Residential Demolition Basics

So, in a nutshell, the process of taking down and cleaning up the mess of old buildings, old swimming pools, falling down barns, etc, etc, is demolition. Your guy comes on to your residential property, assesses your need and decides the best way to tear down and take away your little problem. The first thing they need to do to make sure everyone is safe is to make sure that the electric and water, cable line and phones are all disconnected and moved completely out of the way of any equipment they might be bringing in.


So then your highly qualified demolition contractor needs to be sure that the equipment he is bringing in matches the needs of your job. Because, using my old barn as the example, there would be no need to bring in a giant wrecking ball to knock that building over …right? Also, they want to be paying close attention to nearby structures (if there are any), trees or other landscaping. You don’t want them coming in and wrecking the whole property! Along those lines, if they do need to bring in heavy equipment like bulldozers and such, they will need to plan out the route to take well before they get there so they don’t run over and mash up your septic system. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?!?!? LOL – no.


Make sure you talk to your prospective demo guy at length before anything gets started. You want to make sure they know what they are doing. If the building you need torn down and taken away is like mine, or is an old chicken coop or other skanky outbuilding, you probably don’t need them to bring in the “A” team tools like diesel powered rams, excavators, bobcats, bulldozers and cranes. They can use manual demolition on an old building like that, and get it down and cleaned away no problem. But if you do need them to demolish the old homestead so you can build anew, manual demolition more than likely won’t be enough and they will definitely bring in the big power tools and do a nice, safe mechanical demolition for you.


Okay, so let’s just say that you are needing to tear down your house and clear the land so you can build a new, safe, shiny house on the same residential property. And your house is 10,000 square feet with multiple floors, a basement, a 10 car garage, and the attached mother-in-law bunk for those special visits. In this case, both manual and mechanical demolition may not be enough. Before your contractor starts swinging around his wrecking ball, he may want to discuss another type of demolition which is called undermining. The most well-known method of undermining demolition is an implosion. Wait, wait, before you go getting all excited about blowing up your stuff, let me point out a few things.

  1. Implosion demolition is super expensive

  2. implosion demolition is dangerous

  3. the prep for an implosion takes 6 times as long as prep for a mechanical demolition

  4. the cleanup after the implosion takes up to 10 times as long as mechanical demolition

So instead of insisting on implosion demolition of your old house, just watch this video and let your guy bring in his wrecking ball and not explosives.


One last thing to touch on here is the green method of demolition called deconstruction. It means exactly what it sounds like! The crew takes apart your building, fence or brick wall piece by piece and saves all of those pieces for a future project. This is actually very nice for several reasons:

  • no noisy equipment on your property

  • no diesel fumes gunking up the atmosphere

  • no large safety issues to watch for

  • easier to get local permits

  • materials at hand for your new project

This method of demolition is the slowest. Your demolition contractor will most likely bring in an experienced tree service to either protect your 50-year-old oak trees or move them to a safe location that is aesthetically pleasing and fits in with your new building project. Many contractors charge more for it if you are keeping the materials yourself. You can try to strike a better bargain by offering to let the demo guy take the materials for himself and see if you can get a better rate for your residential demolition project.

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