Table of Contents:

  1. What are the types of demolition?
  2. How are buildings demolished?
    1. High-Reach Demolition
    2. Implosion
    3. Crane and Ball
  3. What types of structures do we use total demolition on?
  4. What is the average lifespan of a building?
  5. What happens after demolition?

If you need a building demolished, the demolition experts at Milburn are just a phone call away. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a contractor to perform interior demolition, selectively demolish part of a structure, or perform complete structure demolition — we can help you achieve your goals.

At Milburn, we have all of the equipment necessary to tackle demolition jobs of any size or scope. Even more importantly, we have plenty of experienced and knowledgeable people who are true experts in the demolition industry. Many of our clients hire us to perform complete structure demolition.

In this article, we’ll explain several different aspects of our total demolition services.

What are the types of demolition?

Depending on the specific requirements of an individual project, Milburn has several different demolition methods at our disposal. Sometimes, a client will request that we demolish interior structures like walls and ceilings, while the exterior of the building remains intact — this is known as interior demolition. We also offer selective demolition, which involves the removal of certain parts of a building.

Total building demolition is a process in which we tear down entire buildings and dispose of the demolished materials. There are several different methods used for this form of demolition, so let’s dive a bit deeper into the specific processes we use to demolish complete buildings.

How are buildings demolished?

When we perform total building demolition, we have a few options for how we want to bring that building down. Depending on the type of structure, as well as what surrounds the building, we use varying methods. For instance, demolishing a structure in a rural area is very different than demolishing the same type of structure in a heavily trafficked downtown metropolitan area. If we’re downtown, we have to work around neighboring buildings, as well as pedestrians and cars. Let’s take a look at what the different options for total demolition are.

High-reach demolition

At Milburn, we have high-reach demolition excavators that enable us to perform total demolition of buildings and structures up to 140’ tall. High-reaches allow us to work on large structures in tightly surrounded conditions. This specialized demolition equipment allows us to reach over the top of a structure in order to process and demolish the structure in a methodical way, as opposed to bringing equipment into the building and demolishing the structure floor by floor. With limited need for on-site equipment and operators, the high-reach method makes our job easier and more budget-friendly to owners.  

Most importantly, the high-reach excavator is often the safest method of total demolition available. Utilizing the high-reach method allows us to keep our people safely out of harm’s way during the demolition process. With this method, we do not have to have people and smaller equipment on the floors of the structure during the demolition process. Additionally, our high-reaches are all equipped with direct water application devices in order to keep the dust down. This, in turn, prevents the need for additional on-site labor that would be required with traditional water hose usage.  

Utilizing our high-reach total building demolition method can allow projects to be completed in tight quarters with less people, creating a safer demolition site at a lower cost.


Another method is to implode the entire structure using explosive materials. This option involves carefully placing explosives to destroy the vertical support columns within the structure, in order to collapse the structure inward. Obviously, this form of total building demolition requires diligent study of the building as-builds and examination of the structure to determine the safest and most effective areas to demolish in order to bring the building down.

The term “implosion” is a bit misleading because the structure doesn’t actually collapse into itself typically driven by differing levels of internal and external pressure. The process of building implosion triggers more of a progressive collapse — by demolishing the support columns, the rest of the structure is brought down by the forces of gravity, collapsing in its own footprint.

You might be thinking about what explosive is used for building demolition. The answer depends on the type of material being demolished. For concrete structures, crews can use nitroglycerin, traditional dynamite, or similar materials, which are inserted into boreholes within the support columns and then detonated to destroy the concrete. Steel supports can be demolished using shaped charges that resemble bullets. These charges are filled with an explosive compound like RDX, and they cut the beams in half as they’re detonated.

While implosions are great at reducing schedule duration, safety risks, and cost, they are not able to be utilized on all projects. Pre-planning and due diligence during budgeting phases of a project are crucial to confirm whether implosion is a viable method for any given total building demolition project. 

Crane and ball

Wrecking ball demolition is a tried and true total building demolition method that’s been in use for decades. 

This form of demolition involves hanging a large, pear-shaped steel ball from rigging that’s attached to a friction crane boom. The wrecking ball can be dropped from above the structure to demolish horizontal elements like slabs, beams, and roof structures. Or, it can be swung from the side to demolish columns, shear walls, and vertical structural members in order to weaken and collapse the structure. 

Since the implementation and use of high-reach demolition methods has become more common and as equipment becomes more available, crane and wrecking ball projects are fewer and farther in between. Still, there are projects out there that usually involve larger/taller concrete structures where implosion is not an option.  For these, the old-school crane and wrecking ball method remains number one.

What types of structures do we use total demolition on?

We have experience performing total building demolition on a wide variety of structures. No matter the specifics of the building or structure type, Milburn can demolish and dispose of the entire structure, including site work, footings and foundations, leaving the owner with a clean slate to work from. 

At Milburn, we offer complete demolition of commercial structures like office buildings, warehouses, retail shopping centers, schools, hotels, and industrial/manufacturing buildings. We can also perform total demolition of single family homes and large-scale residential buildings, like apartment complexes and condo buildings.  We even have experience demolishing specialized structures like bridges, abutments, railway structures, water towers, chimney stacks structures, and more. 

With all structure types, we provide our clients with a turn-key service including permits, utility disconnects, hazardous materials removal, and recycling and disposal services.

What is the average lifespan of a building?

The whole reason total building demolition is a necessary service is that most buildings eventually need to be replaced. While there are certainly examples of structures that last for centuries, these buildings are often kept around for historical purposes. Even still, it may be financially advantageous to replace them rather than continue repairing their aging materials. 

In general, most non-residential buildings in the United States last between 50 and 90 years, although there is some additional variance due to differences in building materials. For instance, buildings with wood as their primary structural material only last around 50 years, while those primarily constructed of concrete, brick, or steel usually last between 75 and 85 years. 

As our nation’s infrastructure, structures and buildings continue to age, we need reliable and trustworthy demolition contractors to perform total building demolition. At Milburn, total building demolition work is among our top core capabilities.

What happens after demolition?

As total building demolition projects progress, we have supplemental equipment and manpower continuously sorting, separating and stockpiling debris into common categories. Typically, what happens next is we load up our trucks with different materials — like concrete, steel, etc. — and then haul them to recycling facilities. When possible, we crush concrete and other clean heavy materials such as brick and CMU into sized materials suitable for filling in and leveling the site. Whenever we can, we prefer to reuse, reclaim and recycle materials from demolished buildings because that is more environmentally friendly and often cost-effective as well.  

Depending on our contract with the client, we usually have the post-demolition process planned out ahead of time so there are no surprises when it comes to the removal of debris and other materials from the job site. 

Our goal is to make it look like there was never a building there, to begin with! 

Similar Services