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demolished house

How Much Does It Cost to Demolish a House?


Jun 09, 2020 by Liz Brumer

You can't save every building. Sometimes it makes more sense to demolish a house and rebuild than it does to rehab and repair it. If you're considering demolition, learn how much it costs to demolish a house, what factors go into the demolition cost, understanding the difference between demolition and deconstruction, and some important considerations to think about before demo day.

What does it mean to demolish a house?

Home demolition is the act of destructing and tearing down an existing house. This can be done by hand or with heavy equipment such as cranes, excavators, or bulldozers. Demolitions are typically completed by a licensed demolition contractor after getting the required demolition permit. Demolishing a home allows the property owner to start fresh, constructing a new building in its place.

The cost to demolish a home

The overall cost to demolish a home will vary depending on the property location, size of the home, method of demolition, and if there is any presence of hazardous material like asbestos.

Home demolition costs will include:

  • Permit
  • Building demolition
  • Removal of demolition debris
  • Dump fees

These factors will vary based on your location.

While it may make sense to demolish the entire home, it's not the only option. A homeowner can opt for a

  • Total demolition.
  • Partial demolition.
  • Deconstruction of the home.

Total demolition

A total demolition means the property is being destroyed completely. Total demolition is almost always done by demolition specialists who handle the demolition work with heavy machinery and debris removal. The average cost for a total demolition varies depending on the source. According to Home Advisor (NASDAQ: ANGI) the average cost is between $2 to $17 per square foot, which is a pretty wide cost estimate range.

This is largely due to the cost of labor in your geographic area. For example, demolishing a home in Lima, OH, will cost far less than demolishing the same size home in Los Angeles, CA.

Most home demolitions, regardless of the property size, start at $4,000 and go up from there based on the square footage -- meaning a 1,200 square foot home could cost you $4,800-$18,000 to demolish and a 2,000 square foot home could cost you $8,000-$30,000.

Partial demolition

A partial demolition means parts of the interior or exterior of the home are demolished or deconstructed. This is fairly common in a large renovation project in which the exterior of the home may need to be rebuilt because of rotted wood or unsound foundation, or vice versa, keeping the exterior of a home intact while demolishing the interior. Hometown Demolition found the average cost for interior demolition can run anywhere from $500 to $12,000.

HomeAdvisor's 2020 averages for partial demolition for common home features:

Type Average Cost
Garage $3,000-$9,000
Swimming pool $2,700-$19,000
Deck $30-$50 per sqft
Chimney $4,000-$10,000
Shed or barn $50-$100 per hour
Roof $4-$5 per sqft
Driveway $1,500-$5,000
Foundation $1,000-$5,000
Interior walls $1,200-$5,000
Additions $50-$100 per hour

Deconstruction

If the homeowner is interested in demolishing the building in order to start fresh but wants to save elements of the home, they can opt to deconstruct the home by hand. This may be a preferred method in historic homes that have unique elements or features like reclaimed wood that can be incorporated into the new building design. Deconstruction is also fairly common in a partial demolition where the property owner wants to reuse elements of the home, such as the kitchen cabinets or original flooring.

Because deconstruction is done by hand, it is more labor-intensive and can be more costly if done by a demolition specialist. However, some deconstruction projects can be done by the homeowner, bringing down overall cost.

Considerations before demolishing

Before any major work is completed, partial or not, the property should be inspected to determine if there is the presence of hazardous material including asbestos, mold, or lead paint. The presence of asbestos or other hazardous materials will require special abatement and the use of demolition specialists in that field, increasing the cost by an average of $200-$700 per hour.

Ultimately, it's up to the homeowner to determine if the property is worth salvaging and repairing or simply tearing down altogether. In most cases, a total demolition is the cheapest and fastest option, but it isn't necessarily the best option for every homeowner.

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Liz Brumer-Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.