Demolition Therapy

Invariably when building a new house or ripping out an existing one to start afresh, there’s going to be some level of demolition needed first.  Rather than a “Wreck it Ralph” type approach, there should always be a systematic approach to your destruction work.  Two key thought processes should also be prevalent with any clearance operation – protection and cost.

Foremost protection.  Whilst tearing down ceilings and the likes it is critical to suit up in appropriate protective attire, and this is an area we’d spare no expense.  Good quality goggles, masks, gloves, steel capped boots and clothing will safeguard you from dust, debris and any microscopic fibres that could be potentially damaging to your body or health, such as asbestos.  You never know for sure what you are going to come across when you uncover floorboards and tear down plasterboard so always best to be prepared with protective gear from the outset.

Secondly, you will most likely want to give consideration as to how to minimise costs when clearing the site.  Pivotal to cost saving is a methodical segregation of all products being removed, in order to dispose of them in the most cost-effective manner.

Any hardcore or muck is best taken away by grab lorries.  For hardcore this includes tiles, slate, blocks, bricks, stones.   Muck refers to any land mass, soil and mud being cleared away.  The hardcore and muck should be piled separately, as a grab lorry load of hardcore is cheaper to remove than a grab lorry load of muck, almost half the cost. 

Plasterboard tends to get discarded in skips as it is not recyclable and is fairly light-weight, whilst timber is best loaded in to your builder’s van and disposed of at the local tip where it is weighed in.  The tip company also get paid by their local authority for any weighed in timber, so it’s a cost effective way to dispense with it for both parties.   Still, to reduce timber clearance expenditure further, we’d highly recommend cutting it in to 12 inch pieces, bagging it up, and leaving it at the bottom of your driveway with a “help yourself” sign.  You’ll soon find the bags of timber are taken away by passers-by for their log burners and fires, thus aiding your local community at the same time.  You could also post it in any neighbourhood social media groups for people to come and collect.

Similarly, if you’re ripping out a kitchen or similar and need to free yourself of it, it’s well worth a shot at selling it or even giving it away for free – consider the cost saving on clearing it in a skip, as well as the labour cost of taking it out, versus the cost of having someone come and dismantle it and take it away free of charge.

The same could also be said for roof tiles and slate – when stripping your roof it’s worthwhile reaching out to a local roofing supplier who will load up and take away any fully intact tiles or slate, and pay you a nominal fee for these, again removing the cost of having a grab lorry clear these ordinarily.

Other products to set apart for clearance would be any electrical cabling, copper pipework or lead. Keep these separated and take them to a local scrap yard where they will get weighed in, and they’ll deposit payment in return directly in to your bank account.  Easy money.

Last but by no means least, special attention must be given to asbestos clearance and this is likewise not an area to cut corners.   Protective clothing is of paramount importance to reduce exposure to asbestos, as breathing it in can cause damage to lungs.  The proper removal of asbestos is also a legal requirement.  

Although asbestos is now banned in the UK, historically and before its dangers were officially acknowledged, asbestos was frequently used in buildings for insulation, flooring, roofing and sprayed on to ceilings and walls.    The UK today still holds one of the highest rates of mesothelioma cancer in the world as a result of asbestos exposure, principally as the UK government were several years behind many other countries in banning the use of asbestos.   

Asbestos laws first came in to play in the UK in 1985, when blue and brown asbestos were banned.  However, it wasn’t until 1999 that a new ruling also fully banned the use of white asbestos (chrysotile), which was seen as less harmful.  It is this white asbestos that was most commonly used in roofs, ceilings, walls and floors.

 Therefore, it is very possible that any building constructed before the year 2000 will have asbestos within.   Whilst asbestos stays intact it presents little threat, but once disturbed its microscopic fibres can be dispersed in to the air and breathed in to your lungs. 

You could potentially find asbestos in many different areas of a house and its outbuildings, from soffits and fascias to garden sheds to chimney flues.   Even if your builders have worn protective clothing to rip it out, you will still need an asbestos removal specialist to take it away and dispose of it properly, providing certification for its legitimate clearance. 

Thus, with safety and cost considerations forefront, outlined below is a methodical ground plan for picking your home to pieces – literally piece by piece to keep the products prudently separated for responsible and cost effective disposal.

  1. Rip out any fitted furniture e.g. kitchens, wardrobes (skip, sell, or give away)
  2. Take down any stud work (skip)
  3. Take out all ceilings (skip)
  4. Rip up the floors
  5. Isolate gas and electrics on to main stand – see below
  6. Cut off water supply and set up temporary tap
  7. Cut out electrics, cables, pipework, lead (separated and taken to scrapyard to sell)
  8. Take the roof off (roofing supplier to sell, or pile up for grab lorry to take away)

In relation to the isolation of gas and electrics in points 5) and 6) above, an electrician and plumber will be required on site.    

The fuse box in the house will have a large set of tails going to the metre box.  The electrician’s initial job will be to disconnect the tails from the fuse box in order to isolate the entire house and ensure nothing is live.  Cables in the house can then be cut, sockets removed and so on without the need to worry about live wires.   Electricians refer to this as isolating at the origin.   They will then connect a movable temporary socket board directly to the metre so you have a temporary power supply to plug in to for tools, mixers and any other electrics required on site during the building works.

As for the plumbing, if you’re doing a renovation/extension job on an existing house but replacing all the plumbing, a plumber would shut off the gas off at the metre and make a temporary tap outside so there’s a supply source for the workers.  If you’re keeping some of the existing plumbing and adding to it, you’d just isolate the areas that you need to work on with isolation valves until it’s all joined up. 

   However, if you’re completely knocking a house down and starting again as a new build you’d need to get someone out from the gasboard who will isolate the gas at the main metre so you can then rip out and dispose of everything. A plumber can only ever work on the gas supply from the metre to the house.  Where the main gas line is involved this will always require a visit and site survey from the gasboard, for them to do the work, and cap it off at the main gasline.  Once your new structure is up with all the necessary piping, plumbing and internal metre in place, the gasboard would revisit to rejoin it to the main gasline.  You’re therefore unable to complete testing of the new plumbing system until it’s all finished and joined back up to the main gasline. 

The plumber can also cut off the water supply and bring up a pipe with temporary tap so the builders have access to water.  The waterboard only need to be involved if you’re changing the metre or moving drains.

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