With any renovations, the work starts with demolition. As a beginner, it is wise to wrap your head around the fact that this is serious work and should be addressed as such. That means allowing the time needed, considering how you want to handle the construction cleanup and outfitting yourself with the proper safety gear and tools. If you plan your demolition with the same care and consideration for the potential cost and work required that you do for the rebuild, you might even come out ahead of the game. So, for your consideration, here are some smart demolition tips for beginners:
Treat Demolition as Its Own Project—Phase One
While the process of demolition may seem like a foregone conclusion, until you get in there with the reciprocating saw, crow bars and nippers, you may not fully appreciate how dangerous, expensive and frustrating it can be. The wrong approach can sink your budget before you even begin the fun part. Carve out sufficient time to demolish the existing structural aspects; this way, you won’t be pressured to move too fast risking your safety.
Be prepared with the proper attire: Work boots, coveralls, breathing masks and gloves. You don’t need to be extracting nails from the souls of your feet as they penetrate your flimsy tennis shoes. You may be uncovering such materials as lead-based paint or asbestos. Keep in mind, with asbestos, the fibers that are disrupted are not only dangerous to breath in, but they also may land on your clothing presenting a risk to the person who does the laundry. One suggestion when removing fiberglass is to spray it down with water to keep the airborne particles to a minimum.
Further, plan to work with the power off. Arrange for utility lighting with a dedicated power source. You run a greater risk when cutting through walls without knowing what’s behind them, such as live electrical wires.
Foreknowledge of Just What Is behind That Wall
Before you let loose with that sledge hammer or attack a wall with a crowbar, have some knowledge of what is behind it. Here is a limited list of items of which to be mindful:
- Electrical Wiring
- Water Pipes
- Gas Lines
Taking the time to create some exploratory holes can save you a lot of headaches. With a little extra prep on the drywall removal, you can even pull those boards down in one piece. You also need to know if a wall is a load-bearing wall before recklessly attacking it. You don’t want to undermine a supporting structure or saw right through pressurized plumbing.
Consult with an Expert
It might be a wise expenditure to tap the expertise of a professional architect, depending on the size of your project. Armed with a sketch of a couple of solutions perhaps for opening a partition or changing the position of a door, you can have a builder or drafting service produce formal construction drawings. Some contractors are prepared to offer their consultation services to DIYers on an hourly basis. Rather than visualize evolving ideas on the fly, which can add heavily to your bottom line, you can strike a plan that you can stick to.
For example, if you devise a layout that involves repositioning a toilet or sink, you can take the opportunity to upgrade the plumbing at the same time. This way, you take advantage of modern advances to improve on fundamental fixtures while saving money in the long run.
Clean as You Go
There is an expression for some people who have experience working in messy conditions, which is to work clean. This simply means that you clean as you go so you are not facing a mountain of debris when you are already exhausted from ripping things down. You might want to consider hiring a construction cleanup team, depending on the size of your project. You may be performing renovations on a building that is still occupied while the work is being performed. A cleanup crew can keep your building clean all through the process.
Another way to cut down on spreading the mess is to seal off areas that are not to be demolished. Drywall and plaster produce a lot of dust that will find its way anywhere there is an opening. Cover up air ducts and drive dust outside with a directed fan properly sealed in a window. Dust that settles inside return ducts can not only plug your furnace, but they will coat your house with a fine blanket of dust once the blower is turned on again. Closing the damper is not sufficient to prevent this problem as effectively as taping plastic over the grating. Just make sure you turn off the HVAC unit while covered like this as the restricted airflow can cause damage to the system.
Remember to Explore Recycling Centers and Auction Houses
If you have ever built anything, you know you end up with extra materials that can be used for something else. It is the same with Habitat for Humanity. Operating some 400 ReStores across the nation, they have a surplus of salvaged materials available for reduced prices. Just be aware that if you are working with a contractor, there may be a chance they don’t want to work with materials they cannot guarantee from a liability perspective. However, if you are doing your own work, are you going to quibble with a pre-hung door that you can get for a fraction of the cost?
Auctions are another source you can tap for near new or pristine materials for pennies on the dollar. You may also tap your contractor’s sources for such things as odds-and-ends flooring stock. You might be able to acquire hardwood of various sizes that you can mill yourself. Some of these materials that might otherwise have been disposed of can save thousands of dollars in the cost of new materials.
In the same vein, you can donate your trash. Before starting your project, invite your local Habitat for Humanity chapter to come along and remove your materials and fixtures. Whether they perform a total take-down or cherry-pick such things as cabinets, sinks and tubs, you save the space of a landfill and reap the reward of a tax credit for your donation while helping out a good cause.
As you can see, with a bit of planning ahead, preparing yourself for the task and safeguarding your efforts, you can proceed with your demolition and renovation with limited interruptions and saving as much as possible in the process. You don’t need to be a reckless wrecker creating more trouble than the project is worth simply by being prepared for what you will encounter as you go. Your sweat equity is worth even more when you safeguard yourself as well as your project.