Bring down that wall… wait… don’t!

Umm… Nice Wall…

For the past few weeks as I have been bouncing from virtual meeting to virtual meeting and cycling through my email updates behind my computer screen. Just outside my office window, I have been watching as a neighboring house started being demo’d piece by piece to undergo what appeared to be a typical remodel. As I continued to keep tabs on the demo process it was becoming more and more apparent that this wasn’t going to be a remodel at all, more so, this is going to be a full tear down and rebuild. Finally this week, as I pull into my parking spot and peer through the now barren trees that divide our lot, I can see that nearly the entire house has been removed, everything except the main level floor atop the foundation and one single wall at the front of where the house used to be.

What’s up with this wall… is it of sentimental value to the homeowners… clearly it is no longer a load bearing wall of any kind… why is that single wall left standing… did the demo crew finally reach their breaking point?

With my curiosity getting the better of me I reached out to Patrick Jacobson here at Lake Country Builders to ask what he thought as to why this wall was still up and seemingly not going to be torn down. Patrick went on to fill me in on how this can be a part of a remodel to a home and that there are several factors that could be the reasoning such as zoning restrictions, permits and/or limitations, the status of the home historically, etc. He didn’t have the specifics on why this particular house was being done this way so for now that is up to speculation but it did make me want to dig a little deeper into this potentially strategic remodeling move to learn more about why?


It didn’t take too long in my Google search for a very helpful/informative blog post to pop up that gave me a good understanding of why and how this can be done for a remodeling project. Here is a copy of what I learned from an Ask Rob blog post they did back in 2013:

Why do builders demolish a house, leave one wall standing and build a new home around it?


I see builders demo a whole house and leave one wall up.  Then tear that wall down and build a whole new house.  However it is still considered a renovation rather than a new build.  Can you explain why and how this process works?


When a builder demolishes a building in the manner that you described he is technically completing a renovation. That’s what the permit will read that they were granted.

In a lot of places there are restrictions on building and renovating homes and building’s because of certain criteria. Those criteria are as follows;
Age of the building.
Historical significance of the building.
The design, shape and style of the building.
They importance of the building as a potential land mark.
The cultural significance of the building and what it can represent.

When you are working with a building that falls under any of the above criteria then you are working with special rules that you have to agree to follow before you can be granted a permit to do any kind of work on the structure.

A building that falls under the above criteria is not allowed to be completely demolished and removed leaving nothing of the old building behind.

Sometimes in an area that can cover several city blocks you can have homes that are deemed historical but have no historical value other than their age and their location. Some of these buildings might be in such disrepair that it would cost more to try and salvage the building then it would to demolish it and build a newer one. These are the buildings that you described seeing under construction.

The builder and the client will produce a plan that removes much of the above grade structure leaving one or two walls standing. They leave most or all of the existing foundation in place untouched. They then work with the building department to meet the requirements to call the project a renovation and not a new build. To qualify for this you have to leave a certain percentage of the building standing including at least one exterior wall. By leaving the entire basement intact you raise the percentage of the building that you are leaving to qualify it as a renovation.

After they have demolished most of the building, the foundation intact and one wall still standing you then add any additional footings and re-enforcements to the foundation that you might require to hold up the new building above it. You then proceed to frame the building while leaving the front wall standing. Once most of the building is framed you remove the wall you left standing. The reason that you can do this are several, actually you can select from several options from the wall is a safety issue, the wall is damaged beyond repair, there is rot in the wood or the wall can no way meet code.

At the end of the process you have basically a brand new, safe and properly built home. The only part of the existing building that is left is the concrete walls and footings in the basement.

Thank you to Ask Rob for this post and if you’d like to read some more of their informative blog posts you can do so at

Pick a path

It looks like there are plenty of ways to approach your remodeling project even if it is on as grand of a scale as our neighbors. I’m also pretty sure there are plenty of other reasons to approach your remodel in this manner. Please feel free to reach out to us if you have questions about your remodel, tear down and rebuild or complete new build and we’d be happy to guide you to the right path that fits your needs best.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone and stay happy, stay healthy!