Yard 101: Demolition

Dealing with Someone Else’s Choice

“When you buy a house, you’re taking over someone else’s gardening choices.”

Sean Newman said that to me recently – actually Danielle – when we were recording a video. It’s a point you should consider, and one I had not. “You spend all of the time and money thinking about the inside of your house without necessarily considering the outside.” That was Danielle’s a-ha moment post-Sean comment.

Better late than never.

Other than having a yard we had given no though to this part of the backyard.

That might be a slight exaggeration. Danielle hated the concrete and the two sheds from sight. Danielle’s half-brother Danny said it best in his thick Queens accent about the shed, “You’re going to blow this up, right?” However, it was far down on our list of house improvements. Far down the list even though the shed with the green door had a wooden floor that was a termite buffet waiting to happen.

It a a literal sunk cost. It’s a painful moment where you recognize demoing is expensive and there is no way around it.

When to Demo

Demo can be a huge part of a budget. In our case, $6,000 of our budget that we could not get around that included ripping up 8 inches of concrete and tearing down a shed.

It was consistent with every budge estimate and that did not include the likely-hood of asbestos behind the shed on the house. Our house was built in 1941, which gave a greater than small chance that there would be a surprise lurking in those rotting board.

I’m not trying to scare you, though sage advice about any house is, “Fear tearing down anything since you really have no idea what’s behind it.”

What was not obvious that was to demo after before design. This may seem obvious, though the first designer told me we could demo and then figure out what to put in after. If that sounds like it makes no sense it is because it is a bad idea.

Why Demoing Before Design is a Bad Idea

See the massive double-door shed in the picture? If we got rid of that shed without knowing what exactly would replace it then we most likely would have had sod laid over where the shed stood. Fair enough. Except when we put in a new shed, we would have had to rip up the sod to lay a concrete foundation.

Same with getting rid of the shed with the green door against the house. That footprint of the green shed was at different times during the design phase a raised deck, part of the house we’d expand, a stone patio or a location for a hammock.

There is a huge budget difference between hammock ($100) and expanding a house (more than I care to talk about)

The Moral of the Story

“Trees and gardens are easy to change. Try moving a shed fifteen feet and that means there was a bad idea.”

Again that was Sean and again it was salient advice. You can get caught up in forcing an idea.

Three final thoughts:

  1. Figure out where you want to go before you start your adventure of getting there.
  2. You will receive some bad advice. It’s unfortunate it will happen and when I asked the first Designer why we would demo and lay sod across everything and then tear it up his response was, “It gives you a full palette to deal with.”

    A valid point. Though not cost or environmentally effective.

  3. Put something in that you will love even if it costs a bit

Your demo work is the first step to your own gardening choices and should not break the bank. After all there are plenty of other ways to break your bank, like a Hobbit House. Though I’m getting ahead of myself there.

Have a happy day.