Bobcat skid steer on site

Choosing a demolition contractor

Choosing a demolition contractor might sound like a daunting prospect. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be!

In this comprehensive post, we’ll give you all the info you’ll ever need on how to choose the right demolition contractor.

Get comfortable because there are several considerations you must keep in mind. Ready? Let’s go!

Demolition pricing 

Many people assume that price is the only consideration that matters. 

Of course, main contractors, construction companies and homeowners all want competitive rates from the companies they appoint. 

However, in commercial demolition, the decision-makers do not necessarily award demolition contracts to the cheapest bidders. 

On the other hand, demolition contractors that price bills too cheaply run the genuine risk of going out of business – even on their very first job. 

Pricing a demolition bill appropriately is a skill that requires experience, a good understanding of the job at hand and cognisance of the competitive landscape.

Our advice is to shop around and get a few quotes for comparative purposes. 

If you’re a project manager, quantity surveyor or estimator, you should send your Bill of Quantities to as many potential candidates as possible for review.

dismantling a steel structure in City Deep Johannesburg

While the rates charged by contractors play a big part in the decision to use them or not, you should also pay close attention to the following:

How much experience the contractor has

As is the case with most industries, practical experience counts for a lot. 

And because there is no formal qualification for demolition work in South Africa, real-world experience tends to separate the amateurs from the pros.

Now read: Demolition Requires Experts

Working experience is especially crucial in demolition since no two jobs are ever the same in scope or complexity.

Many decisions and processes made on-site are the results of intuition.

Serge Wiggill and the Turnkey Demolishers team on site

To which industry associations and membership bodies the contractor belongs

Top contractors in South Africa belong to various reputable organisations like the Construction Industry Development Board, the Sub-contractors Association and Master Builder’s South Africa. 

What the status is of their paperwork

Professional demolition contractors have their medical certificates, safety files and tax affairs in order. 

They possess a valid Letter of Good Standing. These are the minimum requirements.

What relevant certifications/standards they meet

The best demolition contractors meet different ISO standards, such as ISO 9001. 

They might also have a NOSA-integrated HSE System in place and use a working OHS Management System.

What the demolition contractor’s capabilities and areas of specialisation are

Demolition jobs like implosions and asbestos removal require specialised knowledge to complete.  Not all demolition contractors are qualified to do these jobs. 

You’ll need to ascertain if the job requires hazardous materials removal, transport and disposal, and hire accordingly.

If tall buildings or thick, reinforced concrete requires breaking, determine if the demolition contractor you plan to use has to access to the appropriate pneumatic / hydraulic breakers, excavators and cutting tools. 

What the demolition contractor’s attitude towards safety is

Safety in demolition needs to be more than a verbal commitment made in toolbox talks. It has to form part of the chosen contractor’s culture.

The best contractors in the country have strong leadership that espouses the importance of personal safety at all times. Training should be ongoing in this regard, too. 

Your chosen contractor should be continually improving their processes and operating procedures to become even safer.

demolition contractors on site

The demolition contractor’s approach towards waste management and waste materials

Demolition contractors have a responsibility to perform their work in an environmentally-responsible manner.

It’s a good idea to establish from the contractor how they plan to sort, transport and dispose of waste materials. Illegal dumping is a massive problem in South Africa. 

Choose demolition contractors that have a solid plan to deal with waste.

Who the contractor has worked with previously

The best contractors have experience working with many construction companies, developers and architects on a wide variety of different projects.

Look for positive customer testimonials, Google reviews and other positive recommendations, endorsements and referrals.

What tools and equipment the contractor uses and the state they’re in

The last thing you want is a contractor who uses faulty and unsafe tools and equipment that breaks down all the time.

The right demolition contractor always has additional tools and equipment on hand. In demolition, tools and equipment break frequently. 

Establish what the contractor’s contingency plan/s is/are for this reality.

The ability the contractor has to innovate and think on their feet

Demolition projects seldom go entirely to script. How the demolition contractor deals with this fact matters.

Sometimes routine tasks have to be performed in different ways, using non-conventional equipment.

Sometimes, more or less human resources than initially anticipated are required. Other times, the order in which jobs occur must change on a whim. 

You need a company that can think ahead, adapt to changes and solve problems on the spot. 

dismantling and demolition

The knowledge the contractor has of pricing bills and estimates

As we eluded to earlier, the ability to price a demolition job correctly comes from years of experience.

Ask yourself if the service provider has a logical means to arrive at the prices they charge. 

Do they have a formula that makes sense? Do their prices add up? Are they thumb-sucking or taking a chance with their rates? 

The majority of contractors tendering for the same work should price the job within a small percentage of one another. If this is not the case, something is off.

TLB demolishing at King David School

How efficiently the contractor performs the tasks required of them

Standing time is a big concern for all parties in demolition. All projects have deadlines and time-frames.

Leading contractors are not plagued by costly idle time because they think ahead. They instinctively know what equipment to use, how many people to deploy, and the most effective means to tackle tasks. 

They know how long each job should take to complete. When tasks are taking too long, they make changes on-the-fly to speed things up without increasing risk.

When acquiring referrals, try to establish what your contractor’s timekeeping record is.

To what extent the contractor maintains good housekeeping and tidies their work area/s

Demolition sites are notoriously dusty, noisy environments. Good demolishers don’t add unnecessary trip/fall hazards to the site.

Contractors that keep their work areas clean are naturally more efficient and safer than those that don’t. And leaving the work area clean and tidy after completion not only shows pride in one’s work, it reduces the likelihood of complaints and callbacks too.

The skill level of the company’s equipment and tool operators

Knowing what tools to use is one thing; getting the best out of them is quite another.

Highly trained demolition contractors work faster, salvage more materials, and increase their equipment’s operating lives.

The best companies train their staff continuously and send them to refresher courses regularly.

Their attitude towards using and wearing appropriate safety gear

When on-site, demolition workers must wear safety goggles, gloves, hardhats, reflective vests and steel-capped boots at a minimum. 

They should never operate tools like grinders, pneumatic jackhammers and skid-steer loaders without safety goggles, gloves and earplugs.

When working at heights or on scaffolding, the use of quality safety harnesses should be a given.

Any demolition worker that works without adequate personal protective gear is reckless and a danger to themselves and others. Company owners should intervene and stop bad habits like these from being emulated.

demolishers in action

How they handle unplanned delays and interruptions

The best contractors are hardworking, dedicated and love the work they do. They do not baulk at the idea of working extra hours, during the evenings or over weekends.

They put in the hours to make up lost time and get the job done on time and within budget.

To what extent they maintain their vehicles, tools and equipment

Equipment that is not maintained breaks down and causes delays. While it is unrealistic to expect your contractor to work with brand new equipment and shiny tools every time, they should also not be in a state of complete disrepair.

The leading contractors replace broken/faulty equipment and machinery within hours, not days or weeks.

Wrapping up

As you can see, there are numerous things to consider when trying to choose a demolisher. We hope this article has helped you decide.

Now we want to know from you: What else do you consider essential? What do you think is the single most important criteria when choosing a demolition company?