Demolishing a building or piece of infrastructure is no small matter. Both the property owner and the contractor must anticipate red tape and consider unforeseen circumstances that could result in litigation, personal injury, or worse, death. That’s the logistics involved in physically tearing it down or ripping it up.
So do your homework. The process, while lengthy and detailed, is meant to protect everyone at or near your project.
On the countdown to D-Day (that’s what we call Demolition Day), be sure to ask your demolition contractors these 9 questions.
What You Need to Know Before D-Day
You’ve determined that building (or whatever it may be) is coming down (for whatever reason). Maybe you:
- Need a new structure that meets modern-day building codes
- Received a windfall of funding for a new facility
- Simply need that old, rickety eyesore to go away
But did you ask your demolition contractors about environmental and legal hazards?
1. Has an Asbestos Assessment Been Done?
Back in the day, asbestos was a cheap miracle substance ideal for:
- Building insulation
- Roofing and flooring
- Even the snow scene in “The Wizard of Oz”
We now know it causes cancer, specifically mesothelioma, for which the medical prognosis is generally poor. Has your residential or commercial structure been inspected for asbestos, as mandated by the EPA before a demo? If there’s asbestos present, it’ll require tenting and abatement by a licensed hazmat team.
2. Do You Have Comprehensive Contractors’ Insurance?
Who pays the bill if damage occurs to yours or a neighboring property? Who pays if someone gets hurt or dies? Insurance protects all parties involved.
- Property damage
- Worker’s compensation
- Personal Injury and medical payments
- Even business reputation damages
The three types of damage claims are:
- Compensatory damages - covering financial losses
- General damages - covering “intangible losses” like “pain and suffering” and “mental anguish”
- Punitive damages - covering financial penalties for wrongdoing
Accidents happen. Demand proof of valid and current insurance from both your general contractor and subcontractors.
3. Has the EPA Been Notified?
In addition to federal Environmental Protection Agency mandates and guidelines, some individual states (like us in Ohio) require 10-day notification before beginning a demolition or renovation project.
Demos can kick all sorts of hazardous particles into the environment. While asbestos is a main concern, the EPA even requires wetting down structures before demolition for dust control.
4. Have all Local Permits Been Filed and Approved?
Most local municipalities also require demolition permits. These typically encompass:
- Health and human safety hazards
- Environmental considerations
- Public utility usage
- Zoning codes and ordinances
Choose demolition contractors who are aware of local procedures and will follow them like gospel. Failure could result in fines or even criminal charges.
5. Are Utilities Safely Disconnected?
You’ll likely have water, sewer, gas, and electric lines connected to the demo structure. Disconnection costs ultimately fall on you. Only experienced hands at the utility company should disconnect them to prevent:
- Serious damage or injury on your property
- Unintended consequences to the rest of the utility grid
Here, the OUPS (Ohio Utility Protection Service) must be called 48 hours in advance. No matter your location, always call before digging.
6. Where Will You Dump?
It had better be at an approved site. There are dumping sites and methods necessary for hazardous materials and general sites for other waste products. The EPA strongly urges sustainable practices like salvaging waste material for recycling.
Consequences can come back on you, even you’re unaware of illegal dumping.
7. Have My Neighbors Been Notified?
Imagine the horror of sitting in your home or office and unexpectedly hearing the wrecking ball nextdoor. All nearby properties should be aware of the demo to prepare for any impacts it may have on their properties and safe daily operations.
8. Do You Understand My Intentions?
Future plans for the property dictate how demolition contractors will tackle your job.
Perhaps you want to rebuild upon the existing foundation. If so, it’d be foolish to remove existing foundation walls and footings that aren’t in need of replacement. Or maybe it’ll someday be an asphalt parking lot, which would require the right backfill to ensure compaction and a study dirt base.
9. Does Your Business Have Good References?
Question what keeps your contractors in business. Ask for references.
In any business, past performance is indicative of future rewards (or consequences), so research your contractors’ and subcontractors’ reputations. If they’ve left someone hanging in the past, it’s best to cut ties.
Ask Your Demolition Contractors These Questions Before D-Day
From insurance to protect you and government regulations to protect the environment, demolition procedures should be
And when it comes to building it up or tearing it down, one intangible makes all the difference: experience.