All photos in this post © by J. Laumer
So you’ve got the perfect home upgrade plan, permits in hand, and everyone is excited about the project. When the demolition starts, though, expect an emotional shock that lasts for a couple days. Seeing your home gutted is surprisingly disorienting and powerful. Not at all like on TV. Wouldn’t be a good thing for a person who already has issues with anxiety or if other stressful life events are overlapping.
Here’s what it looked like out my old kitchen window, with the backhoe smashing it’s blade down onto the old deck. Bustin’ it up into easily handled pieces – which are headed into the dumpster and from there off to the landfill.
Pressure treating this wood lowered the fiber bond strength, thus making it relatively brittle, and hard. As the decades passed since this deck was built – sun and rain beating down – the top eighth inch or so of those deck boards became friable; and, I have no doubt that walking on it barefoot put skin in contact with those toxic metals.
This was copper chrome arsenic (CCA) treated lumber and at end of useful life it belongs in the landfill, where it will definitely NOT be recycled, cut, sanded, or burned.
For the sake of the workers on my project, I’m glad they didn’t have to get in there with cutting tools to take it apart. Backhoe busting was the way to go. Sadly, it is not that way in most of the deck demolitions I’ve seen. Scale this up to the millions of decrepit CCA treated decks and stairs in the USA and as you can imagine there is a real risk management issue in play.
CCA pressure treated lumber was a product of the US south, invented to take on severe termite problems there. Congressional representatives of both parties fought USEPA tooth and nail over the phase out of this toxic product. But it finally was and modern pressure treated lumber typically uses the same technology that kept Egyptian mummies preserved.
I’m also glad that the excavation phase of the project was scheduled to remove all the soil under the original deck footprint, hauling that CCA contaminated soil off to the landfill as well. I’ll write about that next. Here it comes!