knock down rebuild

The Knock Down Rebuild Process: What Does It Entail?

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Buying any property, regardless of its type, can be a significant decision. However, if you’ve ever pondered purchasing a run-down property, you’ve likely realized how far more intensive the decision-making process can be. 

Not only must you decide how much you want to spend on the deal, but you must also consider whether you want to renovate it or knock it down and rebuild it. Any prospective property buyer can consider the following information before proceeding with their purchase. 

Property Significance

When you’re trying to answer that all-important ‘knock down rebuild’ question, ask yourself whether your home is of any historical significance or has architectural features that can be important to maintain. Determining whether your home has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places can also be important. This register aims to protect America’s historic and archeological resources. 

While unlikely that your run-down, poorly-maintained property sits on a register or has any historical relevance, you won’t know with certainty unless you start researching. Tick this task off your to-do list before bringing in the demolition team. 

Property Problems

If you’re even considering whether renovating a house or knocking it down is your best option, the property is likely in a considerable state of disrepair beyond what a fresh coat of paint can fix. Considering your property’s issues can sometimes make the decision-making process much easier. 

Hire a property inspector to thoroughly audit your home to learn everything wrong with it from the bottom to the top – and even out to the street with sewer lines scan. This will help flag potential future issues. Property inspectors are trained to identify both significant and minor issues and can provide you with a property report that functions as a maintenance guide. 

Starting from scratch can sometimes make the most sense if you or an inspector have identified significant issues like termite damage, flood damage, fire damage, or foundation problems. If there are no major issues beyond cosmetic ones that you can easily remedy, renovation can sometimes be a more cost-effective and straightforward solution. 


Cost is perhaps one of the most significant considerations when deciding whether renovation or rebuilding is the best option for you. The per-square-foot renovation cost can depend on many factors, such as the contractors you hire, your location, your chosen building materials and fixtures, and the level of renovation required. As a general rule, you can expect to pay between $20-150 per square foot, but allow more for any unexpected issues that arise. 

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The same rule applies when calculating the costs associated with building. How much you pay can depend on whether you’ve hired an architect and custom home builder or a general contractor. The size of the house, its features, and building material costs can also play a part. 

Generally, you can expect to pay $150+ per square foot for a new build, excluding the costs associated with demolition and site clearing, which can be an average of $2-17 per square foot and sometimes more. 

Impractical Features

You can’t fix every home’s flaw with new fixtures, fittings, and paint. Sometimes, homes just don’t make the best use of the land on which they’re built, and demolition can be the best solution. This can be particularly true if a home doesn’t maximize beautiful views or isn’t facing sunshine where needed most. While moving walls inside a home can sometimes solve this problem, it can sometimes be less cost-effective when a property already has multiple other issues that building from scratch can solve. 

Your Goals

When purchasing a property, your goals can sometimes determine whether renovating or knocking down and rebuilding is the best option for you. If you are searching for your forever home and fall in love with a home’s location but not the house itself, demolition can undoubtedly be the best option. However, if your goal is to fix and flip to turn a profit, remodelling is more likely the most suitable option. Your intentions with a home can certainly impact the decision you make. 

Health and Safety

We all deserve to live in healthy, safe homes. Some properties can fall into such poor states of disrepair or have been poorly treated and renovated by former owners that health and safety aren’t guaranteed. Keep this in mind when deciding whether to renovate or rebuild. If your property has structural issues, fire risks, significant plumbing woes, or a myriad of unconsented and unsafe features, rebuilding can sometimes be the cleaner, more straightforward option. 

What Are the Benefits of a Knockdown Rebuild?

1. Cost-Effective

A knock down rebuild project is a cost-effective way of taking complete control over your building project while benefitting from a more advanced design of your home. Unlike renovating, which can be complex, time-consuming, and full of unforeseen delays, knock down rebuilding is relatively straightforward. It allows you to take charge and plan well to avoid surprises. 

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Apart from the whole construction loan hassle, moving home will require you to pay stamp duty, which is not the case during the knockdown rebuild process.

2. Keep Your Location

Another benefit of knock down rebuild is allowing you to stay in the area you love. The knock down and rebuild process allows you to keep your location instead of moving. You stay in your neighborhood where you feel safe and comfortable instead of starting over elsewhere. Your location could be close to your kids’ school or your workplace. You could have family and friends close by that you don’t want to leave, and knocking down rebuild becomes your solution. 

3. Maintain Your Lifestyle

 Besides these financial benefits, knocking down your home can positively affect your lifestyle. It allows you to design a home that will suit your lifestyle and family. You can tailor your home to meet your unique needs.

4. Property Value

If your property is in an established area, it is likely to have a higher appreciation rate than a newer area. If the increment in the value of your property is important to you, then the knock down rebuild process will help you stay and watch your property value appreciate. 

