Demolition Regulation: Why You Need A Permit Before You Start A Demo

Construction & Contractors Articles

You know that you need permits to build new structures, but why on earth would you need a permit to take them away? Most cities require demolition permits for several reasons, usually involving the health and safety of the demolition crew, the future inhabitants of the area, or the surrounding community.

When is a permit needed?

Usually, cities require permits for any exterior demolition work -- the complete or partial removal of building with heavy machinery. If you are taking out a few interior walls, or removing windows for replacement, you do not need to worry about getting a permit. Permits are needed for work that will affect the land and people of the city because this kind of work must be held to a certain, regulated standard. 

What do permits regulate?

1. The land

There is more to demolishing an existing structure than simply bulldozing through it and taking away the debris. Demolition should return land to it's natural state. Cities help regulate this practice through permits. This means that the demolition service needs to:

  • backfill any below-ground building structures. You can't just leave a open basement and call things good. If you're really demolishing a building, the basement and foundation need to be removed, and the remaining ground should be filled in and leveled. This can take some time to complete, because the fill needs to be packed like the surrounding soil.
  • restore proper drainage to the soil and the grade of the land. If the demolished building was on a busy street, water should flow easily into storm drains. If the land slopes toward other houses, or slopes in on itself, flooding can result. Restoring draining for below ground structures means filling in with appropriate rock and sand before adding topsoil. 

2. Potential hazards

Sure demolition can be dangerous, but not for the ways you think. An inspector must often clear a structure for demolition. This inspector usually is hired by you, and files a report to allow you to gain a permit after the building has passed. The inspector primarily looks for asbestos. This fire-resistant material was extremely popular for both residential and commercial buildings. It was used widely in a number of building materials, including grout, glue, tiles, insulation, and plaster. It causes scarring to the lungs. Demolition disturbs the fine fibers and allows them to become airborne, causing a health hazard for anyone who might be in the area. If your building has asbestos, the problem must be remedied and, in some states, reported before demolition can occur.

Other potential health hazards are live electrical wires and gas lines, which can cause fires during the demolition process. These utilities will need to be completely disconnected from the city supply before the demolition can take place. Electrical lines, plumbing, and other below-ground infrastructure must be removed. Sometimes, this can require the tearing up a sidewalk or even a portion of city street. Without a permit, you'll never be able to remove these dangerous items. 

3. Debris removal

Post demolition, it is usually the responsibility of the permit holder (that's you) to notify the city that the work is completed. However, that's not the end. A city inspector must comes and check the work, especially to make sure that all traces of debris have been properly removed the worksite. Debris, especially small pieces of wood, concrete or plastic, can enter city water and drainage systems over time and cause blockages. 

Your demolition should go smoothly if you follow procedure and obtain the necessary documents needed. Usually, your demolition service will be familiar with city guidelines and can help you get the permission you need to take a building down efficiently and cleanly. 

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25 February 2015

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