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Demolition – More Than Just Knocking Stuff Down

by Kim Kinrade

demolition, demolition remodeling, demolition remodeling cost, demolition remodeling costsDemolition used to mean bulldozing down a house or building and trucking the debris off to a waste site. If it was a large building then smashing it with a wrecking ball or using controlled explosions would bring the structure down and the debris would still be trucked away. However, demolition can also mean smaller projects like taking down a garage, fence or porch.

Other changes due to new city ordinances on zoning and increased environmental concerns have also altered the business. It used to be that demolition meant driving a D9 Caterpillar through a house and then scooping up the debris with a front-end loader and into waiting trucks. The debris would then be trucked to a landfill and buried with the rest of the garbage. But in most areas this has changed during the past twenty years due to:

  1. Laws which require recycling
  2. Cost of tipping fees at landfills
  3. Cost of trucking
  4. Gains for recycled materials
  5. Environmental concerns


To comply with the laws companies have become more resourceful, choosing more efficient suppliers and finding uses for waste material to keep it out of the landfills. Bringing down a simple wooden fence can mean a large trucking bill if local landfills will not take the wood. Other materials can be reused in different forms:

demolition, demolition remodeling, demolition remodeling cost, demolition remodeling costs1.  Salvageable Materials: Metals are sold to scrap yards who come and pick them up on the site. Other salvageable debris is given away to businesses who collect and resell used construction materials.

  1. Gypsum Drywall: This is ground up for use as a soil amendment or a substitute for lime on lawns. The process  can be performed by a mobile unit and hauled away.
  2. Rubble: Concrete, bricks, cinder block, and certain types of tile can be crushed and used as a substitute for stone aggregate in nonstructural applications.
  3. Glass: Glass can be recycled into fiberglass or used in place of sand in paving material.
  4. Asphalt Shingles: These are ground up and used in asphalt paving.
  5. Plastic, Fiberglass, and Foam: Possible to  recycle in small amounts.


Like Building, Demolition Requires Planning and Permits

Demolishing a building, even one which has suffered fire or storm damage does not automatically grant you the right to build a replacement. There are many criteria which have to be followed to get the proper permits.

  1. Changes in the Code: For example, a home that was built near a cliff in 1955 is burned to the ground during a brush fire. When the homeowner applies to rebuild the home a permit is denied because an ordinance which came out in 1982 deems that homes near the cliff have to be built no less than 30 feet back from where the burned down home was positioned. Because this is a serious safety issue the original foundation cannot be “grandfathered in.”
  2. Heritage Considerations: During the past 100 years many beautiful homes and buildings have been destroyed and replaced with apartment buildings, new homes and parking lots. Many of the towns in these areas realized too late that many of the icons of the past - homes and buildings which made their places unique – were gone. So now almost every city and county  has requirements surrounding the registering, upkeep, renovation and protection of homes and buildings thought to have significant historic value.
  3. Zoning Changes: You may have a home with a basement suite in an area that has been recently rezoned as an R-1 area. The home has been significantly damaged by flood and has to be demolished. However, it cannot be built as an R-2 dwelling, or one which is a duplex.

In essence, you will need to apply for planning permission to knock down your house or any of its outbuildings.  However, where demolition of any kind of residential property is proposed you will need  to show the details on how you intend to carry out the demolition and your plans for the site afterward.
In most cases you will not need to apply for planning permission to take down a fence, wall,or gate, or to alter or improve an existing fence, wall or gate (no matter how high) if:

  1. You don't increase its height
  2. The structures conforms to present neighborhood covenants.
  3. The structure was built close to a disputed property line.

The main thing to remember is to get official recognition for the project and avoid surprises..

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