Written by Trace
When we purchased our chunk of land in late 2014 it had a 40-year-old house on it that had not been kept up or lived in for the past 7 years. It didn’t pass inspections on multiple fronts for a previous buyer interested in the property so we knew going into the purchase that it would have to be torn down. The roof was leaking badly in multiple areas causing significant rot and core structural damage and rodents had taken up residence.
So, how does one go about tearing down a house? First, you need to know the building codes of the state in which your property resides. In Wisconsin, you must obtain a raze (demolition) permit prior to starting the demolition process.
OBTAINING A RAZE PERMIT
I figured obtaining the raze/demolition permit from our town would be quick and painless, but that threw additional time and cost implications at me quickly. Before I could get the town to issue the raze permit they required me to have a signed letter from the electrical company stating all electrical service to the house had been removed. This is straight forward to do, but requires scheduling and paying for an electrical crew to perform the work. I had to schedule this out about 4 weeks because they were backed up on various other jobs. Once the work was completed it was another couple of weeks before they could issue me the letter and I was finally able to receive the raze permit. This probably cost me a couple hundred dollars all in with electric service removal and permit fees. There are additional requirements for a demolition (hauling away refuse, distance from neighboring property lines, distance from waterways, etc.) however, much of it was a non-issue for us.
While we were waiting to receive the raze permit we were contemplating different options on how to approach the demolition process.
QUICK AND DIRTY OPTION
Many of our friends and family suggested we call the fire department and have them perform a training exercise on it by burning it down. This option would have saved us a ton of time, however we discovered that we would’ve had to pay the fire department $5,000 to burn down the house. Additionally, it does create a very dirty and messy clean up afterwards. You end up having to haul out charred remains – any metal, wood or other material that was not completely burned up. And lastly, while many parts of the house were in disrepair there were some areas worth saving and it just didn’t feel right burning perfectly good, reusable wood, cabinets, rafters, fixtures, etc. These things will no doubt contribute to my bone yard for years to come.
SLOW AND RECLAIM OPTION
After researching the “quick and dirty” option above, we decided that we wanted to perform the tear down process ourselves. This way, we could reclaim as much as we wanted that was worth saving, down to every wall stud and outlet receptacle.
Once we made the decision to move forward with the “slow and reclaim” option we knew we had to get started right away on the process. However, at this point the property no longer had electrical hookup due to us obtaining a raze permit. This meant I couldn’t run power tools, like a sawzall or circular saws, charge my power drills or most importantly listen to the radio while doing the work. We started out using our generators, but running them for a full day quickly became expensive and we soon realized we wanted power back on the property. This led us to contact the power company about installing what is known as a Temp Service. This is basically an electrical hookup close to your transformer sitting on a post or pedestal giving you access to a few electrical receptacles that you can plug in like a traditional outlet.
First, we needed to find a licensed Master Electrician who could install the pedestal and junction box and then schedule the electric company to come in and perform the hook up. This is a straightforward process, but took time to coordinate while we were living out of state. The costs for this was between $1,000-$2,000 including electrician and electric company charges. You find out when dealing with the electric company that they typically charge you by the foot – number of feet from transformer, number of feet from house, etc. Because of this our Temp Service is a good 100+ feet from where our “job site” would be, which means several lengths of daisy chained extension cords, but it works.
LET THE DEMOLISHING BEGIN
Overall, it took us about 18 months to complete the tear down of the existing house. Because we were living out of state for most of the process, tear down work was completed using spare time and weekend hours. However, it was well worth it as we now have piles of 2-by lumber in many different sizes and lengths, old windows, wire, receptacles, cedar boards, etc. that we can use for DIY projects, such as chicken coops, compost bin, hand hewn siding on our future home, and many other projects I haven’t even thought of yet.
We started by tearing down interior walls and removing drywall, carpet, insulation and electrical wiring components.
Then we removed the roof…
followed by exterior walls…
then the sub-floor…
the basement walls…
the stone chimney (we kept all the stone of course)…
and lastly the foundation!
Now we are left with a giant hole, but it’s exciting because this is where our future home is going and we can’t wait to start this spring!