You can use online tools and simple equations to estimate home demolition and reconstruction costs. Remember, it's alway more expensive to demolish and rebuild than to simply renovate.
What’s the true cost to rebuild a house?
Sometimes, we might joke about things being so bad that we wish we could just knock down our house and start all over again. And, while often expressed in moments of frustration, starting from scratch can sometimes actually be the best option for homeowners.
So, whether you are an owner-occupier (the industry term for someone who both owns and lives in a home as their primary residence) or an investor with a major fixer-upper on your hands, there’s something to be said about starting fresh.
Here, we’ll examine how much it costs to demolish a home, as well as how much it costs to rebuild it. This way, you can be fully informed of the options and make the best financial and logistical choice for your unique situation.
How Much Does it Cost to Demolish a House?
You can usually break down the costs of demolishing a house by the square foot. Across the United States, you can expect to pay between $5 and $10. So, obviously the bigger the home is, the bigger the cost. There’s no "buy one get one" in demolition.
You can also estimate the price of a home’s demolition by looking at the part of the home you plan to get rid of. While this varies greatly throughout the country (meaning that demo is cheaper in Nebraska than it is in California, much like real estate and construction), there are still general rules you can follow.
You can use this tool to discover just how much a demolition is likely to cost you. The tool uses the average of various completed projects across the country to come up with its numbers.
For example, brick and chimney removal is roughly $1,981 based on 11 projects nationwide, while interior demolition is $34,483 based on 34 projects. To get an estimate of how much you will need to pay, simply add up the parts of the home you plan to demolish.
Are There Ways to Reduce the Costs of Demolishing a House?
If the prices seem a little bit steep for you, there is no reason for you to worry. There are still plenty of options available to you in order to reduce the cost of demolishing your house in preparation for new construction.
Here are just a few ideas that you can use to get you started:
You Can Deconstruct on Your Own
It’s our favorite part of Fixer Upper: Demo Day. While Chip and Jo might have a team of their own, we can still learn a lot from them. It’s possible to begin gutting your home on your own and then leave the more heavy lifting to the professionals when you get stuck (if you do!). It’s likely that you will be able to do things like take out kitchen cabinets and countertops, old appliances, carpeting, wood flooring, etc. and dispose of it completely on your own.
If you don’t mind the mess, you won’t even need to take a day off of work. You can just spread Demo Day activities out over a few weekends instead.
You Recruit a Few Friends
Sometimes you have the skillset for all the demolition, but you just don’t have the manpower. In that case, round up a few friends or family members and get to work. Remember: demolition is hard labor. Be sure to discuss compensation (be it pizza and beer or actual payment) before things get started so that everyone knows what to expect.
You Can Donate Your Home to the Fire Department
Depending on where you live, sometimes you can let the local fire department use your home for a burn exercise, then use the whole experience as a tax write off. Burn baby, burn.
How Much Does it Cost to Rebuild a House?
The true cost to rebuild a house depends on so many factors. For example, the state that you live in, as well as the county within that state, can greatly impact things like the cost of labor, as well as the cost of any associated permits and licenses.
The availability of materials in the local area, as well as shipping costs for outsourced materials are also big considerations when planning your budget for rebuilding a home.
However, if you are interested in just the basics so you can make a rough outline of your plans, there’s a great tool available!
Introducing the cost to build calculator. You can click here to explore it.
This tool gives you a great idea of just how much it will cost to rebuild a home. All you have to do is feed the tool information about the home you intend to build and it will give you an idea of how much you should plan to spend.
The tool has 10 input opportunities. You provide information about:
- Main floor
- General layout
- Upper floors
- Size index
Then, at the end, it gives you a summary of the provided information as well as a cost estimate. So, if you already have the plans ready for your rebuild, it’s very helpful because as you enter information about the square footage, ceiling height, appliance quality, etc., you can see how much you’ll pay.
And, if you don’t have solid plans, it’s fun to fiddle with this tool in order to come up with a plan that will work, but stay under your budget.
How Can I Rebuild My House for Cheaper?
It’s always possible to rebuild your home for cheaper than the original quote. While it’s never a good idea to cut corners on quality, you can cut corners on quantity.
The obvious major way to reduce your required budget would be to reduce the size of your rebuild. While cutting out an entire bedroom or sitting room is not usually a good idea, you can shave off costs by shaving off square feet.
You can also choose to forego the stainless steel appliances in favor of something more economic, or choose to complete the construction in stages, as opposed to all at once.
Should I Just Renovate My House Instead?
There is a big difference between remodeling and renovating your house.
When you start a remodel, you are essentially changing the way something looks, or updating its style. Your bathroom or kitchen might be structurally sound and fully functional, but ugly and impractical. In this case, you would choose to remodel it – or update it to make it better suit your needs.
If you renovate your house, it means that you are bringing it "back up to code." During renovations, you are just trying to restore or repair a structure that already exists. You are not trying to make it "better." You just want to fix it so that it functions correctly or looks how it’s supposed to.
So, if your house is "bad enough" that you literally want to knock it down, it’s likely that it needs extensive renovation, not just remodeling. In order to decide whether or not to go the demolition route, you really do have to think about the true cost to rebuild a house.
Gather a few quotes from contractors about the work you would like to have done. If it helps, ask them to quote you their "renovation price" and their "start from scratch" price. Then, you can lay all of your options out in front of you and make the choice that works the best for you, both financially and logistically.
The Cost of Rebuilding
Finally, here are some wise words to keep in mind from Roger Greenwald, RA, AIA:
The cost of tearing down and rebuilding [a home] will be about 20% higher than engaging in an extensive whole-house renovation. But the architectural benefits of tearing down and working with a clean slate can be huge: Better fundamental architectural design, all new systems, clean circulation, high quality windows, new and efficient heating and cooling systems, tall ceilings, and space designed for your personal living patterns.
Special Considerations: Renovating vs. Reconstruction
The amount of money you will need to spend isn’t the only thing you need to think about when you are considering the true cost to rebuild a house. You also need to think about any special hurdles that you need to jump over in order to rebuild your home and whether they are worth the effort.
These are things like:
Organizations like homeowners associations can greatly impact your ability to tear down and rebuild your home. Combine that with local zoning laws and you could find yourself and your team needing to cut through a lot of red tape.
Before you begin demolition, make sure that reconstruction isn’t going to be a logistical nightmare, even if you can afford it financially.
If you live in a historic building (think like a Brooklyn Brownstone or a Victorian in Maine), your home might not be entirely yours to demolish. If there is any sort of cultural significance attached to your home, renovation might be your only legal option.