Demolition Day Realities

Written by Posted On Friday, 10 March 2023 00:00

Demo Day is cast as the “fun” part of renovation and construction thanks to HGTV.

Trashing and slashing. Kicking down drywall. Tearing kitchen cupboards off the wall, ripping out toilets…. Owners and celebrity reno stars wielding sledge hammers and power tools, trying to outdo each other. That carefree assault on a dated home makes demolition look easy and lots of fun.

Whether you are considering demo to save money before the contractor comes in, or in preparation of tackling the whole reno yourself, stop, think, and get ready.

Treat demolition as the separate job that it is. There are companies that ONLY do demolition, so why do you think you can take a one-time shot at this and have everything go smoothly and professionally?

Safety is the number one goal and approach for professional demolition.

Old buildings may be full of toxic chemicals and hidden dangers. Lead in paints and pipes. Asbestos in tiles, in wallboard, and wrapped around pipes. Once ignored during demolition, asbestos contamination has given rise to a pre-demo abatement industry, which minimizes the impact of this major respiratory threat.

If you’re going to DIY-demo a kitchen, bathroom, garage, fireplace, or the whole house, make safety your first concern:

1. Lurking Hazzards:

Is there asbestos or lead in the materials to be disturbed and removed? The age of the building and its renovations are the first clues. When in doubt, test flooring, walls, ceilings, and pipe wrappings. The risks from asbestos arise when it is damaged or disturbed, so that asbestos fibers become airborne and can be inhaled. How will you dispose of any toxic waste?

2. Work Smart:

Does everyone involved know how to be safe around power equipment and heavy tools like crowbars and sledge hammers? Don’t take for granted that each helper knows how to be aware of what is happening around them when demolishing floors or walls.

3. Safety First:

Is there enough properly-fitting safety equipment—steel-toed work boots, safety glasses, masks, work gloves—for everyone? Flip-flops and shorts are not advisable. Full coverage, snug-fitting shirts and pants provide protection from gouges and rusty-nail scratches.

4. Secure The Site:

Is the site safe? Is the power turned off? Are “No Trespassing” signs posted? Is the site fenced and secure to keep kids, pets, thieves, and the curious out? Theft on work sites is an expensive problem in some areas.

5. In Control:

Is everyone sober? Intoxication or having a “buzz on” compounds danger and the risk of personal injury. Who’s in charge? Who will catch mistakes before they happen and anticipate accidents to prevent them?

6. Plan For Success:

Take the time to do this properly. Undoing construction work is not as easy as smashing it to pieces. Take a close look at the structure and materials to be demolished before you start anything physical. Which way do the joists run? Which walls are structural? What are the walls composed of—lathe and plaster, shiplap, drywall…? What could cause problems? What could go wrong? Is there anything you want to protect and preserve? Check with your insurance broker to confirm you are covered for all liabilities before you begin.

Note of Caution: If you have a mortgage, you promise to keep the property in good repair until the mortgage is repaid. This protects the lenders’ investment in your property. Will your demo mean your mortgage could go into default?

7. Be prepared:

Do you have a first-aid kit on hand? Are you or at least one of your crew trained in CPR and basic first aid? Is your phone always fully charged in case an emergency arises?

Yes, safety first, but make sure you are working on the right project before you begin. Are you demolishing enough or too much?

You decide you want a new bathroom, but since you have to upgrade all the plumbing to and in that room, perhaps it makes sense to renovate the bathroom above it, too. Or, even to expand demo and include the adjoining kitchen as well. Or, are you getting carried away and losing sight of your original goals and budget?

Sometimes a larger job may be more cost effective, so invest time talking to contractors, architects, interior designers, and real estate professionals (they’ve seen it all—the good, the bad, and the ugly) to learn what should and could be done before you start! Saving money takes forethought. Savings and safety are both important to successful demolition.

Before demolition begins, study your budget, including contingencies, time constraints, and available help. Finalize your project design and have plans drawn up. Everything from ordering material, arranging permits, and getting buy-in from neighbors should be in place before demo begins.

Don’t be fooled into thinking demolition is easy. Poorly executed, this crucial construction phase can demolish your dreams and your budget!

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PJ Wade —       Decisions & Communities

Futurist and Achievement Strategist PJ WADE is “The Catalyst”—intent on Challenging The Best to Become Even Better. A dynamic problem solver and author of 8 books and more than 2800 published articles, PJ concentrates on the knowledge, insight, communication prowess, and special decision-making skills essential for professionals and their clients who are determined to thrive in the 21st-Century vortex of change.

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