It’s Demo Day in Santa Monica


There’s always a lot of excitement when we’re starting a new project and we’re particularly excited about this new home we’re building in beautiful Downtown Santa Monica, a block from the beach.


Demoing the existing property for a new custom home in Santa Monica


Before construction, foundation or even grading can be started on the home we have to tear down the existing property to make way for our new build. Because of the lack of undeveloped land in Southern California, it’s almost a given that homebuilders are confronted with the decision of whether to remodel an existing property, do a partial tear down (leaving at least part of the foundation and potentially some of the structure) or tear a home down to the dirt and start from scratch.

While starting from scratch may sound like it’s more work, it often can be the best choice. It may seem like having some of the structure in place would reduce the work and create savings, but it almost always causes headaches in the build process as you add on to the old structure. It’s like trying to build a new home with an old home in the way. But it all depends on the needs and vision of the homeowner, and the shape of the existing home.

In this case we are building a new modern-style home designed by long-time partner, Jeanette Architects, so the old property had to go.


Project Manager, Trevor surveying the debris pile


This is our process for how James David Custom Homes goes about demoing a home.

Before we can start anything else our first step is to have the existing property inspected. This lets us know what we are dealing with when it comes to the home demolition—how much of the structure is wood vs. concrete or cinderblock. Are there any steel beams, or even a basement? All this will determine what we need to anticipate in the demolition and how much it will cost.

Next we acquire any necessary permits with the city and have all utilities disconnected.

Leading up to the demolition our project manager, in this case Trevor, goes door to door and informs the neighbors of the project to help mitigate any concerns they have. There’s no way getting around it—having a home built next door is always at least a little intrusive and we go the extra mile to give our clients the best shot possible at starting relationships with their new neighbors off on the right foot.

We also want to make sure everyone in the neighborhood stays safe, and because this demolition involved removing a retaining wall adjacent to the sidewalk we made sure to block of the sidewalk for 100 ft. in each direction to divert foot traffic.

Before demolition begins we contact the utilities companies to come out and mark their lines so that they are not damaged during the demolition and grading process, and Trevor also put together a demolition plan for how to access the property with the excavator, how to deal with more nuanced problems (removing a tree that was overhanging a neighbors fence and a retaining wall that was supporting a neighbors property).


Team goes over details of migrating debris off the property


The day of the project we come together for a safety briefing and start demo!

The first step in this project was gaining access to the structure that required tearing down a retaining wall. Once that was completed, we were able to rip right into tearing down the structure.

To make sure we are as environmentally friendly as possible, and keep any impact on neighbors to a minimum one of our team members makes sure to spray water on the structure to keep dust from flying billowing up into the atmosphere and landing on neighbor’s homes.


A team member sprays down the structure and debris to keep dust down.


Despite having the home inspected there is always a chance of surprises, and this home was no exception. We were about 20 minutes into demolition when we found that a large portion of the home was built with cinderblock rather that wood framing as the inspection indicated. Luckily, we came with the big guns (a full sized excavator) so the cinderblock walls posed little threat and we went on as planned—with our excavator making quick work of the structure and bringing it all down to the ground in a matter of a few hours.


Excavator ripping through wood-framed and cinderblock walls.


Once the home and detached garage were completely demoed, the final step in this process was to clear and load the debris for removal.

It’s always impressive to see how fast a demolition can take place. It can take years to build a new home, and it only takes a day to demo one!

Stay tuned for updates on this home and we’ll be back with our next video and post soon.

James David Custom Homes