Almost all remodeling projects require some demolition. Making sure that permits and permissions are obtained before tearing down walls or ceilings is just part of the process. Plan for debris, and have contingency plans for removal and disposal of hazardous materials.
Demolition typically requires permits and approvals. Watch for wiring, structural walls, hazardous materials, and construction debris when ripping out existing construction.
The word "demolition" brings to mind dynamite and wrecking balls, fantastic explosions and implosions. Reality is usually less dramatic, but even the smallest home renovation project requires some sort of demolition. Adding a three-season porch to the home will take some demolition to create the doorway or opening from the addition to the house. Removing a wall between two rooms may not take a wrecking ball, but it will be a demolition project. And like any project, there are necessary steps to take and procedures to follow.
Know Your House Homeowners should be secure in the knowledge of their property. Know whether the wall you wish to remove is a load-bearing wall. Although most walls are not, some are structural members of the house, and great care must be employed when undertaking their demolition. It is especially important that a homeowner who plans to do the project on his or her own determine these things in advance. "Hire an architect or an engineer to verify the nature of the wall," advises Michael Taylor, Executive Director of the National Demolition Association. If the homeowner has already decided to hire a contractor to do the project, the contractor will also be able to determine if the wall is load-bearing or not. Either way, check to see if the original plans exist. It will make all demolition work much easier.
Permits and Inspections Before any demolition can begin, a permit must be secured for the project. The good news is, if a contractor has been hired to do the job, he or she will handle this responsibility, and the cost of the permit (usually a certain percentage of the project cost) should be worked into the original contract. "These systems are in place to safeguard against mistakes, or de-valued property," says Taylor. "Without a building permit, your project can be halted and any additions put on can be taken down." Most building permits cover the demolition part of any renovation project. Although there is a National Building Code (BOCA, or Building Officials and Code Administrators), local municipalities all have their own code. Contractors should be familiar with local code, and local governments should have printed material outlining code specifics and information on required permits and inspection schedules.
Condo residents may be forced to take an extra step before starting any demolition and renovation project. Condo associations usually have very specific regulations concerning the alteration of a unitís interior or exterior. Condo owners must adhere to these regulations according to the contract signed upon purchase. Taylor suggests towing the contractor along when presenting any renovation proposal to the condo association. "Most of the time, improvements to the individual condo is an improvement to the whole development," says Taylor. "It helps to have the contractor there to answer specific logistical questions." Some associations, for example, prohibit the presence of dumpsters on site, so disposal would need to occur on a daily basis. This additional cost must be planned for and worked into the contract from the beginning. Other associations might have strict regulations on the hours that demolition may take place, which affects the project timeline.
If the homeowner lives in a designated historic district, the restrictions on demolition and renovations projects can be even more severe. A historically certified house or National Historic Register property must maintain some semblance of its original appearance; so any additions or alterations must usually blend in and appear to be part of the original structure. Taylor strongly recommends a homeowner of a historically significant or certified property hire an architect ó some architectural or historic preservation boards require a homeowner to hire an architect and a lawyer before entertaining any demolition or renovation project proposals. "To do any alterations to a historically certified house without the proper permit is risking expensive citations and even jail time," warns Taylor.