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Demolition Project Guide

Average Costs, Hiring and Safety

Demolition is often the first stage of construction. There are two reasons to hire a demolition company: You’re renovating a house or office building, or you’re planning to build from scratch and need to have an old structure removed.

Generally, demolition involves tearing down and breaking up all or part of a building, then removing debris from the site. But the process is far more involved than it sounds, requiring significant planning and cooperation among the landowner, the demolition company, contractors, architects, engineers and regulatory agencies. The process also involves meticulous safety precautions.

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Demolition Safety

Demolition work can be dangerous to the public, on-site workers and the environment. This is why U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has implemented strict guidelines for how the process must be handled.

Requirements include:

  • Careful planning: Before any work can begin, the demolition contractor must take steps to ensure the safety of workers. The company must decide the method of bringing the structure down, the equipment needed to do the job and the techniques that will be used to ensure safety. The contractor should develop a plan in case of accidental collapse, fires or injuries, and determine what type of safety equipment needs to be brought on site.
  • An engineering survey: This determines the condition of the structure and recommends any actions necessary to stabilize the structure before demolition begins. If necessary, the survey recommends measures to prevent the structure from premature collapse. The contractor must keep a written copy.
  • Locating utilities: Before demolition, all utility lines need to be located and shut off or capped. This includes gas, electric, water and sewer lines. Utility companies must also be notified that demolition work is taking place.
  • Medical and first aid planning: The demolition contractor must locate the nearest hospital or medical clinic to be prepared in the event of an emergency. A plan for transporting injured workers to a medical facility must be put in place. A first aid kit must be on site, as well as a list of phone numbers for local police, fire departments and ambulance services.
  • A fire prevention plan: The demolition contractor should have an evacuation plan in case of fire that includes instructions for key personnel. Prior to demolition, the company should identify and correct all potential sources of ignition.
Building Demolition

As you’ve most likely gathered, demolition requires a deep understanding of safety procedures. The job is best left to experienced, reputable professionals who know how to prevent accident and injury. Major demolition work is not a do-it-yourself project.

Demolition Costs

Demolition costs are nearly impossible to estimate because they depend on so many factors: the size and condition of the structure, the safety risks, the number of crew members needed, the type of equipment needed, geographic location and more.

  • Budget anywhere from about $4,000 to $15,000 to have a small house demolished (1,000 to 1,500 square feet). Geography has a lot to do with the total price - you might pay on the lower end of that price range in the Midwest and South, where equipment, labor and permitting costs are lower. Budget on the high end on either coast, particularly in major cities.
  • Demolition of a large home - say 2,000 square feet or more - might cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000.
  • Indoor demolition for home renovations usually costs anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000, but the price can be much higher for complex projects. Indoor demolition of office buildings can reach the tens of thousands.
  • If the building contains asbestos - a group of minerals commonly found in old building materials that can lead to health problems - budget another $2 to $3 per square foot for safe removal. For a 1,500 square foot house, that works out to an additional $3,000 to $4,500.

Hiring a Demolition Company

Hiring the right demolition company is important - you shouldn’t just hire the first guy you find in a Google search. Here are some questions you should ask any contractor you’re considering before signing a contract:

  • How much do you charge? Be sure to get a complete estimate of all fees, and get it in writing. In fact, you should seek quotes from multiple contractors to compare prices.
  • How long have you been in business? You want a company with experience, not one that set up shop two weeks ago.
  • Can you provide references? Any reputable company should have a long list of references (recent ones, at that). Make sure you actually contact the references to find out if they were pleased with the job.
  • Do you handle hazardous or dangerous materials? Most demolition companies do, but you should make sure. With old buildings, materials such as lead paint and asbestos are common.
  • How is debris removal handled? Any reputable demolition contractor will remove debris from the site, but not all companies have the same methods. Will debris be removed daily or at the end of the project? Is the debris recycled or sent to the landfill? Some people will find these issues more important than others.

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