Unwelcome Surprises During A Demolition

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By Joanna Jefferies

Demolition disaster stories are common, but is there a way of avoiding disaster before embarking on the demolition phase of your home?  The answer is, not entirely, according to Refresh Rodney’s Rob McEwan, “You just don’t know what’s behind the walls.”

The other thing to remember is that your builder can’t simply cover up any damage they find. “If there are issues with the framing or wiring, by law we can’t pretend that we never saw it,” says Rob. However, it’s very rare that any damage found can’t be fixed and it’s important to keep that in mind when you embark on the demolition phase of a renovation.

How to spot an issue inside the house

Inside the house, a range of issues can arise, including structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and rodent or insect damage. But it’s important not to be scared off of renovating, as all of these issues can be addressed and remedied.

In the interior of any house, the most common issue is water damage. This could be from a shower leak, a leak from a toilet or dishwasher, or a roof leak. Leaks most commonly damage sub-floor areas (or in the case of roofs, roofing timber and plaster ceiling and wall sheets). Let your Refresh contractor know that you want to have the parts of the property that are being renovated inspected before demolition, to attempt to spot any damage before embarking on the demolition process. This may involve inspecting ceilings, wall linings, underfloor and ceiling cavities where possible. If you have more knowledge of what you’re dealing with then you can try to build this into your budget. However, any structural damage (such as dry rot in timber beams) that has been recovered with new plasterboard, for example, is unlikely to be discovered prior to demolition.

Additionally, Rob says you can take your preparation a step further by having a thermal reading done of the house in advance – “It can prep you for the worst” – therefore picking up any signs of moisture inside the house before demolition. Rob particularly recommends this for plaster houses with non-cavity walls.

How to spot an issue outside the house

While a rotten weatherboard is fairly easy to spot and track to its source, it’s often the unseen that can throw up unexpected budget blowouts and delays to your renovation. Excavations are a key area where this can arise. So, if you’re installing a pool or digging foundations for an extension, then it will pay to have your Refresh consultant check with local excavators to find out the typical issues they come across in your location. There could be anything from peat to swamp kauri lurking beneath the surface, so if you have this knowledge then you will be better prepared.

When issues are found, it usually means further fill or more serious piling will be required, and while your budget may take a hit, it’s very rare that an issue can’t be remedied.

When your house isn’t up to code

Another aspect of demolition that can be a pain in the neck, is discovering that old parts of your house need to brought up to current building code levels. This can be a costly exercise, with additional bracing or structural strengthening being a common upgrade to older structures.

It’s worth having a conversation about upgrading existing structures with your Refresh consultant to understand what may be involved.

Do I need a contingency plan?

Not only can demolition surprises impact on your budget, they can also impact on your timeline too, so it’s crucial to build a contingency into your renovation budget and timeline, says Rob. Your Refresh consultant is well-placed to understand what may be involved in your project and Rob says he always gives a likely scenario and a worst-case scenario. In his budgeting, he “always errs on the high side as there’s always going to be surprises and changes”. Building this contingency into the budget means demolition disasters are simply taken into account in the renovation process, making it a much smoother process for his clients.

Get in touch

If you want further information on budgeting, see our advice section or speak to your local Refresh consultant.

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