Fall Home 2022: Steel Pines in Edinburg applies eco-friendly practices to its unique construction process

Mark Burroughs sets beams in place for the framework in a post-and-beam home; Mark Burroughs, Frank Agosta, Austin Bigec, and Frank Agosta (left)
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Mark Burroughs sets beams in place for the framework in a post-and-beam home; Mark Burroughs, Frank Agosta, Austin Bigec, and Frank Agosta (left)

EDINBURG Steel Pines in Edinburg is taking a unique spin on construction and utilizing eco-friendly practices to transform local lumber into homes, porches and other projects.

Owned by husband-and-wife team Darcie and Mark Burroughs, the business offers contracting services, custom construction and a portable sawmill. For the latter the Burroughs employ those eco-friendly practices.

“I call it tree-to-home, like farm-to-table,” Darcie Burroughs said. “It’s like the full lifecycle, from a tree to becoming a building product. It’s really nice.”

Steel Pines works with customers’ trees and other local lumber to create homes and other projects. Roughly 85% of the logs at Steel Pines come from within a 50-mile radius. Working with local loggers helps the business reduce its carbon footprint.

“We work with local loggers, and that lumber can either be sawed on our sawmill or we can bring our sawmill to your property,” Burroughs said. “And we use that lumber to build your house, or we can use that lumber for your siding or for exposed beams or detail works, mantle pieces … the list goes on.”

A sawmill can create many byproducts, Burroughs said. In order to get nice cuts of lumber and beams, the tops and sides of the log are taken off. The waste product is called “slash” or “slab.” Rather than tossing it out, they utilize that byproduct in a number of ways. Burroughs explained that the business recently offered free pickup of the product to be used in bonfires for the Ring of Fire around Great Sacandaga Lake this past Labor Day. People are also able to use the byproduct for outdoor wood-burning stoves, she said.

“People can pick it up and use it for projects, rustic siding or shelving,” Burroughs said. “And then we’ve been able to rent a wood chipper and use it on our own property. [We used] those chips [in] a playground for our son. We line it on our trails. We try to use all those byproducts.”

Burroughs utilizes the sawdust created by the business in her compost pile and in her horses’ run.

The eco-friendly practices came with running the business, Burroughs said.

“It actually can cost us more money to get rid of this byproduct of the wood, so why not do something that contributes to either our community or the environment with composting?” Burroughs said.

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The business uses experienced mill operators to limit bad cuts and inaccurate grading. If there is a bad cut, Steel Pines uses it to create “stickers,” small 1-inch-by-1-inch pieces of wood used to stack and air-dry lumber. Pinewood scraps are used for burn pits, and the Burroughs use hardwood scraps for their own wood stove to heat their home.

Darcie and Mark Burroughs have had the business since 2015 and went full time in 2020, Darcie Burroughs said. She explained that in 2020, her husband was working for a commercial contractor and nonessential construction was put on hold at that time because of the pandemic.

“He was their only full-time employee and we just had our son. He was about 6 months old at that point,” Burroughs said. “Mark was working in Albany and Clifton Park, and driving so far every day. We both wanted him closer to home. So we decided to go full time with Steel Pines.”

The business began as just the sawmill, Burroughs explained. She said everyone was at home and many people wanted to start doing their own projects.

“Lumber prices were insane,” Burroughs said. “So we were able to offer our community and beyond accessible, good-quality lumber, and it was booming.”

The sawmill was a great starting point for building the business’ reputation, Burroughs said.

The business hires local contractors and subcontractors, which helps put money into the local economy, Burroughs said.

“I don’t know many people around here who operate a sawmill and do construction,” Burroughs said. “So I would say we’re pretty unique. It’s also probably how we need to adjust to survive in the climate because it is a small community. You adjust to what is happening in the market.”

Construction and contracting do not always have a great reputation, Burroughs said. It can be hard to find someone to do quality work who meets codes. Burroughs explained that plenty of “heart and soul” goes into being a good builder.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re looking at build prices right now, and contractors are working really hard all hours,” Burroughs said. “It’s not 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. When you find a good contractor and they are honest, and they care about you and your family, and they want to make a good name for themselves, hang on to them.”

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