It’s a little misleading to call Jason Nuckolls a home-wrecker.
But he has turned his talents for dismantling buildings and recycling their structural materials into a growing concern at Missoula’s Home ReSource DeCon program.
What started as an optimistic but inefficient offshoot of the used-construction material resale business has become so successful, Nuckolls’ crews are now booked almost eight weeks in advance.
“The key was putting ourselves on the same playing field as the rest of the construction industry,” Nuckolls said. “People are aware of other options than demolition now. Three years ago, we might have bid on one of every 10 houses that got knocked down. Now it’s closer to seven of 10.”
Timing is always a challenge. While a traditional demolition crew can remove a house in two days, a DeCon crew needs about two and a half weeks to properly conserve about 70 percent of a building’s basic ingredients.
The DeCon program typically fields crews of seven to 10 workers. They remove nails from lumber, dismantle electrical and plumbing systems, preserve entire kitchen and bathroom counter/cabinet installations and complete window packages. They bring out doors hung in their original frames. Most of that is sold through Home ReSource within the next 14 days.
“It’s not unusual to completely remove a house that 95 percent of the people in Missoula would love to live in – but the new owner wants to gut it and rebuild,” Nuckolls said. “The silver lining is we make sure those materials get reused. I’m constantly amazed how fast things go back out.”
Some of it never makes it to Home ReSource’s Russell Street headquarters. Nuckolls said neighbors and passersby often arrange to buy and haul away material from the site as fast as his workers can take it apart.
All of the activity is tracked, so a client can claim the sales of the deconstructed material as a tax deduction against the cost of hiring the DeCon crew. Nuckolls said clients can recover as much as a third of the bill that way.
Since Nuckolls took over the program in 2013, he has raised crew workers' starting salary by 33 percent, and provided greater benefits and professional training. Before 2013, the program completed about 20 jobs and brought in $100,000 in revenue to Home ReSource. In 2014, it accomplished 53 projects totaling $250,000.
Nuckolls has also kept the program community focused. He arranged the donation of crew time and equipment to victims of house fires who couldn’t afford to clear their property, and oversaw the safe removal of buildings demolished by the Mount Jumbo avalanche in 2014.