Demolition and rebuild

Demolition – Knocking down or demolishing a house

Danger: Keep out – Demolition in process

There is something a little dangerous and exciting about demolition.

It is like watching the opening action sequence of a spy movie. You know that this scene is not really essential to the main plot, yet you also know that whatever builds from here will be more exciting, adventurous and ultimately satisfying.

And just like an action movie, there has already been a whole lot of behind-the-scenes work to get the project to that point.


Despite the excitement that matches a genuine knockdown there are a whole lot of rules and permits that need to be completed pre-demolition.

It is important that before you even plan to knockdown your house that you make sure you are allowed to.

Council and State planning bodies will have different requirements regarding heritage listed buildings and other restrictions which you will need to pursue before you get your heart set on a modernist home set in an Edwardian suburb.

Councils may also have different approval processes for partial demolitions and outbuildings.

Hazardous Materials

Unfortunately, many old houses used hazardous materials in the construction process and that means any demolition needs to be carried out in a safe environment which have specific compliance codes. These materials can only be removed by professionals who have been certified to meet those standards.

One of the most common and extremely hazardous materials that require specialist removal is fibro cement that was made from asbestos. It is estimated that up to 98 per cent of all houses built in Victoria, Australia from 1946 – 1976 used the product, with lesser amounts in the other states.

The sheeting and other asbestos-based products become friable when it is damaged, badly weathered or otherwise deteriorated, so all care must be taken to ensure the asbestos is removed from the site and disposed of in the best condition possible.

Another common material that was used in many houses is lead paint that has a toxic residue.  

House demolition about to commence

Other considerations

Hazardous materials are not the only dangers surrounding a full house demolition.

Professionals need to make sure they account for the location of electrical infrastructure, all sewer and water services, proximity of neighbouring structures, land overlay, and the surrounding environment.


Miley Cyrus might like to come in on a wrecking ball, but the reality is far more contained than that.

Demolition crews will usually remove all recyclable materials first so that they can be resold to budget-seeking home builders. In a savvy example of the green system, salvaging crews will keep bathtubs, windows, doors, structural timber, roof tiles – keep listing – and anything that is in good condition could become resurrected in a new home.

Crews can also make good economy from old concrete and other materials that can be used for recycling.

In fact, with good management, 98 per cent of the house can be saved and only hazardous or ultimately useless items get sent off to landfill. Some of the products that cannot be used again are chipboard cupboards, old carpet and plaster.

Managing the Site

Demolition is by definition a dangerous activity and an undisciplined approach could see damage to neighbouring houses and the general public.

A full knock down may need to include a traffic management plan or even a footpath plan if heavy vehicles are crossing onto the property.

Water, sewer, telephone and electricity services need to be disconnected from the site, while this is obvious; it incorporates another level of permits, planning and communication between the managing bodies.

The demotion crew also need to ensure that the house is dismantled in a way that all debris remains on site until its removal. Multi-storey buildings and high density areas add increasing level of complexity to a demolition.

What to keep

A full demolition does not may everything has to be taken including the kitchen sink. You can decide what stays and goes.

Take a careful look around your site and ask your builder for advice before the demolition crew start working. If you want to keep the old claw-foot bath, a fancy ceiling feature, a pool or shed then you need to have all of these items accounted for in the initial contract.


Working with a certified demolition contractor will mean that you also have a safeguarded through the company’s insurance plan.

However, it is always make good sense to gain a general knowledge of what you are insured for if anything does go wrong. You need to be insured against damage to neighbouring properties, surrounding structures and the environment. You may also need to obtain an asset protection permit from the local council that will protect you against damages to any council assets before work begins on your property.


A house demolition should follow a simple timeline once you have contacted a registered demolition contractor.

  1. Apply for permits.
  2. Check for hazardous materials.
  3. Contact utility providers.
  4. Salvaging operations.
  5. Tear down. This will usually involve the use of heavy equipment, trucks for rubbish removal and traffic management procedures.
  6. Back to dirt. All materials – even foundations – should be removed from the site.
  7. If there were hazardous materials, site rehabilitation procedures will begin.

Cost and Timeframe

Timing and costs are all relevant to the particular site. The demolisher will normally need to come onto the site to make a quote which will take into consideration the materials used, presence of hazardous materials, site access, salvageable material and the project size.

The timing should take up to a week although most jobs should be completed in a few days.


Everything you have read should have told you sensibly – no – you cannot do this yourself. If you need reiteration; definitely not, this is a job for professionals.

Demolition work is dangerous and may also involve hazardous materials. A fully licenced demolition crew will provide a full service dealing with the clean-up, waste disposable, salvage and renovation of the site. Demolition contractors will also usually work in conjunction with your builder making it an easy transition from go down to go up.


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