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What to Expect Series: Session 5: The Details of Demolition

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

When embarking on a large renovation, there is usually some demolition involved. While this stage can sometimes happen quite quickly, there are some situations where it can be delayed and the cost can increase. As interior designers, we do not deal with the demolition ourselves, rather, that is the responsibility of your General Contractor.

We are grateful to Quadrant Construction for sharing their knowledge with us in this blog post on Demolition and Asbestos Removal.


Most often the first stage of any construction project is demolition which  involves the destruction and removal of all elements that will not remain after the renovation. Often this means removing all old and unwanted items such as countertops, cabinets, drywall, flooring, windows, fireplaces and surrounds, exterior siding, etc. If items are in good shape, they can often be sold or donated to a building supply store like Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

As designers, we will often choose to keep some of these elements to add back into the design later. For instance, on one of our current projects, we saved some lighting and cabinet hardware to add back in to the new design. Old plus new can equal unique character elements that are truly one of a kind.

Demolition is a very dusty, dirty, and loud stage of the job. It is important to set up barriers (plastic or wood) to reduce dust/debris transfer to areas that are not in the scope of work.

Some clients want to get involved in this process for different reasons:

  1. Cost savings (depending on the complication factors of demolition as outlined below)

  2. Really hating an old feature of their house, they want to get revenge on it. (Those ugly cabinets that you have hated for years? Imagine how good it would feel to smash them!)

Of course, homeowners are also welcome to stay out of this process completely; many opt to move out entirely during the renovation process (See What to Expect Series: Session 1: Planning your Renovation Before the Renovation Starts for more details on moving out during your renovation). 

Below are a few of the complicating factors of demolition that can add a bit more cost and time to your project.


Ahh the dreaded “A” word… No one wants to hear that their home has asbestos, but it can be a pretty common thing to uncover in older homes built between 1945 and 1990. It doesn’t need to stop your project in its tracks as long as you have a competent General Contractor who can walk you through the process.

Examples of common Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) are:

  1. Drywall compound

  2. Ceiling stipple

  3. Attic insulation

  4. Linoleum

  5. Exterior stucco

The first step is to take a sample of the material and have it tested by a qualified professional.

This is not an opportunity for a do-it-yourself moment.

If asbestos is found in any material,  the contractor is required by Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) to hire a qualified subcontractor to remove all ACM according to OH&S regulations and standards. This is to protect the staff working in these conditions day-in and day-out and to protect the public as well as the homeowner. Once all the ACM are removed, demolition can continue.


It would be great to just be able to smash and demolish with no care in the world, however,  there are important things to know structurally in your space before doing so. Load bearing structures need to be identified before demolition and if the design plan calls to remove a load bearing structure, engineering is required. 

A qualified contractor will not remove any load bearing structures without a plan in place to reinforce your house first.  

Examples of load bearing structural changes are:

  1. Removing load bearing walls

  2. Remove teleposts in basements

  3. Changing roof lines.

  4. Enlarging windows both above and below grade

The safety of you and your family is dependant on your home’s structure, so it is important to trust the professionals on this one and set aside time for the building structure to be determined prior to knocking any walls down.


Another important consideration to structure is moving plumbing fixtures (i.e. toilets, showers etc).  Sometimes moving these items requires changing or reinforcing floor joists. A qualified contractor will be experienced in this and will not compromise the structure of your home when relocating plumbing fixtures.

Often, in older homes with old cast iron plumbing pipes underneath the basement slab (ground works), it is necessary to remove sections of the basement concrete slab in order to replace old or defective sewer lines.  

This type of demolition should be performed as one of the first steps in a project.  Although replacing the groundworks does not add to the overall aesthetics to a basement renovation, it prevents future demolition of your finished basement in order to correct defective groundworks.


While demolition is not always an exciting step in the process, it is important to get it right to ensure your renovation is off to a good start. A qualified contractor will take their time to ensure that the above factors are considered prior to starting the demolition. If you have any questions about demolition, or hiring a general contractor, contact our friends at Quadrant Construction.


Next week we are tackling the framing phase and what this means for timelines, decision changes and visualizing your final renovation.


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