the pirates now have a bottom-line figure to work from, so the next person who comes along will be asked for more, and so on.

Even if you pay for an object, you can't be certain it will still be there if you want to collect it later. The classic sayings are 'the walls collapsed and it's been reburied', 'someone stole it', or 'vandals set fire to the building' - meaning your treasure has been sold to someone else. The golden rule is 'pay and take away'. - Shifting your goods is another delicate matter. Don't imagine that the fantastic window you viewed with awe will be undamaged if you let a demolition man remove it. Employ a skilled tradesman to dismantle it.

Beware of that lethal reach-for-the-pocket- must-have-it syndrome. Don't be impressed by cellophane-wrapped pallets. If you are buying handmade tiles, you don't want machine-made ones mixed in to make up the load. If you are buying long lengths of timber, watch out for short lengths hidden in the middle of the bundle. Remember - examine, count and measure.

Talking of examining things brings me on to sanitary fittings. Toilets are probably the most unpleasant things to buy straight from site. I remember one bathroom specialist who had no hesitation in donning a pair of rubber gloves and getting down to examine a Victorian loo. He came up elated, declaring that after a good clean 'you could eat your dinner off it' - an invitation I think I'd rather decline. Mind you, if a pan has no damage, once cleaned it will be as good as new.

The best advice I can give you is to save your cash. It is important to recycle materials, but buy from a specialist dealer further down the line. Pay the VAT and get a receipt - at least you have some comeback. Dealing with pirates can prove to be a costly mistake.

I was discussing the practice of people being 'tucked up' by the demo men with a conservationist, who replied, 'What a quaint expression -what does it mean?' I think if he was to venture onto a site he would soon find out! And if I ever end up as unnecessary landfill, I would strongly suspect a hit from the demo trade.

A more imaginative approach for the purist and the romantic