Demo Day the Responsible Way

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Home Improvement

Thanks to HGTV, "Demo Day" is often thought of as the fun part of renovation and construction. Owners and celebrity reno stars wield sledgehammers and power tools while kicking down drywall, tearing out cabinets, and throwing building material from second-story windows. The carefree assault on a dated home makes demolition look easy and fun, but there is more skill and expertise involved than you might think.

If you're considering a DIY demo to save money before a renovation, make sure you know what you're getting into, and you are prepared for any problems that may arise.

Safety First: Ensure you have enough safety equipment — steel-toed work boots, safety glasses, hard hats, masks, and work gloves for everyone in your crew. Full coverage, snug-fitting shirts and pants provide protection from splinters, itchy fiberglass, and rusty-nail scratches. Keep a first aid kit handy, and make sure your phone is fully charged in the event of an emergency.

Hidden Hazards: Is there asbestos in your carpet padding or lead in the wall paint? If your home was built before 1978, there’s a good chance some paint in the home will contain lead. Asbestos is trickier – it’s been banned in some common building materials, but is still used in others. When in doubt, test flooring, walls, ceilings, and pipe wrappings before beginning work. The risks from asbestos arise when it is damaged or disturbed and the asbestos fibers become airborne, so wearing a proper respirator and following the correct procedures is crucial.

Work Smart: Does everyone involved know how to use power equipment and heavy tools like crowbars and sledgehammers? Each helper should be cognizant of what is happening around them when the swinging and smashing starts.

Secure The Site: Is the worksite safe? Shut off power when working on or close to electrical systems. Turn off the water main when plumbing is involved. Sites should be secured to keep kids, pets, thieves, and curious passers-by out. Make sure to display "No Trespassing" signs as well.

Plan For Success: Take a close look at the structure and materials to be demolished before you start anything physical. Which way do the joists run? Which walls are structural? Which walls have water lines, electrical wires, or gas lines behind them? Is there anything you want to protect and preserve? If you can't identify structural components, then you certainly shouldn't remove them. Consult a building professional (architect, engineer, contractor) before smashing into your walls, and check with your insurance broker to confirm you are covered for all liabilities before you begin.

Remember the big picture: These are just a few of the things you should consider before beginning a DIY demo. Every project is unique and comes with its own unique conditions and challenges. Take the time to talk to contractors, architects, interior designers, and real estate professionals to learn what should be done before you start, that way you don't end up demolishing your dreams and your budget!