Demolition Permits: 9 Things You Should Know in 2021

Are you gearing up to start a demolition project? If so, stop in your tracks if you don’t have a demolition permit.

You’ll need one of these in most cases.

This legal document provides you with the right to demolish a structure, and you’ll want to make sure you have one to comply with your municipality’s regulations.

Here are the top things you should know about demolition permits.

Let’s get started.

1. What is a demolition permit?

A demolition permit is a legal document that provides you with the right to demolish a structure that requires a building permit to construct.

That said, even if a building permit was not properly acquired before construction does NOT mean that you don’t need to get a demolition permit.

Just because a structure was built improperly without obtaining a permit does not mean it can be improperly demolished.

Make sure you do your research and get a demolish permit!

2. When do you need a demolition permit?

A demolition permit is needed in the following circumstances:

bulletA primary structure or structures will be razed or removed from a lot

bulletAny accessory structures with utility systems, mechanical systems, hazardous materials, or a basement-type foundation will be raised or removed from a lot

bulletA building that is having an additional renovation requires a substantial amount of demolition

Keep in mind that if you’re working on more than one structure that you’ll need to get a separate demolition permit for each one.

For example, a shed and detached garage on the same property will each require their own demolition permit.

Check the various provision codes in the area where you will be doing the demolition.

These will specify the permit requirement and the review process.

3. Are there any special considerations for demolition permits?

Certain structures or jurisdictions require additional measures, which may include specific site control measures and multiple inspections.

For each permit you are issued, you may also need an erosion control inspection and a tree preservation inspection.

4. What are the requirements for getting a demolition permit?

The requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but you’ll also need:

bulletA completed permit application

bulletA submitted and approved grading plan (for most demolition projects)

bulletA completed and inspected plumbing permit

bulletA cash demolition escrow bond to ensure the safe, sanitary, and secure completion of the demolition work

Just note that the bond requirement ultimately depends on the municipality.

Fortunately, the bond is typically refundable at the end of the demolition.

5. When do you NOT need a demolition permit?

Under the following circumstances you may not require a demolition permit, depending on your jurisdiction:

bulletWhen you’re removing small sheds, small garages, or other minor accessory structures that do not contain utilities with separate connections or basement-type foundations

bulletWhen you’re removing decks, porches, and other similar appendages to structures where the intent is to rebuild following removal

bulletWhen you’re performing interior demolition to a structure or structure or when the intent is to change or renovate the structure

6. What should you understand before filing for a demolition permit?

bulletDetermine whether the proposed work is considered demolition

You’ll only need a demolition permit if the project in question is a demolition.

Often, people get demolitions and major alterations confused when, in fact, these two types of projects are incredibly different from each other.

The exact specifics depend on your jurisdiction, but often demolition is defined by the removal of all exterior walls above the foundation.

To determine the definition of the word “wall,” check your local code provisions.

This can help you to see if all exterior walls have been removed.

Conversely, a major alteration project involves removing at least 50 percent of the exterior walls above the foundation.

Check your local code provisions to find out if your project meets the criteria for major alteration rather than demolition.

Note: If at any point your major alteration becomes a demolition, you must stop and obtain a demolition permit before you can continue work.

bulletCheck for any ordinances that would require a demolition delay

The city codes surrounding demolition projects require a demolition delay in certain circumstances.

This delay is to ensure there is time for appropriate notices to be mailed and emailed to organizations.

Sometimes, signs also need to be placed on properties before demolition activities can begin.

These delays are especially likely in the case of single-family residential units.

Take note of any of these ordinances in your municipality.

bulletLook for appropriate site control measures that must be implemented

Before demolition, residential units, accessory structures, etc. require site control measures.

These measures may include an asbestos survey, a demolition plan, documentation regarding lead paint certification or asbestos removal, removal of exterior painted surfaces, dust suppression measure implementation, etc.

Be sure to research your municipality’s regulations to understand what site control measures are required and implement them accordingly.

bulletResearch any deconstruction ordinance requirements

Often, single-family dwellings require a deconstruction ordinance if they meet certain criteria.

For example, if the structure is considered to be a historic building.

When this is the case, you may need to have a certified deconstruction contractor safely disassemble the house to salvage materials that can be reused.

If it’s a historic deconstruction, then additional permits are often required as well.

bulletDetermine whether the soil needs to be compacted after demolition

Following demolition, the site must always be restored to a condition that will be suitable for new construction.

Sometimes, this means replacing and compacting the soil.

Compacting is necessary if the demolished building had a basement or foundation that resulted in the need for a large replacement fill.

In these cases, you’ll likely need to hire an independent soil inspection agent.

bulletCheck if a sewer cap is required or if there are any other utility requirements

Different cities have different utility provisions.

As you enter the demolition process, check whether the house in question is served by the city sewer.

If this is the case, then it may require a sewer cap to be placed during demolition.

If the sanitary system was a septic tank or cesspool, then you’ll likely require an inspection and decommissioning permit for the abandonment of the system.

bulletUnderstand the tree requirements for the area

Before receiving a demolition permit, you’ll often need to provide tree preservation information.

Often, this requirement needs to be completed within a certain amount of time before demolition or it can delay it.

So make this a priority because your municipality is unlikely to approve your demolition permit until the tree code requirement is met!

bulletGet an intent to demolish form signed by all property owners

Unless you’re the owner listed on the deed, you’ll need to get an “intent to demolish” form signed by all property owners before you can get a demolition permit.

If the property has multiple owners, the form must be signed by each!

7. How do you file for a demolition permit?

Here are the steps to filing a demolition permit:

bulletReview your municipality permit requirements

As noted above, your municipality will likely have specific requirements that must be met to issue a demolition permit.

