Recyclables come home

THE BALTIMORE SUN

When Bruce Hendricks stopped by the $2.15 million estate he recently purchased, two men had already ripped out the whirlpool in the master bathroom and were carrying it through the house.

Drywall littered the floor of the great room and there in a line were light fixtures too numerous to count.

Rolls of carpet -- pulled up from other rooms in the house -- were stacked in the dining room.

Hendricks could barely walk through the master suite, where in an unceremonious display that looked like a cut-rate home products array, sat a bidet, a washing machine, a utility tub, ceiling fans, sinks and other bathroom fixtures and fireplace grates.

Little by little the men from Ardo Contracting in Columbia were "deconstructing" his home, and hauling it off to The Loading Dock, the Baltimore-based clearing house for recyclable building supplies.

Hendricks, a long-time real estate investor, knew before he purchased the 4-acre estate in exclusive Potomac that the home and the guest house would have to go.

Located in a enclave of decades-old estates, the property had seen better days. In fact, Hendricks had a firsthand knowledge of the home for years since it previously had belonged to a friend.

By the time an agent approached Hendricks about buying the property -- his friend and wife already had moved out -- the estate had been vacant for more than a year.

The three-bedroom guest house, just a short walk from the main house, was most recently used to store lawn-care equipment. The living room and other rooms in the house were dotted with dirt, leaves and outdoor debris.

The five-bedroom, six and-one-half bathroom house was beginning to show its age. Built in 1964, in the past 15 years the home had been updated and expanded with a great room and a first-floor master bedroom suite. But the additions also made the home's floor plan more convoluted. There was no real flow for entertaining purposes, Hendricks said.

It was the mismatched additions and the extensive work required to bring the overgrown grounds back into shape that convinced Hendricks he had better start fresh.

He could've hired somebody to bulldoze the place. He wasn't interested, however, in contributing tons of material -- and thousands of dollars in tipping fees -- to Montgomery County landfills.

Instead, Hendricks decided to ask Loading Dock staffers what they thought could be salvaged and reused. He donated those items, gaining the satisfaction of knowing they'd find a second life in someone else's home -- as well as receiving a tidy tax deduction.

"My main incentive [for the donation] was not to see everything end up in a trash heap," he said. Sally Franklin, donations director for The Loading Dock, said Hendricks and property owners like him are part of a growing trend. They donate entire homes or buildings to housing organizations so that the structures can be "deconstructed" piece-by-piece for their parts.

The Loading Dock has handled four such projects in the past 12 months, although Hendricks' donation was by far the largest.

The Loading Dock has been recycling building materials since 1984.The nonprofit organization was the first in the country to become financially self-sufficient doing so.

Traditionally, materials are donated to The Loading Dock by builders, contractors, corporations and homeowners in the middle of remodeling projects. Items are offered at discounted prices to builders and others involved with affordable-housing programs. Individual homeowners who meet stringent federal income requirements are eligible as well. (All buyers must be members of The Loading Dock.)

The items sell for a minimal handling fee -- usually a fraction of the original cost. The handling fee is how The Loading Dock covers its bills, Franklin said. Donations are tax-deductible. Donors consult with their accountants to set the value of the donation.

In the past 16 years, The Loading Dock has "rescued" more than 33,000 tons of reusable material.According to the organization's records, this has saved low-income and community housing projects more than $6.7 million in building costs.

The process is simple. "We'll go out and take a look at the house, visit with the owner and make an inventory of what's in the house," Franklin said. "Then we have to come back and figure out if we can pay somebody to take those [items] out for the money we're going to get for them."

The downside of such projects is often the cost. The Loading Dock doesn't have the manpower, skills or budget to handle a deconstruction project in-house, and hiring an outside contractor sometimes puts the project out of the group's price range.

"We generally break even on these projects," Franklin said.

The cost must be weighed against the chance to acquire a large number of items all at once instead of waiting for them to trickle in, she said.

The volume of materials donated by Hendricks made deconstruction of the two homes on his property more than worthwhile.

