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Bringing The House Down: Assessing The Hidden Costs Of Demolishing A Residential Building

If you're a property or land developer looking to demolish unwanted residential properties on your land, you might be tempted to call in the cheapest, quickest demolition experts you can find to tear it down fast. However, even these small-scale demolition tasks should not be rushed into blindly, and there can be a number of hidden costs associated with house demolition that can vastly inflate your overall demolition bills. Before starting demolition work, ask yourself the following questions to avoid any nasty (and expensive) surprises.

Does the property have useful salvage materials?

The costs of demolishing a house can be offset significantly if the house contains any useful salvage materials, and many demolition contractors will factor the value of these materials into their quotes; particularly valuable examples include lead roof flashing, copper water piping and reusable electrical wiring. As such, you should have your chosen demolition contractors assess the property for useful salvage before receiving your quote, which may be significantly lower than you expected.

Does the property contain any hazardous materials?

On the other side of the coin, hazardous materials present in the property can severely complicate demolition projects. A particularly well-known example of a hazardous building material is asbestos, which is still present in many older homes and highly dangerous to any unprotected demolition worker. Asbestos can also be present in more well-hidden forms, such as asbestos concrete; this material is harmless in an undamaged state, but can release highly dangerous particulate matter into the air if damaged.

As such, any form of hazardous material present in the structure you wish to demolish should be removed long before demolition work starts. Failure to do so can be hazardous to you and your demolition workers and can land you in some pretty sticky legal trouble.

How much will removing waste materials cost?

One of the main costs involved in demolishing a house is not the demolition work itself, but transport and disposal of the rubble and other waste materials left behind. As such, you should discuss waste disposal arrangements with your demolition contractors well in advance.

There are ways you can help to lower these costs; recyclable building waste, such as whole bricks and structural plywood, can be sold or handed over to your contractors in exchange for a discount. Another option available to larger landowners is having the building materials disposed of on your own property, using a landfill site or other disposal arrangements. This can effectively wipe out waste transport and disposal costs, but you should make absolutely sure to clear a new disposal site with the relevant authorities, obtaining planning permission for a landfill site if necessary.

Does the building have mains water, electricity and/or gas?

Obviously, it's vitally important to have these services shut off to a home scheduled for demolition, but you will also have to decide what to do about them once the home has gone. If you wish to build a new property on the site of the old one, these connections can generally be used again with little to no modification; however, if you intend to convert the land to new uses or let it revert to green space, you may find that having the service pipes and connections permanently shut off can be a surprisingly expensive task. Consult with local planning authorities on the best way to proceed and the potential costs involved in having mains services permanently shut off to a site.