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You’ve decided to tear down your house and start fresh. But what does it take to get to the fresh start you want? Home demolition may seem like an easy solution, but the reality is that there are many different ways to go about it, whether you’re interested in a full home demolition or a partial home demolition. That’s why on this page, we’ve included some of the most important things you need to take into consideration when taking on a residential demolition project.

Mechanical Demolition vs. Deconstruction

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There is more than one way to tear down a home. When you envision your residential demolition, you likely picture mechanical demolition, which involves bringing in heavy equipment to tear down the structure, then using a dumpster or trailer to remove the pieces. This is the fastest way to tear down a structure, and it’s also the most affordable.

Unfortunately, mechanical demolition doesn’t involve any recycling, since everything is typically hauled to a landfill. So if you’re planning to salvage any materials, you may want to use the deconstruction method instead. This involves disassembling the structure piece by piece. You can remove and salvage doors, hardware, light fixtures, window glass, wood, pipes and even nails. When you consider the time it takes to take these pieces apart, it makes sense that deconstruction takes much longer than demolition. And as a result of the increased time, deconstruction costs about twice as much as mechanical demolition.

If you decide to do some level of deconstruction but aren’t necessarily interested in keeping the fixtures and supplies you salvage, consider researching local organizations and charities that offer professional deconstruction services at a discounted rate or, better yet, for free. In addition to helping you save money, these organizations will put your deconstructed supplies to good use.

These two options are very different, but ideally, you would use a combination of both. You can start with deconstruction by going through the house and salvaging anything you think you could reuse, sell, donate or recycle (depending on the quality). You might take some of the hardware, light fixtures and maybe even a sink or tub. Once you’re done taking apart the things you want to keep, you can bring in the heavy machinery for your full home mechanical demolition. This combination gives you the best of both worlds, maintaining a level of efficiency and budget while still being environmentally friendly.

Cost of Residential Demolition

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The cost of your demolition will vary based on several factors, including, but not limited to:

  • How much deconstruction (if any) vs. mechanical demolition you decide to do
    • Deconstruction is more expensive than mechanical demolition, because it involves additional labor and time.
  • How much you’re tearing down (partial home vs. full home)
  • Building materials used in your home
    • For example, a brick structure will take longer to demolish than a wood-frame home.
  • Location of your home
    • When you’re doing a mechanical demolition, the heavy equipment needs to be able to get to your home. This can sometimes require additional effort, like mapping out a route and temporarily redirecting traffic patterns that can add to the cost.
  • Age of your home
    • Older homes sometimes have asbestos and lead paint, which need removed and disposed of in a specific way for the safety of everyone involved. This can sometimes involve higher costs.

As a result, the cost of residential demolition could be as little as a few thousand dollars, or as much as tens of thousands of dollars. Since the cost varies significantly, your first step should be connecting with a demolition contractor who can review your situation and give you an estimate based on your particular project. Make sure that the estimate addresses who will be responsible for the permits you’ll need for demolition. If that’s left out of the estimate, make sure you ask about it. Permits can add to the cost, and you want to make sure when you’re comparing estimates that you’re comparing apples to apples.

Home Demolition Complications

Given the costs associated with hiring a professional, some people consider renting the necessary equipment and doing it themselves. But even if you have the experience and access to the equipment you need to get the job done, residential demolition isn’t just about leveling your home. You need to have a permit and follow the specific rules and regulations in your local area. There’s also no way of knowing just what you’ll find when you begin demolition, and not everything is safe to just bulldoze to the ground.

There many complications that can arise during a demolition project. Perhaps a nest of critters is living under the structure, or maybe you find a black mold problem in the walls or outdated electrical wiring. Unexpected issues like these can create serious problems, especially if you’re only doing a partial deconstruction and plan to continue using the affected parts of your home.

Asbestos can be a major problem for both full and partial home demolitions. If you have an older home, you may have asbestos around the pipes in your walls and not even know it. When torn apart, as it would be during a demolition, asbestos is very dangerous to inhale. Plus, if you discover it, you need to dispose of it appropriately. Unless you know how to do this, you could be putting yourself and those nearby at risk, and your local government could issue you a violation as a result.

Demolition contractors know what steps to take when they run into every one of these scenarios we’ve listed above. When you hire a professional, you won’t need to worry about putting anyone involved in the process in danger.

