Step-By-Step Guide To House Demolition

You’ve decided you’re to have a lovely new home built and it’s time to get the old one out of the way! It can get emotional and it can get stressful, but house demolition can hardly ever be what you see in movies.

As a process of tearing down and removing a building, it is still straightforward and can be done rather quickly. However, there are things you need to be wary of and tasks done behind the curtain, which you don’t really pay attention to when your neighbour does it.

We offer the ultimate house demolition guide to lead you every step of the way, from initial plans to being left with a clear site. Let’s get excited and take the first steps towards a brand-new home with meaningful input to help you make informed decisions.

Planning Your House Demolition

As with anything we do, planning makes for a crucial phase and generally helps you avoid unnecessary headaches. Planning your house demolition will essentially help you with all of the steps to follow, keeping everyone on the same page when things get busy.

Site Description

Be as detailed as possible when describing your site and putting it down on paper. You want to include a plan for the house to be demolished but also the nearby structures and their dimensions. This should help clear up any potential misunderstandings but also speed up the process as your contractor pulls permits.

Scope of Work

Whether it’s partial or complete house demolition, you want to be just as clear about the scope of work. Make final decisions on what you want done at this point and stick to it or make sure to emphasise any changes you make along the way.

Walking Potential Contractors Through It

Arm yourself with patience and walk potential contractors through your plans and the house. Make sure your ideas are understood loud and clear, which will help with quotes to be discussed in the next step.

Determining a Timeline

Once you have a clear idea of what needs to be done and how you want to do it, you can set your ideal timeline and try to agree on it with potential contractors. You should bear in mind council restrictions, licences, potential drawbacks, and ultimately demolition contractor’s timeframe to be discussed below.

Hiring a Demolition Contractor

You’re ready to set the wheels in motion! You can theoretically go with a DIY house demolition with many of the steps below. However, it’s rather unusual and it’s advisable to get in touch with the local government for information first, where you’re still likely to be forced into a couple of hires.

House demolition is usually done by licensed contractors with heavy-duty machinery and this is your best bet if you want a hassle-free experience. Let’s discuss some of the important considerations as you look to hire a demolition contractor

Listening to What Others Have To Say

Your first step should obviously be building on the experiences of others as you create a shortlist of demolition contractors. Whether it’s word of mouth or legit online reviews, this is a great way to learn about companies you are to deal with. You obviously want professionals who are honest, friendly, and able to get the job done with no hiccups.

Getting Quotes and Comparing Prices

It’s not just a thing of getting any quote here, as you could see this as a straightforward task. You want to be looking at accurate quotes with as little potential for deviation as possible, where many companies offer hourly rates. To have this on a plate, you’ll have to think about a couple of things.

This is where your planning will pay off as well, as you have to bear in mind the scope of work and potential hazards. This includes house size, plot, proximity to other structures, but also material salvaging. Additionally, houses built before 1985 are very likely to have asbestos and this can play a major role in the pricing as well.

Getting Value for Money

Going for the lowest hourly rate does not always pay off. Take both of the above-mentioned considerations and factor in reputation, availability, quality, speed, and performance to get your value for money when choosing between different demolition companies.

Outlining and Going Into Project Details

Make sure you outline your project and go into specifics with potential contractors, as this will help determine timeframes and quotes. Set clear expectations and ask for solid communication throughout the process, as this may prove crucial to getting the job done.

Signing Contracts

There’s nothing wrong with going back and forward with contractors before signing a contract. Once you’ve decided on your preferred contractor, make sure you have all the i’s dotted and all the t’s crossed as you sign off on pricing, timeframe, and other details in a legally binding document.

Pre-Demolition Inspection

Again, you can do pre-demolition surveys yourself but this is best done with a demolition constructor already by your side. This inspection will help line out the project and is essential to getting permits, which will be our next step. Let’s discuss what your survey should include below.

Hazardous Materials

It’s important to check for potentially hazardous materials because it’s a must for permits but will affect how you go about site safety, what you can salvage, and how you dispose of waste. This may include inspections for asbestos, lead, mould, and rotted wood. Note any of these will affect your demolition timeline and ultimately pricing.

Construction Materials

You will need construction details on your house as well as neighbouring structures. Here, we focus on building materials used, roof stability, potentially dilapidated structures, and other weaknesses that could affect the process.

Location, Access and Planned Waste Removal

House accessibility can play a major role in your demolition project planning and organisation. You need to know if heavy machinery can access the structures you want to be demolished, be it for the plot itself or the surrounding buildings. You need to keep both potential waste and debris removal in mind.

