There comes a time in every real estate investor's career when they need to consider taking a building down. But how do you demolish a building the right way -- especially when you're not a builder or general contractor yourself?
Demolition can be a messy affair, with permits, high costs, lots of specialized equipment, ways to approach the demolition, and a massive cleanup job with all the resulting debris. Here's an overview of how to demolish a building, the pros and cons of different demolition scenarios, the equipment you'll need, and other considerations for real estate investors.
You will likely need a demolition permit from your local jurisdiction. This can range from $50 up to $10,000 in some major urban areas. Check out your local municipality's website for details on their particular demolition permit fees and process. Otherwise, you'll need to go in person to city hall to ask a local official.
A demolition permit is typically required when any structure is being razed or removed from a lot, no matter whether it was permitted to be there in the first place. Whether you're removing a pool, foundation, shed, or primary residence, you'll almost certainly need a demolition permit. If you're making a substantial addition to an existing building that requires some demolition for renovations, most cases will also require a permit.
If you are working with a contractor to do the demolition, they will be able to guide you through the permitting process for demolition and even oversee the process.
Demolition time frame and cost
The demolition process can cost as little as $6,000 or upwards of $22,500, depending on the size of the job, its location, and the demolition materials required. On average, a 1,500-square-foot house will cost around $18,000, or $4 to $15 per square foot of required demolition.
How long will it take to demolish a house? Typically, it will only take a few days, but there are other demolition tasks that need to be incorporated into your overall time frame. Permits can take several months before being issued, and there's also utility work that needs to be done to ensure no utilities are being caught up in the demolition process. This can take several weeks.
Overall, the building demolition and deconstruction, foundational removal, and debris cleanup can take a few days or weeks, depending on the size and location of the job.
How to demolish a building
There are several ways to approach a demolition, and your unique circumstances should be discussed with your demolition professional to ensure your planning is accurate.
Here are the most common ways to demolish a building:
- Building implosion: This involves using demolition explosives to take out the vertical support structures of a building. A sequence of detonations cause the building to collapse on itself.
- Excavator demolition: For real estate investors, this type of building demolition is the most common used for single-family home kinds of jobs. The excavator is used to pull down portions of the building one at a time. This causes less debris and is considered safer than an implosion demolition for tall buildings.
- Wrecking ball demolition: This is one of the oldest, most common methods of building demolition. An experienced crane operator is required for this, as the wrecking ball itself can weigh up to 13,500 pounds. This method can be quicker but causes more debris.
- Selective demolition: This method, also called strip-out, is becoming more popular with real estate investors who want to keep certain aspects of a building intact for future development or to reuse the materials. For instance, the interesting front facade of a historical building could be kept while the rest of the building is demolished. This is also more environmentally friendly.
The types of demolition equipment you'll need to be familiar with include:
- Articulated trucks: These haul debris.
- Backhoe loaders: These load and pick up all the debris from the demolition project.
- Hydraulic excavators: These machines provide longer reach and power than a backhoe for bigger jobs.
- Material handlers: These load all the dismantled material to trucks for removal.
- Other loaders: Multi-terrain loaders, skid steer loaders, wheel loaders, and track loaders all may be required, depending on the type of demolition.
The bottom line
Not all real estate investors are contractors or builders, so understanding the different building demolition options is critical to ensure you're well-informed. Knowing selective demolition is an option can help investors save money and add character to new developments.
Demolishing a building can be a messy, expensive affair. Having the right permits and people in place will better prepare investors for future development and get them off on the right foot.