Do research to ensure your project qualifies.

bulletPrepare all the required information

To apply for a demolition permit, you’ll likely need to provide several documents.

These include proof of insurance (general liability, worker’s compensation, and auto), performance surety (performance bond, letter of credit, or cashier’s check), and site plan (for properties with more than one building).

bulletComplete the application

The next step is completing the application.

In most cases, this only takes about 30 minutes after you’ve assembled all the necessary information.

However, because it can take several days for your application to be accepted by your municipality, you don’t want to delay!

bulletPay for the permit

Demolition permits often require a fee between $200 to $400.

The cost depends on the type of demolition project and the location.

bulletSubmit your application

Most municipalities offer an online application, but some may require that you apply in person at your city’s Building Department.

bulletWait for review

After submission, you’ll likely get an email to confirm receipt of your application.

You can expect to hear back about your application within a few business days.

If anything is missing or incorrect, you may need to revise your application or re-submit it.

bulletPrepare for the next steps

Once your permit has been accepted, the public utility companies must be notified.

You can contact them directly to ask them to stop your utility services.

Before they can issue a demolition permit, your local department will require confirmation from all utility companies (gas, electric, and water).

8. What are the demolition grading plan requirements?

In order to obtain a demolition permit, a grading plan is often required.

A plan review of this document is often required and will need to include the following information:

bulletThe property address and legal description of the structure and property

bulletInformation regarding existing typography and boundaries

bulletA description of basements or foundation locations that will be removed or filled

bulletThe proposed contours and elevations

bulletLimits regarding the clearing and grading

bulletA plan for control measures regarding erosion and sediment

bulletNotes or items deemed necessary for demolition

For further information, check with the municipality where you will be completing demolition.

They can provide a complete list of what your demolition grading plan must include in order to fulfill the requirements.

9. What are the next steps once you have your permit?

If you want to tear down a structure, then you’ll want to read this section, so you understand all of the components to home demolition.

When you’re demolishing a house or another structure, there are two basic approaches: deconstruction and demolition.

Deconstruction is when you remove useful materials by hand.

This process is done in order to preserve or repurpose the resources for later use.

Demolition is the utter destruction of the structure (typically with heavy machinery).

Afterward, the debris from demolition is often hauled away as construction waste.

Here are the general steps for both processes.

bulletPreparate for the process

1. Contact your lender (if necessary): If you still owe a bank or mortgage lender for your home, you’ll need to get approval before you proceed with your demolition project.

They may also help you secure financing for demolition and rebuilding efforts.

2. Remove furniture and belongings: Before demolition, remove bulky items like furniture, fixtures, decorations, appliances, possessions, etc.

3. Shut off all utilities: Make sure all water, electrical, and gas lines that run into the structure have been shut off and safely capped.

You’ll need to contact your provider for this step, and in some cases, they may even send personnel to your house.

Some municipalities even require confirmation of this before they will issue a demolition permit.

4. Rent a roll-away dumpster: Demolition leads to lots of debris.

A roll-away dumpster will need to be rented or brought on site so you have a way to dispose of it.

bulletDeconstruct your house by hand

1. Tear down drywall: Start the demolition process by removing your walls and the substructures behind them.

2. Salvage wire and piping where possible: Copper wire and scrap metal from pipes can be sold or recycled after you’ve finished your home, so you may want to save it when possible.

3. Remove doors and frames: Use a screwdriver to uninstall doors.

If they’re in good condition, they can be resold.

4. Tear out floor materials: Remove carpets and tile.

5. Repeat the process in bedrooms: Once you’ve completed the above process in one room, repeat in bedrooms and hallways.

Collect all piping and wiring along the way.

You may want to salvage any decorative fixtures that you’re able to (including ceiling fans and lighting systems).

6. Handle the laundry and utility rooms: This can be a time-consuming part of the house to demo because of all the specialized fixtures.

Take apart the walls and tear up the floors.

Often, the cabinets can be reclaimed as scrap wood or repurposed in a new house if they are intact.

7. Deconstruct the kitchen and dining room: Just like the bathroom, the kitchen and dining room can be time-consuming because of the specialized fixtures.

It takes time to remove all the elements in these rooms.

Again, you may want to salvage what you can as it can save you money down the road.

bulletDemolish the house

1. Bring in heavy machinery: You’re now ready for wrecking, so bring in the machinery you need.

If you are renting the machinery yourself, you can ask your rental company if you’re not sure what type of machinery you need and take them up on their training if they offer it.

2. Secure the area: Establish a safety perimeter around the job site with signage, barriers, and caution tape.

3. Tear the house down: Use the excavator’s arm to cave in the house’s roof first.

This will help to reduce the risk of the building toppling over and causing injury.

Next, knock over each wall and cave in the floor.

Continue the process until each floor and wall is leveled.

Depending on the size of the structure, this can take several hours.

4. Clean up debris: Once the structure is demolished, use your roll-away dumpster and begin the clean-up process.

If you’re handling the debris by hand, be sure to use gloves!

These are the basic steps, but keep in mind that you should hire a licensed contractor to do the work for you.

Sometimes, the local jurisdiction will require that a licensed contractor complete the work.

However, even if it’s not a requirement, it’s a good idea to have a professional do this for you since demolition can be a dangerous process if not done correctly.

Final thoughts

A demolition permit is necessary to raze or remove a structure down to the foundation in most municipalities.

If you’re planning a demolition, you’ll need to apply for one as soon as possible to make sure you comply with local code provisions.

Do you have any questions?

Let us know in the comments.

Additional Resources

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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.

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