Last but not least, the house location and load-carrying capacity of the structure and surrounding grounds need to be inspected as well. This will ensure you have correct safety protocols in place and grant you (or the constructor) ease of mind.

Getting Demolition Permits

You cannot start any work before getting the necessary permits. This is often done by demolition contractors but it is recommended you keep track of the process. While there are slight differences across the country, it will mostly come down to the same paperwork and you’ll need the following to get a demolition permit:

  • Site plans and other relevant information
  • Evidence of notifications (to the applicant, utility providers if applicable, as well as notifications required by Safety and Health regulations) 
  • Evidence of site inspection and pre-demolition treatment where needed
  • Contractor details and specifications for the work proposed
  • Consent forms and/or court orders 
  • Development and/or planning approvals

If you are lodging an application for the permit, it’s advisable to do research and even get in touch with the council and relevant planning controls. You will need specifics on who issues permits, what your specific requirements are, and ultimately the expected timeframes.

Decommissioning Utilities Before Demolition

In many instances, you will have to decommission utilities before applying for permits as stated above. However, no demolition works are to be done before shutting off utilities even if that is not the case.

Disconnecting or abolishing utilities ensures the resources are not wasted but also prevents potential damages, which could be a lot more costly. If there are potential leaks, you need to plan accordingly and allow a couple of days between decommissioning and demolition.

This should be done by licensed professionals and in agreement with utility retailers. You will need to disconnect and/or abolish electricity, gas, and water depending on the scope of work you intend to do. All of these together with sewerage and telecommunications need to be shut off or controlled outside the house.

Salvaging and Recycling Building Materials

The final step before actually tearing it down, you will need to take note and agree with the contractor on which materials you want to be salvaged. This may depend on your structure and pre-demolition inspection results, but salvaging materials could save you thousands of dollars.

From doors and windows to woodwork and recyclable building materials, you may be in for a treat as you look to lower the overall costs of demolition. You may even want to consider deconstructing parts of your house instead of going for the wrecking ball, if you find it pays off.

Let your creative juices flow and try creating a checklist of what you’d consider salvaging, whether it’s for future use or reselling. Consult your constructor to see if it’s feasible and make sure they keep it in mind once the demolition is underway.

Tearing It Down - Deconstruction Methods

When it’s time to tear the house down, it’s probably best to keep behind the fences unless you are doing it yourself. Below, we focus on some of the deconstruction methods you can go for and what you, as an owner, should ask for as the project is underway.

Demolition by Band (And Sledgehammer)

So-called hand demolition will still involve a whole bunch of tools including hammers, drills, and screwdrivers. It’s usually employed with small-scale projects where most of the materials can be salvaged for future use at the cost of an extended timeline.

If you find parts of your house have valuable materials you want to recycle, you can go for hand demolition before moving on to mechanical demolition of greater proportion. Generally speaking, it is chosen for site restrictions or sensitivity and done in reverse to the course of construction.

Mechanical Demolition

Mechanical or heavy-duty machine demolition is the most commonly used method as it’s often faster and consequently cheaper than manual work. It involves plants and leaves little for salvaging, so it’s your pick once you decide there are no materials you want to recycle. It includes but is not limited to the use of:

  • Wire rope 
  • Loader
  • Excavator 
  • Wrecking ball 
  • Expansion bursters

Mechanical demolition is more straightforward and thus easier to estimate when it comes to contractor timeframes and pricing. It’s still important to stay in the loop as you keep the site tidy, sort materials accordingly, and haul the debris.

Hauling Away the Debris After Demolition

Materials you will not reuse or recycle need to be hauled away, as we finally get to our final product – a clear site ready for immediate building. Constructors will usually own or rent construction equipment to get the job done and have agreements with appropriate facilities in place. This process includes: 

  • Screening of the materials
  • Chipping suitable materials and sorting accordingly 
  • Carting asbestos if applicable 
  • Disposal of construction and other waste
  • Cleaning up

You should agree on the state you want the contractor to keep the site in, both throughout the process and when the demolition is done. We strongly advise you to emphasise the importance of keeping it organised, discrete, and clean for you and your neighbours.

Two workers preparing for demolition

Final Thoughts

House demolition can be a stressful project and it’s important to make detailed plans and keep to them as much as possible. Dealing with reputable demolition contractors can take a load off your mind, where it’s your task to be straightforward with expectations.

On the other hand, you want to remain present and updated throughout the process, which is something the best demolition contractors will do. Ask for information and details accordingly, go the extra mile, and ask for the contractor to do the same for you.