Demolishing a house; what you need to know

October 20, 2016

For anyone who is thinking about knocking down their home to rebuild a new one should be aware that there are a few steps and a lot of planning that goes into demolishing a house or building. As tempting as it may be, you can’t go ahead with tearing down walls without first putting a few things into place.

Even though the whole demolition process is usually really fast – completely finished within a day or two – it doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a lot of background work that has been put in to the lead up to demolition. So before you even organise the skip hire ready to haul away the building waste materials, first take a look at this checklist:

Permits and documents

For some building plans you may discover that you need a planning permit first. Check with your local council and apply for a DA if necessary. No matter what though, you will always need a building permit if you are undertaking any form of construction work. You will need to have your building permit in place before anything begins, even demolition. This is because as part of the building permit it will cover all demolition permissions. You can only be issued a building permit after you’ve received DA approval. It can take a fortnight to receive the final building permit after getting all of your other paperwork in place.

To apply for your building permit, you will need some documents together. Depending on which state you are in, the types of documents will vary, but you may need things such as the title for the property and a site plan of the existing building.

One last permit you may need to apply for is a tree removal permit. If there is a tree that you need to remove for whatever reasons before you start building, you’ll have to obtain the permit from your local council.


When your permits are in place and you are getting close to building it is time to organise cutting your services. This is called abolishment of services and is different to simply having the service disconnected. It means having the complete removal of the service – such as the metering and servicing assets on the property.

Contact your gas provider to have the gas meter abolished and your electricity provider to have the electricity meter abolished. The demolition team won’t be able to start any work until this has been carried out.


It is up to the owner of the property to organise temporary fencing before the demolition begins. This fencing will need to remain in place until the entire building job has finished. You may need to secure your neighbours site as well as your own. You’ll need to contact a company who erects these fences and have them installed before any of the contractors can commence work.


If you think you might have asbestos in the existing home that is being demolished, you will need to proceed with caution. You are required to give the council notice before you begin the removal process. You will also need to discuss the possibility of asbestos with the demolition team well in advance as it will change their approach to how they demolish the house as well as how they dispose of the waste. For example, most skip bin companies won’t allow asbestos to be thrown into their bins. The demolition company will also charge a premium for the safe removal of the asbestos and at the completion of the job they need to obtain a certificate that shows the removal has been carried out within strict guidelines governed by the Environment Protection Authority.

If you are unsure if you have asbestos, you can have someone come and check for you. You will likely find it if you have a weather board house that was built before 1984, or a fibro house. It can also be found in roof tiles, corrugated cement roofing, sprayed insulation, vinyl floor tiles or coverings, texture paint, artificial brick cladding or flexible building boards.

Check below the surface

If your demolition or construction requires any excavation work you can call a hotline to find out if there are any underground pipes or cables on your land that you need to be aware of when digging. They will also help you by giving information and advice about how to work safely around pipes and cables. The information usually comes back within two days of enquiry and you will receive the location of any pipes that you need to avoid.

Last of all, don’t forget to warn your neighbours, especially if you’re planning to stay in the new home for some time. If you had to get DA approval then your neighbours should be well aware of what is happening already, but it is a good idea to give them a heads up about when to expect the demolition to begin. It will be very noisy and dusty for a few days, and they will need to put up with the construction fencing and skip bin deliveries until the project is finished.