Dave using recycled lumber
- From: "Sharon L Page" <sharon.lea.page@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 24 Jan 2009 17:54:33 -0800
Million-dollar house in Buena Vista truly one-of-a-kind
Sunday, September 28, 2008
After building his house from all recycled materials from toppled elevators, Bob Armstrong is putting his Buena Vista home on the real estate market.
REGINA -- Bob Armstrong was called a lunatic when people heard about his plans to build a million-dollar house using salvaged timber from Prairie grain elevators.
But he's done it. He's just put the finishing touches on a unique 2,900-square-foot home in Buena Vista that's valued at $1.5 million and constructed entirely from elevator timber.
"I did what I said I was going to do," he said. "I really didn't like being laughed at but I can understand why someone would think that I'm a lunatic."
For six years, Armstrong went to sites where grain elevators were being demolished and reclaimed the wood. Although he got the timber free, his project wasn't cheap.
"You could buy a Lexus for what I spent on the sawmill that I used to cut the timbers," Armstrong said on Saturday. "With the money that I spent on the specialty tools, I could have bought a house in Regina."
Even small items added up.
"I spent $1,500 on sandpaper to sand the beams," he said.
He paid $50,000 for a granite countertop that originally came from Russia that he found in Saskatoon after an exhaustive search.
"Phosphorus is embedded in the granite and it actually glows at night," Armstrong said. "It is one piece, two inches thick and it weighs about 1,100 pounds. It took about seven guys to carry it."
The home's novel features also include a secret room off the living room-dining room area that Armstrong made by designing a moveable wall and a suspended deck that hangs outside the master bedroom on the second floor.
"Other unique features include a 1913 scale that I dragged out of the rubble in an elevator and I converted it to a bathroom scale -- it's deadly accurate," Armstrong said.
He traded a semi load of recycled wood for $100,000 worth of windows that were to be used by a contractor who was building an enormous post and beam house near a Montana ski resort.
"The elevation was over 8,000 feet and when they took one of the windows up to the house it exploded because of the air pressure," Armstrong said. "They were made in Finland at sea level. So he had all of these custom made windows and he couldn't use them."
Despite bargains along the way, Armstrong said it's impossible to put a price tag on his labour.
"You could build 10 houses the same size with less work than it took to build this house," he said. "It took me six months to build the elliptical stairs alone."
Armstrong got the idea to use lumber from demolished grain elevators in 1999 when he overheard two men in a Moose Jaw coffee shop lament that the wood from an elevator being demolished in the city was going to waste.
"On the spot I drove to the elevator, saw the huge pile of beams and the guy said, 'If you want them, you can take them.' "
Four days later, Armstrong bought a forklift, a big truck and a huge diesel sawmill.
"From that day I worked seven days a week, 10 months a year salvaging the wood from 135 elevators, all in Saskatchewan," he said. "Some of the beams are from my hometown elevator in Tisdale that I watched being built when I was five years old."
Although a lot of the wood dates back to World War I, it is well preserved because of the dry air in elevators. As Armstrong travelled the province collecting timber, he set the best pieces aside for the home he was designing. To finance his project, he sold 75 semi loads of recycled lumber to the rich and famous in the United States.
"The wood that wasn't up to snuff for this house I sold to David Letterman for his house in Choteau, Montana," Armstrong said. "He sent me a thank you card for my contribution to his home."
Armstrong wouldn't divulge what Letterman paid but he did say: "The value of the wood that they threw away and I sold brought more than this house is worth ... This wood is not just expensive, it's irreplaceable. It doesn't exist anymore. And if you could find any, you're not going to be paying local lumberyard prices. You're going to be competing with movie stars."
Much like fitting a jigsaw puzzle together, he built the house twice.
"I built the entire structure and erected it at a farm just outside Regina," he said. "Everything had to be fitted exactly and then taken apart and numbered and brought here and erected."
Although Armstrong owned a woodworking shop in San Francisco before he returned to the province 10 years ago, he'd never built a house so he said his math and physics degree was invaluable.
Now the house is complete, he's selling it.
"I'm exhausted, I'm burned out and I've bought a new Harley Davidson," Armstrong said. "My real estate agent told me that $1.5 million would buy a lot of gas."
Lacking a garage, Armstrong stores the motorcycle in the house. But as soon as he has a buyer he plans to jump on his bike and start travelling. And along the way, he'll plan his next project. "If I build another house, it'll be even more exciting," he said.
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