Most articles about finding a professional demolition contractor are the same. They cover the following points:
- You should look at the contractor’s safety record using OSHA’s database.
- You should look at reviews and listen to testimonials from people who have worked with the contractor.
- Check that the contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured.
- Ensure that the contractor has experience with the kind of demolition you’re doing.
We’ve written an article or two about these topics. When a property owner is looking for a demolition company, it’s essential to know the basics.
In this article, though, we’re going to get a little more specific, covering some of the challenges regarding demolition in the nation’s capital. You can then use this information to vet demolition contractors in the area—along with all of the classic vetting tools we listed above.
Let’s dive in:
Understanding Washington’s Building & Demolition Code
In Washington, DC, demolitions are broadly broken down into two categories: Demolitions (where some of the structure remains) and razes (in which all of the structure is removed, though the foundation or a party wall may remain). Both you and your demolition contractor must know whether the demolition you’re conducting qualifies as a raze or a regular demolition.
Permits are obtained through the Department of Buildings, though, as you’ll soon see, the Department of Planning also plays an important role in permitting. These rules apply whether your demolition project is a home demolition or a commercial demolition.
Washington’s Historical Districts & Buildings
To say that buildings in Washington are historically significant is an understatement; this is, after all, our nation’s capital.
As a result, all raze permit applications must be cleared by the Historic Preservation Office (HPO). This rule applies regardless of whether or not the building being razed is historic (though the review process is different for historic and non-historic properties). The logic is simple: the demolition of non-historic properties still poses a risk to historic properties.
It’s important to find a contractor who has experience working in the District—specifically, you’ll want to find a contractor with a track record of creating plans with built-in safety measures to protect historic properties.
Demolition in the Suburbs of Washington, DC
Washington is surrounded by densely populated suburbs. These suburbs fall out of the jurisdiction of Washington’s Department of Buildings; some are found in Virginia, others in Maryland.
It’s essential to find a demolition contractor who is aware of the demolition codes in your county. Ideally, contractors advertising work in DC should also be licensed in Maryland and Virginia. Knowing the building codes of surrounding counties will expedite permitting and improve the demolition process.
Demolition in Densely Populated Areas
Washington, DC, is quite densely populated, and some of the surrounding suburbs are among the most densely populated places in the United States. This means demolition must be conducted carefully. Demolition contractors may need to:
- Contact the Department of Transportation for road closures
- Contact utility suppliers to find sensitive utilities and disconnect utilities
- Build structures like platforms and barriers to protect residents
- Take action to mitigate pollution, including noise pollution and dust pollution
- And more
As such, it’s important to find a contractor accustomed to working in densely populated areas. Furthermore, you’ll want to find a contractor who has a working relationship with all of the departments and utility providers in the area.
There are several factors that make Washington, DC, a more challenging place to stage demolitions—that’s why you need a demolition contractor in Washington, DC, who has a wealth of experience staging complex demolitions.
Other demolition services to look for include:
- Heavy demolition (the use of heavy machinery in demolition)
- Green demolition and sustainable practices
- Experience with asbestos removal
When looking at demolition companies, ask them about everything we’ve discussed in this article, as well as the standard questions about experience, cost, timeline, and more. By doing so, you’ll find the right D.C. demolition contractor for your project.