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Types of Costs We Incur While Removing Barns

Most people don’t realize that there are significant expenses involved with taking down an old barn. We often get the phone calls of folks who want us to take down their barn, but they don’t want to spend any money.

That’s understandable, but the reality is that there are significant costs involved with taking down the barn.

The purpose of this article is to show you the actual costs that WE would incur if we were to come in and take down your 40×60 hip roof barn. I think it is important to understand the costs before you bring someone in, or even if you are considering doing this yourself.

But isn’t there value in that wood?

Sure, there is value in the wood, but that value really can’t be determined until the wood is on the ground.

For as much as you go in and look at a barn, you can’t very often really be able to tell what’s rotted and what’s not rotted. There’s no value in rotted wood – period.

Let’s go over some of the costs that we incur when we’re taking down a barn:

1. Equipment

In order to take down a barn, or to even salvage the wood from a barn that has fallen down, it requires some heavy equipment. The equipment doesn’t have to be large equipment, but even small equipment these days can be pretty expensive.

We primarily use a mini-excavator and tracked skid loader…..
We typically use a mini excavator, a larger mini excavator, as well as a track skid loader. It’s best to have rubber tracks because these old barns have a significant amount of nails and regular tires just wouldn’t make it.

Need a lift?
Depending on the barn and the condition, we also may require a lift to be able to get up on the roof. We don’t necessarily get on the roof, and that’s why we require a lift. Most of the old barns are just not safe to put a person on to do any type of work.

What about a SkyTrak?
We also sometimes require a telescopic forklift, often called SkyTrak. These allow us to get up in the air around 30 or 40 feet to reach rafters or floor boards. Sometimes we even put a basket on the front and use that versus a lift.

At the end of the day, the primary work horses are the mini excavators as well as the track skid loader.

If you go out to buy this type of equipment, you’re looking at roughly around $40,000 to purchase the right sized mini excavator. For the track skid loader, you’re looking at about $60,000. It’s not always a good idea to have to buy that type of equipment.

You can also rent it, and that’s where it’s easier to figure out how much the equipment costs towards the tearing down of the barn.

Daily costs
A mini excavator typically rents for around $250 a day. A track skid loader is usually in that same range of $250-350 a day.

To make the math easy, let’s just figure $500 a day for the mini excavator as well as the track skid loader.

That gives us a cost – even if you’re doing this yourself, if you had to rent the equipment – of roughly $500 per day.

How long do you need the equipment?
On average, it takes about 5-7 days to fully dismantle a barn, to get all of the salvageable wood out, clean up the shingles if there are shingles, separate the metal, and sort out the good wood from wood that’s not salvageable or useable.

Utilizing just the cost of the mini excavator and the track skid loader – you’re looking at $500 a day – on the low of five days, you have a cost of $2,500. That cost does not include fuel, so you would want to add in at least another $100 a day for fuel.

You now have $2,500 for the rent and $500 for the cost of fuel to run the machines. So you’re up to $3,000 just in the equipment to be able to take it apart.

2. Transportation Costs

The next phase, once you have all of the wood sorted out is to haul that wood away. The cost involved with hauling the wood away depends on how much distance is involved from the location of the barn to, for us at least, our home base. This involves a truck and trailer.

What we us in this case is a 1-ton F350 Ford truck and a 40-foot gooseneck trailer. This combination allows us to haul approximately 15,000 pounds. While that sounds like a lot, it really isn’t.

The typical barn will take anywhere from 7 loads upwards to 15 loads to get all of the wood off-site and back to our home base.

Assuming that we’re about an hour away, we would have roughly 60-75 miles each way for a total of about 120 or 150 miles. Utilizing the IRS deduction of 55 cents per mile (which is for a normal passenger car) and doesn’t include the higher cost of maintaining a diesel truck or the cost of fuel and that type of thing, you can safely estimate around $0.75 per mile to make the trip.

If you have 150 miles times $0.75, you have a cost of around $100 for each trip. Let’s assume we have to make ten trips.

If we’re going to make ten trips and the cost of the truck and trailer to us is $100, then we’re going to have $1,000 in transportation. The bulk of that cost is in fuel cost.

Diesel fuel these days is right around $4.00 per gallon. These bigger trucks, even though they are diesel, still only get around ten miles per gallon, so you can’t go very far on a tank of fuel.transporting-reclaimed-wood-michigan-barns

3. Labor costs

Then you have the cost of labor to take down a barn. You need at least a minimum of two people to tear down a barn.

While it’s possible to do it with one (that’s how I did my first one) we found it to be most effective with two people – one person on each machine.

It’s even better if you can have a third person there.

You really don’t want to work on these barns by yourself because there’s just far too much danger that can take place working with one of these barns. It’s better to have someone there so that if you do get in trouble, you’ve at least got someone who’s right there.

Let’s say it takes five days to tear down this barn. That’s about 80 hours worth of labor that it would take to tear down the barn.

On top of that, with the ten trips, we would have two hours for a driver to drive the truck and trailer for each trip. That’s another 20 hours. We have 100 hours total of labor.

If you figure on the low side of $20 per hour and you have 100 hours involved with tearing down a barn, you have roughly $2,000.


Let’s look at all the costs together:

$3,000 for the equipment

$1,000 in transportation

$2,000 for the labor to take it down

Total of approximately $7,000 out-of-pocket cost to take down a barn.

Some other expenses:


Chainsaws (and LOTS of blades!)

Straps, chains

Excavating to bury debris

Concrete removal

Oh come on, are these numbers real?

The numbers I use in this article are not numbers I make up. These are numbers that we actually incur when we’re tearing down a barn.

The further we get away from the barn site back to home, the higher our costs go especially on the labor part because we have more trips, longer trips, and more hours.

So the total cost of tearing down a barn is roughly $7,000, but can quickly reach $10,000 if dumpsters, or BIG heavy equipment is needed.

How much lumber will you get from the barn?

In a typical barn – assuming a 40’x60’ barn – you’d likely get anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 board feet of salvageable lumber that could be turned into furniture-grade lumber or, let’s say, flooring. Usually in a wholesale, depending on the type of wood, we pay anywhere from $0.25 to 0.30 per board foot.

If we took this barn down and it had 10,000 board feet in lumber in it, and if you as the owner have an out-of-pocket cost of $7,000 to have the barn torn down, then we come back and offer to buy the lumber from you.reclaimed-wood-lumber-michigan-tennessee

Using the example of 10,000 board feet (let’s assume at $0.30 per board foot), that’s going to be $3,000.

You would write a check to us for $7,000, and then we would write you a check back for $3,000.

This is really the fairest way to do it. So there’s a difference of $4,000.

But isn’t there enough value in the wood?

In this example, you can see that it’s very difficult to come in and do a complete barn clean-up and only use the value of the wood to pay for the clean-up. We could get the barn down, and salvage much of the lumber, but the cleanup often takes the most time.

We still incur out-of-pocket costs which can be recouped down the road, but at the time we’re doing it, it’s just not possible to recoup this money.

If we took down 10 barns per month, we could have up to $30,000 of out-of-pocket costs invested in order to just take down the barns.

As you can see from this example, it can be quiet expensive. I often get the question of, “Isn’t there enough value in the wood here?” Often it’s close, but depending on the distance and the size of the barn, the value of the wood may not cover the cost of having the barn torn down.

The best way to find out is to give us a call and we can discuss taking down your barn.