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April 2, 2012

How To Burn Down Your House (And Why)

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It was late in the day when it finally happened. A puff of smoke appeared just over the rooftop at the far right side of the house, then another appeared, near the chimney.

Within moments smoke was pouring from the entire roof and flickers of orange flame began appearing in the windows.

A cheer went up from the assembled crowd as the flames grew; soon the roof weakened and began to collapse. A dozen firefighters stood by, cheering along with the crowd.

Huh?

Usually, a home burning to the ground is a tragedy, a disaster, a crime – or all three. This, however, was a welcomed event that would benefit the homeowners, the fire department, and dozens of families we’d never meet.

What?

OK, maybe a little background is needed here.

Why burn a house down?

The derelict home my clients had purchased wasn’t worth much; in fact the only real value was in the property, a sloping lot with several large trees, located in a quiet Midwestern college town.

This was the site they’d chosen for their dream home. Problem was, there was already a house there. Whenever possible, existing homes should be remodeled, renovated, reused. After all, reusing an existing home is the height of sustainability. But this little home was too far gone from years of neglect – it wasn’t worth saving.

But that didn’t mean it couldn’t serve a higher purpose (or two).

The owners first contacted the local Habitat For Humanity “ReStore," a discount home improvement store that re-sells new and reusable home improvement building materials. Habitat’s volunteers came to the house and picked up cabinets, appliances, doors, windows, hardware, and anything else they could salvage and resell.

Habitat uses the funds from reselling these salvaged items to advance their mission of eliminating substandard housing and creating homeownership.

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    March 12, 2010

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