Home Demolition Inspections

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One of the first steps you’ll need to take to minimize complications is a home demolition inspection. Many states require you to have the home inspected before you begin demolition. And even if it isn’t required in your state, we highly recommend it. It may seem unnecessary to inspect a building you’re planning to tear down, but there are red flags that a home inspector can pick up on that can save you from running into unexpected complications in the midst of your home demolition.

Keep in mind that even if you do a home inspection, at least some of what is behind the walls is a mystery until you begin demolition. So while this step will help you get a better idea of what to expect, you may still find some surprises.

Permits, Rules and Regulations

You can’t just begin to demolish part or all of your home at any given time. You’ll need to get a permit from your local government, and in some cases, you may need more than one. This step can feel like a hassle, but do not attempt to sneak a demolition past your local government without a permit. Your neighbors will likely notice the large dumpster you’ve rented and the heavy machinery on your property, so we recommend playing by the rules. Many contractors will apply and pay for the necessary permits, which is yet another benefit of working with a professional.

In addition to the necessary permits, your county or city government may have rules and regulations regarding notifying your neighbors, noise level, working hours and disposing of the debris. For example, within our service area, the requirements for Colonie, NY, Clifton Park, NY, Ballston, NY, and Saratoga Springs, NY, are all different. If you work with a contractor that is based in your area, they will likely be familiar with the rules and regulations you will need to follow during your residential demolition.

Disconnecting Utilities

Whether you’re planning to tear apart a section of your home or the entire building, you need to turn the utilities off before you begin.  Electricity and gas are particularly dangerous, but water and sewage should also be disconnected, as they can cause a mess. While this may seem like a simple task, it’s important to remember that many companies require requests to disconnect service in writing weeks before the disconnect date. You must plan ahead and confirm that all of the necessary utilities are off before you begin your demolition. In addition to being a risk for you and those working on your property,  your utilities can pose a risk for your neighbors as well. Do yourself a favor and make sure you have a plan for disconnecting your utilities before demo day.

Site Safety

In any residential demolition, there is going to be a lot of debris. With heavy equipment on site and debris falling around, it’s important to create sectioned-off walkways, perhaps using temporary fencing, to ensure that there are pathways clear of debris for people navigate the site. These pathways also help equipment operators know where to look out for pedestrians to avoid injuries.

Debris Disposal

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 505,121 thousand tons of debris were generated by demolition in 2014. The amount of debris you have to dispose of will depend on the size of your demolition project. A renovation to a section of the house will obviously have less debris than a full home demolition. Regardless of how much you have, you’re going to need to collect it and get rid of it so that the site is left clean.

The most common solution is to rent and fill a dumpster, then remove everything after the demolition is completed. If you have a truck or trailer and want to take some of this on yourself, you can haul it to your local landfill. Aside from disposing of the debris, you can also recycle certain materials.

Next Steps

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Don’t wait until you have an empty lot to think about your next steps! You can save money in your project by using the same contractor to do your residential demolition and your site preparation. Sometimes the heavy equipment that is on site for your demolition can be used to level land and prepare it for what comes next — whether that’s constructing a new building or just a new addition to your yard. Why pay to bring that equipment back to the site when you could just transition right from one to the other?

Where to Start

As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts in a home demolition project. Rather than trying to juggle it all yourself and risking forgetting something or revealing a cost-prohibitive complication you weren’t expecting, hire a demolition contractor. A demolition contractor will take a look at your property, listen to your plans and give you a written estimate for the work that you want. You can shop around since many contractors offer free estimates, so you can meet a few contractors and review each of their estimates.

In addition to gathering estimates, ask questions about each contractor, and try to work with a local company if possible. As you can see when it comes to residential demolitions, it’s helpful to work with someone who knows the permits, rules and regulations in your area so you can be sure that you have everything you need.

Colonial Excavating

At Colonial Excavating, our owner/operator knows our service area because he lives in it. He’s present on every job from the estimate to the final demolition day, regardless of whether that job is in Colonie, NY, Clifton Park, NY, Ballston, NY, or Saratoga Springs, NY. Our owner isn’t the only one who lives in the area, either – our staff members are all locals, too. And we’re a big part of our community — in everything we do, whether we need materials or subcontractors, we buy and hire from our service area. With Colonial Excavating, you have the comfort of knowing that the people leading your home demolition could be some of your neighbors and friends. Call us at 518-304-9199, or fill out our online contact form to request an estimate today.