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The Cost of Tearing Down and Demolishing a House

August 30th, 2023

By Sofia Alonso

4 min read

Construction Site of New Modern Custom Home Development by AV Architects and Builders in Great Falls Northern Virginia

If you have been thinking about building a new home in Northern Virginia, you may be concerned at the lack of available vacant land to build on. It’s true, the inventory of vacant land may be low in this area, but the fact of the matter is that you do not need vacant land to build a new home. 

There are plenty of teardown lots in this area that are very suitable for building and actually will generally cost less to build on when compared to a vacant piece of land. Many people assume that a vacant piece of land will cost less to build on than a lot with an existing structure on it due to the cost of demolishing the existing house, but this is a common misconception. 

The cost of tearing down and demolishing an existing house is actually not as much as people think and in the grand scheme of a new build, it is a minimal expense. This misconception often leads to misunderstandings about the true costs associated with construction. 

At AV Architects + Builders we have been designing and building homes across the Northern Virginia area for over 20 years so we have worked with many clients to acquire and develop lots to be suitable for construction.

In this article, we will break down the real expenses of demolishing a house and preparing a site for new construction, shedding light on the various factors that influence these costs.

How Much Does Demolishing a House Cost?

People often think that demolishing a house is an exorbitantly expensive endeavor. While it's true that significant costs are involved, the actual expenses may not be as astronomical as commonly believed. Contrary to the perception that demolishing a house can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, the cost is typically within the $15,000 to $20,000 range, making it a substantial but feasible expense for those planning to build a new home. This amount covers the demolition itself, site clearance, and removal of debris, making it a manageable part of the overall project budget.

Expert Tip! We suggest our clients use a deconstruction company like Second Chance during the demolition for a good cause and an opportunity for a tax write-off. When you donate to Second Chance they reuse and repurpose the materials in new and different ways in an attempt to reduce waste and divert items from landfills.

How Long Does it Take to Demolish a House?

It's important to note that not all houses are created equal. Most existing homes in Northern Virginia, especially those built before the 1970s, tend to be smaller, single-story structures with minimal or no basements. These homes, often referred to as ramblers, are relatively straightforward to demolish. In many cases, it takes as little as three days to tear down and clear the site completely.

Why is a Teardown Lot Cheaper to Build on than Vacant Land?

A teardown lot is cheaper to build on than vacant land because it requires fewer site costs to prepare and develop the lot to build on. 

One of the benefits of building a new home on a lot with a teardown is that the property typically already has access to utilities. All we need to do is disconnect the existing utilities, tear down the existing house, build the new house, and reconnect the utilities. 

Teardown lots with existing houses on them typically have a cleared home site where the existing structure stands. This means that the area is generally cleared of trees and foundation is already dug for the footprint of the existing house, reducing the amount of dirt removal and excavation required for the new build. 

Generally, an empty undeveloped piece of land is more expensive to build on than a lot with an existing house on it. 

This is because undeveloped land typically requires more extensive site work to prepare the property for construction. Some of this site work may include clearing trees off the property, creating a driveway, excavating, and bringing utilities to the site. All of that potential site work is collectively more expensive than the demolition of an existing teardown. 

Site costs do not have a set price and can vary depending on the condition, size, and location of the lot, but we have seen them range from 10% to 20% of the total construction cost.

For example: if your construction cost is $1,000,000 you can expect site costs to range from $100,000 to $200,000. 

It's essential to understand these elements in order to plan and budget for your project effectively.

What are Examples of Site Costs?


  1. Adjusting the Grade: Sometimes, it's necessary to bring in dirt to adjust the property's grade. This is especially true if you're closing up a pool or eliminating a basement from the new design.

  2. Dirt Removal: Excavated dirt needs to be transported to an appropriate site, which can cost between $10,000 to $30,000 depending on the volume of dirt.

  3. Creating a Driveway: The cost of building a driveway depends on its size, shape, and whether it's a new installation or reusing an existing one.

  4. Utilities: Utilities such as well water, septic systems, gas, and electricity need to be factored in. For example, drilling a well and conducting a well test are necessary for private well water systems. Depending on the property's location, you may need to connect to natural gas lines or install a propane tank for heating and appliances.

  5. Construction Entrance: Creating a proper entrance for construction vehicles is crucial for site access and safety.

  6. Tree Removal: Removing trees that obstruct the construction site can cost around $30,000, but this cost can vary depending on local regulations and the size of the lot.

  7. Landscaping: Basic landscaping costs can add up, while extensive landscaping with irrigation systems and outdoor lighting can be a substantial expense.

  8. Stormwater Management: Managing stormwater through infiltration trenches or planter boxes is essential and can vary in cost based on the lot's size and regulations.

  9. Resource Protection Area (RPA): If your property is near an RPA, it may impact site costs and restrict certain activities to protect the environment.

  10. Pool and Pool Deck: Installing a pool and its accompanying deck can range from $200,000 to $400,000 or more, depending on the size and complexity of the project.

Understanding the costs associated with tearing down and demolishing a house, as well as the cost of site preparation and development, is crucial for anyone planning a construction project. While the demolition cost itself is relatively manageable, the various site costs can significantly impact your overall budget. It's essential to work closely with builders and architects to accurately estimate and plan for these expenses to ensure a successful and construction project that stays in your budget. 



9903 Georgetown Pike Suite 201
Great Falls, VA 22066
(703) 865-5065