Replacing a countertop. Should you demolish it yourself to save money before the contractor comes in

From on June 02, 2009 in Light Construction

kitchencounter.jpgPhoto credit: Fazimoto

Lowering the cost of remodeling can be accomplished through an agreement called sweat equity. The property owner can do grunt work on small demolition jobs. This is a good money-saving idea for the homeowner. But be aware that entering into an agreement like this can ruffle the feathers of any contractor. It lowers the cost of the project and cuts into the contractor’s bottom line. Treat any demolition job as the most important phase of the project, even if it’s something like a kitchen countertop and cabinets. If it’s not done correctly the whole scheme of things can be delayed or hindered.

Make detailed inspections

You want to avoid surprises. Before knocking down the kitchen cabinets or bathroom wall, try to figure out what’s inside. There could be dangerous asbestos, electrical wiring, water pipes, or a gas line. Just as an example, several years ago our family contractor was remodeling our bathroom. It required a wall to be knocked down. At first glance he believed the wall was made of wood framing and drywall. Easy, right? To his complete shock, he found out most of the wall was made of concrete. Rather than two days for demolition, it took a week. This ended up costing him more time, more labor, and a real sore back. The bathroom turned out great, but I think he only broke even on the project.

Make time for demolition

Determine how much time is needed to tear down the wall or ceiling and then stay on that schedule. The demo project is all you’ll be able to accomplish in that time frame. Don’t try and do other things around the demolition. Make sure you stay on this one single task until it’s finished. Otherwise, the rest of the project can’t be completed.

Separate rooms with plastic

This room needs to be sectioned off and sealed with plastic sheet. If there’s too much dust and debris flying around, protect the rest of the house and the occupants. Workers should always wear dust masks and protective eye wear. For bigger demolitions, invest in a rolloff dumpster and continue to pick up as you go along.

Have the right tools

You’ll obviously need the proper tools for the demolition. It’s not out of the question to use a jackhammer for some projects, but that can be rented out. Other staple items to have on hand are crowbars, pry bars, claw hammers, and a sledge hammer. Never wear sneakers; boots are good, along with disposable coveralls and gloves.