The inventory included more than 40 items, ranging from minuscule, four toilet paper holders, to major, two hot-water heaters. The quantity of many of the items was astronomical by Loading Dock standards. Thirty-two doors. Thirty-nine lights (some including fixtures). A set of kitchen cabinets (some with glass fronts) and their coordinating appliances.

Specialty items, all in good condition, were an added bonus. They included a floor-to-ceiling cherry shelving unit that took up an entire wall in the former library, a decorative mantel piece, a bidet, a whirlpool tub, a marble counter and a skylight window.

The four-man crew from Ardo Contracting took four days to deconstruct the home and guest house. As a regular donor to The Loading Dock, Ardo offered its services at a discount. Contractors usually "give us a really good rate, even though they don't get a tax break for doing so," Franklin said.

Most of the items brought back to The Loading Dock's warehouse on Gwynns Falls Parkway were gone within a few days, Franklin said. Relatively rare finds like the cherry shelves, the hot tub and the bidet went even faster, snapped up by members who were lucky enough to find themselves at the top of The Loading Dock waiting lists for such "luxury" items.

Sometimes, members vie for an item even as staffers are unloading it from the truck, Franklin said. At $350 for a whirlpool bathtub in good condition and $135 for five rolls of matching carpet, it's easy to see why.

"People can get things at such a reduced rate [at The Loading Dock], that it makes luxury items affordable for them," Franklin said.

Not everything can easily be recycled, however.

Hendricks wanted The Loading Dock to take the flagstone patio along the back of the house. But there was no way to remove the patio without destroying the stones, Franklin said. The agency couldn't find a buyer for the slate roof tiles or the white-painted brick.

Though Franklin said she wishes The Loading Dock could find a cost-efficient use for those materials and other items that were left behind, she must be content with the fact that a large portion of Hendricks' property has been put to further use.

That prospect -- having to walk away from items still in relatively decent condition -- is better than another predicament The Loading Dock sometimes faces.

"We do have to turn people down at different points," Franklin said.

"Because we have to have items that are reusable as opposed to things that people just want to get rid of."

Items donated

Dollar amount charged by The Loading Dock to its members for items taken from Hendricks' property. Values are 25 percent to 30 percent of retail cost. The owner is responsible for valuing the donated items for tax deduction purposes.

Fireplace accessories (2) $10

Banister $20 Base cabinets (4) $128

Bidet $60 Bookshelves (2 sets) $165

Carpet (5 rolls) $135

Ceiling fans (5) $110

Cherry wood shelving unit $270

Complete kitchen set $1,352

Counter top fiberglass sink $25

Doors, various types (32) $924

Electric dryers (2) $160

Electric hot water tank $80

Faucet $5

Fences (9) $99

Fiberglass tub/whirlpool $350

Fireplace grates (2) $30

Fireplace screens (3) $15

Kitchen sink $65

Lights, light fixtures (39) $410

Mantel piece $65

Marble counter with sink $75

Medicine cabinets (3) $60

Miniblinds (15) $75

Molding, various types (5) $75

Porcelain sinks (6) $490

Shelves (10) $10

Shower faucet $20

Shower nozzle $5

Shutters $30

Skylight glass $5

Stove $150

Toilet paper holders (4) $20

Toilet tank lid $10

Toilets (4) $120

Towel holders, brass, porcelain, chrome (8) $60

Track lighting (2) $64

Vanity drawer $5

Wall cabinets (11) $216

Wash tub $25

Washing machine $80

Water heaters (2) $170

Water taps (2) $16

Total: $6,259

Donating materials

To become a member, applicants must meet income and property requirements for affordable housing. Annual individual membership is $6; churches and nonprofit organizations, $12; landlords, contractors and architects, $18.

Additional information can be found on The Loading Dock Web site: www.loadingdock.org, or call 410-728-3625.

The following landfills have drop-off containers for The Loading Dock:

* Baltimore

Quarantine Landfill

Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Phone: 410-396-4572

* Baltimore County

Eastern Sanitary Landfill

Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Phone: 410-887-6036

* Howard County

Alpha Ridge Landfill

Wednesdays, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; first Saturday of the month, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Phone: 410-313-5414

* Montgomery County

Transfer Station

Wednesdays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Phone: 301-217-2803

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