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What Is The Cost To Demolish & Renovate A House In 2021?

Written by Paul Esajian

Not every real estate property is meant to be saved, nor is every home necessarily a good investment even if you spend a lot of time and money improving it. In many cases, it makes more financial sense to demolish a house than it does to renovate it. To better understand when it’s appropriate to order a demo vs. renovate a property, let’s break down the cost to demolish a house in detail.

What Does it Mean to Demolish a House?

When you demolish a house, an existing home is torn down either by hand or through the assistance of heavy equipment like bulldozers, cranes, and excavators. Most official demolitions are conducted by licensed demolition contractors who have up-to-date permits to prevent anyone from interfering with the operation. After a home is demolished, contractors or developers can build new structures in the place of the old home.

How Much Does it Cost to Demolish a House?

Although demolitions are all essentially the same process, the cost to demo a house can vary dramatically. Costs can be affected by the location of the property, the demolition method(s) used, and the size of the home. If there are any hazardous materials such as lead or asbestos, additional safety precautions will be needed and will increase the cost as a result. Additionally, the cost to demolish the house is dependent on whether you order a total or partial demolition or merely a “deconstruction” of the home. The total cost of demolition includes the cost for the permit, the demolition operation itself, the removal of the debris from the demolition, and any dump fees.

Cost of Total Demolition

A total demolition involves completely destroying a house or property. Because everything about the home will be destroyed or removed, heavy machinery is always required. As a result, the average cost for a total demolition ranges between $2 and $17 per square foot. Labor costs in your local area can also affect this price; it will cost less to demolish the house in Kansas than it will in San Francisco, for example.

Cost of Partial Demolition

A partial demolition involves only destroying parts of the interior and/or exterior. In most cases, partial demolitions are ordered as part of a larger renovation project. For example, maybe much of a home’s wood has rotted or the foundation needs to be repaired. Partial demolitions allow some of a home to be kept intact, and may or may not include heavy equipment. Costs for partial demos can range from anywhere as low as $500 up to $12,000 or more.

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how much does it cost to demolish a house

Factors of Demolition Cost

Many factors can impact the cost of a demolition project. For example, home size will impact the cost of demolition most out of any other factor. The larger the house is, the more systems have to be deconstructed or demolished and more material needs to be dumped or disposed of. This all requires more time, labor, and equipment.

Local government permit and inspection requirements can also play a big role in the cost of demolition. For example, certain municipalities offer blanket permits for demolition, whereas other municipalities may require several permits and inspections for different demolition stages or processes. If a water or sewer line has to be capped off before house destruction, for example, you’ll also need to hire a professional plumber to cap those lines and make sure it’s safe before the demolition can commence. Note that the above requirements can also impact the timeline for your demolition, which can increase the cost if things are delayed for too long.

Naturally, machinery can affect the price of your demolition project as well. If your demolition requires mechanical assistance, such as the operation of cranes and bulldozers, you’ll need to pay for specialist assistance and the costs for the machinery itself. However, even smaller deconstruction jobs where interior materials are taken apart by hand tools typically require more labor hours. So the price could be higher than you might expect.

Lastly, the home’s geographic location, and the ease of cleaning and disposal of debris, can affect the total price for a demolition job. Houses in places with lots of traffic, such as in the inner city, will be more expensive because of the difficulty of collecting and moving debris. The more debris there is to move and dispose of, the pricier the demolition will be as well.

What is Deconstruction?

A deconstruction job is usually ordered when a homeowner wants to save some elements of the home without destroying the house completely. They may do this for historic preservation reasons (i.e. the property has reclaimed wood or a special design feature they want to include an upcoming renovated home). Developers may also request deconstruction in partial demolition jobs. If a homeowner wants to keep certain elements of the house, like the original flooring, deconstruction may be a better choice than demolition. Deconstruction involves using hand tools to remove or dismantle parts of the house. This is very labor-intensive and takes longer than most demolition jobs. Some homeowners and investors can deconstruct their homes themselves, however, which may save them a significant amount of money.

What to Consider Before Demolishing a House

Before you demolish or deconstruct a home, you should consider two major things:

  1. Whether there is any hazardous material present in the house that could become dangerous during a demolition. This includes asbestos, lead paint, mold. If you find any hazardous materials, demolition specialists or hazardous material removal specialists may be required

  2. Whether the property is worth salvaging or tearing down. Demolishing can often be fast and cheap relative to a full repair or renovation job, but this also requires a much lengthier construction time to replace the destroyed home with a new property


In the end, only you can decide whether the cost to demolish a house is worth the cost, which can fluctuate significantly based on the above factors. Don’t forget that if you destroy a property, you can’t sell it to anybody else and you’ll need to build something new for the land to be worthwhile again (unless you plan to sell the land alone).

For the best results, consider talking to a demolition company or specialist before making a final decision. They may be able to give you a quote and estimate for a potential demolition job and help you determine whether demoing your property is a better choice than spending the time and energy to renovate it.

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