Is Do-It-Yourself Demolition A Good Idea?

Impressed by home improvement shows that make home renovations look easy, do-it-yourselfers are often eager to pick up a sled hammer and start knocking down walls in their quests to refurbish their spaces. However, deconstructing a home requires skill and patience. Here's what you need to know about demolition to help you decide if this is something you can do yourself or if you should leave it to the professionals.

Breaking Down Walls

One of the main benefits of do-it-yourself demolition is that it saves money. According to the home improvement website HGTV, it can cost up to $7,000 to clear out a 1500 square foot home. That's money you can put towards your home renovations or simply keep in your bank account.

There's an emotionally satisfying component to demolition as well. Knocking down walls and ripping up floors can be oddly cathartic. There's nothing quite like taking a mallet to some old kitchen cabinets after having a bad day at work.

Despite these emotional and financial benefits, demolition is hard, time-consuming and sometimes dangerous work. If you have no experience with deconstructing a home, you can easily damage the infrastructure, which could add several thousand dollars to your renovation bill. You may also encounter unexpected problems while taking the space apart (e.g. discovering asbestos in the walls) that—if you don't know how to deal with the issues—will increase the amount of time and money it takes to complete the project.

Tips for a Safe Demolition

If, despite the drawbacks, you still want to take care of the deconstruction part of the project yourself, here are a few tips for ensuring the process goes smoothly.

  • Before you do anything else, you must obtain a building permit from your local municipal government, even if you're only replacing the flooring. Securing a permit ensures your renovations are legal and minimizes the risk of issues popping up when try to sell your home in the future.
  • Another thing you should do before you get to work is notify your neighbors that you'll be making a lot of noise and there will be a big mess while you're deconstructing your home. Taking them a plate of cookies or a bottle of wine may significantly reduce the level of annoyance they may feel at the news.
  • Plan out the deconstruction as carefully as you would the renovation. Knowing how you will approach the demolition project can reduce project drift.
  • Turn off the water, electricity, gas and sewage in the area you want to demolish. Be certain to mark where the lines are to avoid destroying them during the process.
  • Dirt and dust will get everywhere during the demolition, so be certain to seal off the area as much as possible to prevent the filth from blowing throughout the home. Additionally, always use protective gear such as a respirator and goggles to protect your health. Wear boots and sturdy clothing that can withstand snags and nails.
  • There will be a lot of garbage, so you'll need to rent disposal bins from companies such as Ontario Trucking & Disposal Company to get rid of it all. Many rental companies will haul the trash away for you so you don't have to worry about getting it to the dump yourself.
  • As noted before, you'll need to use cameras and other tools to see behind walls, in ceilings and under floors. The last thing you want to do is hack into a live wire while cutting into the wall.
  • Treat the demolition like a project unto itself and budget your time accordingly.
  • Pad your money budget (e.g. add 10 percent to the estimated cost of demolition) to account for unexpected issues that may crop up.
  • Use the right tools for the job. At a minimum, you should have a sledgehammer, prybar and a claw hammer on hand to take apart counters and break up floors and walls.

If you're inexperienced, consider working on other demo projects before doing your own to get an idea of what it's involved with the process. Also, don't be afraid to call in professionals when you feel the job has gone above your pay grade. It's better to spend a little extra money and get the project done right than to power through and cause irreparable harm to your home.