How Much Does It Cost to Demolish a House?


Written by:  Howmuchisit.org Staff
Last Updated:  August 10, 2018

A house can be demolished for a myriad of reasons.

Whether it’s in poor shape or it occupies a desired spot for a new home, the costs, depending on the circumstances, can greatly vary.

Cost to Demolish a House
Demolition” (CC BY 2.0) by Steve A Johnson

The average reported costs to demolish a house

The costs of demolishing a house will vary on so many factors, including the size of the home, the materials it’s made from, the structural additions location on the property, your geographical location and the permits which need to be pulled.  To demolish the entire house, minus the foundation and/or basement, the costs, from what we researched via multiple sources online, could range anywhere from $5 to $15 per square foot.   This means the average 1,600 square foot home could cost anywhere from $8,000 to $24,000 to demolish, again, not including the foundation.  As there are so many costs factors to look into, which we will discuss further, your results could be greatly different than another homeowner.

If you want to keep some existing structures, such as a garage and/or porch, but demolish the rest, then the costs could actually be much more due to the complexity of the job due to the labor involved in removing only certain parts of the structure.  In this case, average projects can be double, if not triple the costs mentioned above.

As all jobs will be so unique, we highly recommend you use HomeAdvisor.com to connect with local contractors in your area.  Here, you can explain your job and multiple contractors will contact you with a ballpark estimate for free.

The real estate advisor on BankRate.com, for example, claimed the average 1,500 square foot home could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000, but the costs could increase if there were any environmental issues such as asbestos abatement.

New Home Source recommends budgeting anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000, but you may be able to recoup some of the costs by recycling the contents or structural elements.

Factors affecting the price

The geographical location – A contractor located in a higher cost of living area, such as Orange County, California, will charge much more than a contractor in the middle of nowhere, area.  This can be said for any professional service, however.

Type of material – In general, removing brick or concrete, as compared to wood, can increase the costs by more than two times the amount due to the effort it takes to remove the debris.

Size of the home – Most contractors are going to quote you on the size of the home, which, as you can see, can range from $5 to $15 per square foot.  While there isn’t a set standard, it will greatly vary on the setup of the home, the complexity of the job, permits and many of the additional costs mentioned below.

Asbestos – Any home built prior to 1986 may be at risk of asbestos.  As this substance was banned in 1978, it can still be found in the flooring, wall tiles, ceiling and so forth.  Once it becomes airborne, it can become toxic and special care is required to resolve the problem.  If your property is confirmed to have asbestos, then a contractor will be required to remove it, with costs ranging anywhere from as little as $1,000 to more than $15,000+.  These costs will greatly depend on the size of the project.

Foundation – Most contractors will only demolish the structure, not the foundation and/or basement.  As we explain in detail below, removing the foundation and leveling afterward can increase the costs.

Additional costs to consider

Permits – A permit/s will always need to be pulled, and the costs of one will greatly depend on your local ordinances.  Most permits will usually cost less than $1,000, however, in some areas, it can far exceed this.  A good contractor will always include the permit price in their initial estimate.  Keep in mind that some cities/counties will have strict ordinances in regards to demolishing historical properties, but exemptions may be made.  Check with your local government if your home is considered a historical home to see what the stipulations may be.

Utilities – Before the demolition begins, you may be required by local law to notify the local utility companies to mark the lines and disconnect all of the utility connections for a safe demolish.  Again, a good contractor should include this is in their price, but your local rates can be more than a neighboring state/company.

Foundation Removal – As mentioned prior, most contractors will only remove the structure down to the foundation.  If you wanted to remove the foundation, then this could cost an additional $1,000 to $6,000, depending on the size.

Grading – Even after a successful foundation removal, the ground will need to be level, to create a flat, even surface.  While optional, leveling/grading the land post-demolition can be another $1 per square foot of land.

Septic Tank – If you have an older septic tank, Fixr.com mentions that you may need to deal with it when demolishing an older home.  Sealing off an older septic tank, on average, can cost up to $5,000.

What’s included in this quote?

In general, the contractor should include the following, but it may vary from one professional to another.  Always receive an itemized estimate before placing a deposit to know for certain what you’re receiving for the price.

The base cost of the house demolition, often excluding the foundation

An on-site dumpster for any debris removal

Any required permit pulling

Hauling and disposing of any debris on site (extra fees may occur for hazardous waste)

If agreed upon, the asbestos removal, basement removal, fill dirt delivery, grading and/or sodding after the job completes.

Facts to consider

A mortgaged home can be next to impossible to demolish since you’re technically destroying the only security for the loan.

Zoning regulations, aside from historical homes, could prevent you from demolishing a home.  For example, if you were to purchase a neighboring property and had the intent of installing a swimming pool only, then the zoning board would more than likely deny it as it’s zoned as a single-family residence.  All situations will vary, however, so it’s best to talk with your local zoning board for more details.

If you live in an HOA, then this could be yet another obstacle, aside from the local government.  Local HOA bylaws may prevent you from knocking down a structure, especially if the new structural and/or new setup up doesn’t abide by the rules.


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