For quite some time, I had been seeking an organization where I could volunteer. My criteria were as follows: it had to be close by, offer flexible times to do the work – and also be fun. My search led me to the ReBuilding Center. Many Portlanders are already familiar with the ReBuilding Center's very popular and cooler-than-cool retail location on N. Mississippi Avenue. The store is chock full of recycled building materials ready for reuse by contractors, architects, and home and business owners looking to incorporate salvaged materials into their projects.
One really big way volunteers contribute is by de-nailing: taking salvaged wood boards and removing the nails with various tools. It’s actually very gratifying – sort of like weeding – but better. First of all, with de-nailing, you can stand upright, as opposed to weeding, where you are forced to hunch over some naughty little plant burrowed into the soil. Further, once the nails are out, they are OUT for good. Nails, unlike weeds, don’t grow back in a week or after the first rain.
Anyway, for me, the epitome of de-nailing is when it happens on an actual deconstruction site. A typical “decon” scenario includes specially trained ReBuilding Center employees dismantling a structure, and volunteers de-nailing the boards on the spot. The de-nailing process consists of three steps: placing the boards on a sawhorse, prying the nails out with crowbars and hammers, and then neatly stacking the “clean” boards in a pile.
On the surface, deconstruction appears to be a pretty straightforward process, but the ramifications of the work are more complex. When volunteers are able to de-nail boards on site, it means the materials are processed instantly and can return to the ReBuilding Center ready for sale. Just as important, de-nailing on-site greatly facilitates upcycling by saving both time and energy. In fact, it actually takes the upcycling process to the next level, since taking down the building and reclaiming the materials happens in one efficient circle of activity.
Plus, everyone gets to wear a hard hat, and what could be cooler than that?
The ReBuilding Center
3625 N. Mississippi Ave.
Portland, OR 97227