The Knock Down Rebuild Process

1. Speak to the Council

For the knock down rebuild process to begin, you need to get permission from your local council or government authority. There are local laws and strict rules regarding knockdown rebuilds because they can significantly impact the wider community. If your home is in a heritage-listed suburb, for example, your home can’t be demolished.

Before knocking down your existing home, check whether your land is appropriate. The easiest way to asses if you can do a knockdown-rebuild, is to get in touch with your local council's planning and building section. Their websites usually provide this information, but you can call to discuss your requirements with their specialist. If you can do a knock down rebuild, the specialist will help you understand the necessary permits and approvals. 

You will get information about your land, including its zoning and applicable limitations on site connections. Contacting the council will ensure that you have a smooth building process free from interference from various organizations or the government.

2. Application for the Demolition Approval

You will need to apply for house demolition approval of the existing property. Your state will have some basic guidelines, which may include the following:  

  • A demolition plan. This plan should give details of the demolished building and the services that need to be disconnected such as power connections.
  • Evidence of land ownership. You will need to provide evidence of the land ownership. For example, if you own your home and have lived there for some time, the local council should have your records. Similarly, a settlement letter from your conveyancer or solicitor will be required if you recently acquired the land.
  • A waste management plan. You should prepare a plan that includes suggested methods of material disposal. If you’re unsure, you can always consult the council about the available methods.
  • Give the council insurance details for the contractor licensed to do your demolition work.

3. Get Expert Advice

Once you get the go-ahead from the local government, hire an experienced building professional or a real estate agent who will build your home, such as a structural engineer, experienced builder, or certified town planner. You may even hire a national building company if it is within your capacity. The person should understand the council's regulations and processes in depth. It is crucial to get expert advice during the early stages of a knockdown-rebuild.

This experienced professional will provide advice and assist with organizing the required permits and approvals for the project. These professionals will ascertain the following: 

  • Boundary setbacks
  • Existing overlays or covenants on your property, e.g., flooding, heritage, bushfire.
  • Traffic disruption in your street
  • Any change in public access point
  • Overshadowing of neighbors
  • The utilities that require disconnection or removal such as power connection

4. Decide on a Home Design

After your building professional has finalized inspections and tests, it is time to get the final design of your home. Most of these builders have a portfolio of projects they have previously handled. You can check them out to draw inspiration for your design and help you choose colors for your home. 

Consider the following factors when designing your new home:

  • Block size, site condition, and orientation of the site
  • Planning regulations, for example, flooding conditions
  • Council controls such as covenants
  • Neighboring properties for accessibility issues

4. Demolish and Rebuild a New Home

Look for a demolition contractor. Your builder can refer you to an accredited demolition specialist or utility company that is licensed to conduct demolitions and remove asbestos. Your demolition specialist will require a copy of your demolition permit from the council.

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Before the start of the demolition of your old building, your demolition specialist should notify the various utility companies, such as gas, water, electricity, and telephone, of your intentions. Ensure that you give these utility companies enough time to both disconnect power, and remove their infrastructure. The demolition costs vary depending on size and location of the property to be demolished.

The demolition specialist will take responibility for the demolition company removing all the waste from the house materials, such as concrete, timber, metal, and glass, as well as the vegetation, such as trees, root systems, and excess soil.

Ensure that you get an Asset Protection Permit that is required to cover any damage to public property. You will also need to obtain permits and to put up a temporary site fence to protect the public. Your builder will start preparing the site for construction once the demolition is over. Rebuild your new home according to your design, style, and preference.


Deciding whether to renovate or rebuild a home you have purchased can be challenging, so take your time coming to a conclusion. Once you’ve considered these points above, you might find it much easier to decide which option best suits your unique needs. 

FAQs About Knock Down Rebuild

1. What is knock down and rebuild?

Knock down and rebuild is pulling down your current house and using that area to construct a new house. This is a good way of utilizing the same piece of land if you want to move to a new area for various reasons, such as the value of the property and saving on costs. 

2. What does it mean to knock down a building?

Knocking down a building is the process that involves pulling down your current home or property and using that particular area of land to construct a brand-new one. People prefer this over a major home renovation because they don’t want to move to a new location, want their property to appreciate in value, or save on the costs of renovating an existing house.

3. How much does a knockdown rebuild cost?

You can expect to spend anything between $350,000 and $750,000, depending on the particular specifications of your home. This cost includes design, demolition, insurance, building charges, architectural drawings, and refinancing costs. This is higher compared to the national average, which is $320,000. 

4. What does rebuilding mean in construction?

Rebuilding means building something that has been destroyed or damaged again. It involves removing the existing building and constructing a new one from scratch. Rebuilding is quite costly and invasive. It involves hiring experts to carry out the process and getting the required permissions and certifications.

5. Should I demolish and rebuild?

A renovation is more practical and cost-effective if your existing house is reparable and requires only minor updates. However, you may need to go for a knockdown and rebuild option if the existing home is in poor condition or requires extensive renovation.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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