Whole House Demolition

When it’s time to begin the whole house demolition process, make double sure of just what exactly it is you’re trying to tear out and what you have to do get rid of the mess you’re going to generate. And make no mistake – you will generate a lot of debris to be dumped.


If you plan on performing the demo work yourself, you will need to do some planning for a safe and legal demolition process. Suffice it to say that this is hard, dirty work that’s not for the easily discouraged. Small job? Do it yourself. But if you have a larger remodel, hire someone else to do it.

Before dropping a dumpster somewhere it shouldn’t be, however, check to see if you first need to get a dumpster permit for your site. Some areas require a demolition permit if your project happens to be near, or in the public right-of-way. In other words, any falling debris that can inhibit or endanger any vehicular or pedestrian traffic, you have to get an O.K. from the local officials to drop said dumpster.

Kind of a hassle, but makes perfect sense nonetheless, especially if you are renovating a building within a city block sitting right on a street. You would be required to keep the area safe and clean at all times.

Doing The Dirty Work

Typically, in older homes built in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, you have thick, heavy plaster on the walls that generally are supported by strips of quarter-inch thick wood (called lathe) that run horizontally along the space of the wall that form the support structure to hold the plaster (see picture).

picture of old lathe support for plaster walls

As you can imagine, you will generate a large amount of rather thick, filthy dust that you will have to deal with. As you tear out the old stuff, always sweep up enough to fill about 2 five-gallon bucket’s worth of material, and throw in dumpster.

This will keep you somewhat fresh from tiring out too early hauling a heavy wheel barrow full of debris that would definitely wear you out in a hurry!

Keep It Safe

Always wear protective eyewear, goggles, leather gloves and hard hat when tearing out old plaster (or anything for that matter). This stuff is heavy and thick. You’ll know it soon enough during whole house demolition if you’re not wearing a hard hat and a chunk falls and conks you on the head.

Probably the most important piece of protective wear is the ventilator mask to put over your face to keep you from inhaling the dust and fine particles filling the air around you. Any mask will do, but we recommend spending a few more dollars for the really good masks. They may take a little bit to get used to, but in the end are very effective.

Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants as well to protect your arms and legs.


You’ll be using a wrecking bar ang sledge hammer to remove all the old lathe and plaster.

A sawzall is also effective for cutting out whole pieces of lumber and other structures that need to come out without spending a lot of time.

An excellent push broom and plenty of 3-mil thick plastic garbage bags (usually referred to “Contractor” bags) are essential to keeping the area swept and clean.

Speaking of Dumpsters …

You should have on site a 30-yard size container to handle all the debris you’ll generate. For a normal 1250 square foot home, you can expect to haul away about 2 – 3 full (30 yard) dumpsters of stuff.

This assumes you’re throwing out all the walls, ceilings, old trimwork/doors, cabinets, and old toilet fixtures.

In other words, pretty much everything.


Always check with the dumpster company before you start your demo to see what you can, and cannot safely haul away. You can’t, for instance, have a refrigerator hauled away if it’s got refrigerant still in it, due to environmental concerns. Same goes for ordinary tires, although some areas will allow you to get rid of a few at a time.

Also … check out my dumpsters page for more detailed information on renting, and different types and sizes for whole house demolition.

Hire It Out

Of course you could always hire someone to perform the demo instead of doing it yourself. You will spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $2500 to $5000 to have this process done by properly insured contractors who specialize in whole house demolition and debris removal. Prices will vary depending upon the size and scope of the actual demolition.

From this …

view of office pre-demo

view of office post-demo

To this …