Updated February 17, 2023
Old buildings can become an eyesore. What once was a beautiful structure has since become somewhat of a burden.
So, what do you do with it?
Demolishing old buildings comes with both advantages and disadvantages, and to help you decide if tearing down an old building is your best option, we’re going to lay it all out for you.
- What Makes a Building "Historic"
- Advantages to Old Building Demolition
- Disadvantages to Old Building Demolition
- Who to Hire for Demolition
What Makes an Old Building “Historic?”
First and foremost, a distinction should be made between “old buildings” and “historic buildings,” because they are not always one and the same.
An old building is just that: an old building. How old? Well, that’s relative to who you’re asking.
A historic building, on the other hand, is an old building deemed worthy of preservation for its historical significance by the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
Generally speaking, a historic building is at least 50 years old, but it’s also significant to the community, state, or country in some way, shape, or form.
To become listed as a “historic building,” private individuals/organizations, local governments, and American Indian tribes seeking to protect the property are generally the ones who get the ball rolling.
Determining which buildings qualify as “historic” requires research from NRHP.
With that said, being listed does not necessarily protect a building from being demolished, but cities around the country are actively working to minimize demolitions of homes on the NRHP register.
Advantages to Demolishing an Old Building
Demolishing a property of historic value can be a difficult decision to make, but sometimes it's the right choice when the situation warrants it.
When the building is a threat to the public, removing it increases safety and property values.
If a historic building is a fire hazard, contains asbestos, or is causing other issues, then removing it is in the public’s best interest.
In a situation like this, obtaining approval from the city for its demolition shouldn’t be too challenging.
Removing a property that is dangerous or otherwise tough to look at can actually increase the value of the properties around it.
After all, no one wants to live next door to a building that is dangerous or tough to look at.
When the land could be used beneficially, removing the building would make way for that.
Demolishing an old building or a structure of historic value is also advantageous if the land could be used in a way that is more beneficial to the community.
This could range from a local park to a community garden, or a new house.
If the building is inoperable and could be replaced by another, more useful building or space, then your city may be willing to approve your demolition and grant you a permit.
- To Demolish or Not to Demolish: Historic Properties
- Demolition 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Demo
- Should I Demolish and Rebuild or Renovate My House?
Disadvantages to Demolishing an Old Building
When the building is redeemable, you’re demolishing a piece of history.
A lot of people believe that demolishing a property of historic significance is just plain wrong and akin to destroying a piece of history.
After all, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
If a historic property can be restored, redeeming it is almost always preferable to demolishing it and rebuilding.
Once restored, a historic property can be used in a new way that benefits and enriches the community, like as a museum, wedding venue, local attraction, etc.
When others want to preserve the building, you will face a long-winded battle.
Not to mention, demolishing a historic building is arduous, and getting approval to do so can be a long-winded process that’s met with opposition from those in favor of preserving historic buildings.
While the building itself may not be of historical significance, the district in which it sits may have special demolition requirements that need to be followed. Visit your city’s building office or refer to the NRHP to determine your area’s requirements.
Who to Hire for Old Building Demolition
Don't hire just anyone to handle your demolition (or remodel).
Trust Hometown to help you find the best pro for the job.
Browse local companies, read customer reviews, and request demolition quotes from qualified contractors in your area with the click of a button.
We'll send your project quote request to as many as three qualified contractors in your area, so there's no need to spend time manually sending the same request to multiple contractors.
Requesting quotes from multiple local pros helps to ensure you pay a fair price for your project while getting great customer service, too.