Salvaging Old Brooklyn Stairs

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Here you see the Eco Brooklyn team diligently salvaging some beat up old stairs in a Brooklyn Brownstone. Along the Eco Brooklyn credo we salvage anything we can. Buying new is our last resort.

But we keep in mind the cost. If it costs the same in materials and labor to salvage than buy new then of course we salvage. But what if it costs more to salvage….

At what point does saving the environment become financially unfeasible? What a ridiculously stupid question. At what point does it become impractical to stop trying to save a sinking ship?

But when running a business the question needs to be asked. There is no point in running the company into the ground to accomplish short terms goals when we will never achieve long term ones.

Having said that, the question of cost is a malleable one. After the many hours we worked on the above stairs it clearly would cost less to replace the stairs with new ones. So in the end we have stairs that still look old and cost more….

But it was worth it to us. First of all, technically if you replace the stairs you need to build to new building code. Which would mean we would need 3 foot landings and not the treacherously winding stairs pictured above. That would cost more. Way more. We would have to rebuild the whole area around the stairs.

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Or you can just lie and say the new stairs were always there…

If you do that then you will never be able to buy new banisters as nice as the old mahogany one. Sure you can buy new banisters made out of some speed grown semi hard wood that would be cheaper. But not rock hard mahagony.

You could find a middle ground and keep the banister but replace the treads…

The point is that this was a good example that sometimes there isn’t a simple solution. We decided, like always, to err on the side of nature. Sure it took us longer, sure it cost us more. But we saved a shit load of wood from being cut down. So this time it was worth it.

And as for the stairs, they look pretty good, in a very rustic beat up townhouse way. We decided to leave them unpainted. Hell, we spend so long stripping over 10 layers of paint. But since they are unpainted you see all the imperfections – 100 years of wear.

That is the point: to show that these stairs are 100 years old and the original one. That is why we spent so much time.

And that you can’t buy new no matter how much money you have. There are only one original set of stairs for this house, and we have them. That is Build It Forward.

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About the author: Gennaro Brooks-Church

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