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Neighborhood bash

Demolition parties catch on as DIYers try to save cash. A bang-up job? Sometimes.

May 11, 2008|Michelle Hofmann | Special to The Times
  • Do it yourself: The art of the demolition party
Do it yourself: The art of the demolition party (Dave Wheeler )

Arnie and Lily Richards have helped plenty of friends move or complete minor remodeling projects over the years. So when the couple needed to demolish the concrete patio of their Downey home to make room for a larger kitchen and dining-room addition, they didn't mind asking for help by throwing a demolition party.

"We had to remove the concrete anyway," said Lily Richards, 51, a project administrator for Mattel. "So we thought we might as well have a demolition party while waiting for the plans to be approved by the city."

With party invitations sent, Arnie Richards, 58, purchased beer, sodas, snacks, food and several sledgehammers and rented one jackhammer. And on the day of the party, the couple, along with six friends, had a light lunch and got to work.

The Richardses, who hosted their party in 2001, were ahead of their time, according to Eric Schotz, president and chief executive of LMNO Productions, which produces HGTV'S "Over Your Head," a show that focuses on homeowners looking for help with botched renovation projects. "The summer party of this year is going to be a demolition party," said Schotz, adding that producers are currently working on a possible new show tentatively titled "House Party," based on alcohol-free demolition parties, for HGTV. "This is clearly a trend."

The idea of a community barn-raising is not a new one. Historically and culturally, people have come together to help build homes for years -- not that the results are always stellar. But experts say that for homeowners looking for ways to save money on renovations, this hybrid barn-raising complete with invitations, food, party favors, decorations and power tools is gaining popularity.

Retailers are acknowledging the interest. Home Depot has offered a clinic on do-it-yourself parties that target women, according to Western division regional communications manager Sherry Caraway. And Lariayn Payne, vice president of marketing for online party-planning service Evite, said the number of remodeling-event customers who sent formal invitations rose nearly 40% in the second quarter last year over the same period two years ago, the latest periods for which statistics are available.

In addition to harnessing the power of like-minded people during these events, Schotz said, people who have fears about remodeling work can find comfort, support and experience when they're part of a group project.

A money-saving idea

Jim Vanderveen got the idea to host his demolition party when his contractor suggested the homeowner could save some money on construction by removing an old covered patio from the back of his house himself. Vanderveen, a 44-year-old computer programmer, hosted the party in April 2007.

Eight people showed up, and the event was such a hit that Vanderveen has hosted two more since -- one to strip the roof framing off his two-bedroom, two-bathroom Sacramento home and another to remove the entire back wall of the house to allow for a 1,100-square-foot addition.

"I have a lot of friends who want to get their hands dirty and get some experience," Vanderveen said.

Still, if you're considering having a demolition party, Vanderveen cautioned, have a good understanding of the project and skill levels for everyone involved. And put safety first.

"As the host of one of these events, you need to be the lead safety person," Vanderveen said. "Know your friends' capabilities and make sure they don't take on something they are not comfortable with or capable of handling."

So do some research before hosting one of these events. Arnie Richards, an engineer and experienced do-it-yourselfer, consulted with a city building inspector and got safety information before he and his wife hosted the party.

"This isn't brain surgery," he said. "Many of these things can be done without professional help, but you do have to read and research the information before getting started."

Richards, who purchased goggles and gloves and other safety gear for party guests, said guests and hosts should be aware of potential dangers.

"I bought goggles so someone didn't end up with a piece of concrete in their eye," he said. "But liability issues and safety weren't a big concern for me because we are all friends, and we were just breaking up a patio."

Vanderveen said the potential effect of someone filing a claim on his homeowners insurance related to the party was not a major issue for him. "I would just feel awful if one of my friends got hurt," he said.

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