4 Considerations for Cleaning Up Abandoned Property

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Building rehabs are big projects, and there’s no bigger project than tackling an old factory, warehouse, or industrial building. Repurposing properties is good for a lot of reasons. It makes the community look better, it prevents the health and safety hazards posed by abandoned places, and it can pay off for you to convert unused buildings into offices, lofts, and commercial spaces.

However, you can’t take this sort of job lightly. Before laying your money and cards on the table, know what you’re getting into. Your first order of business should be to hire a professional building inspector to assess the site. Here are four considerations for cleaning up abandoned property.

Structural Damage

The older and more neglected a building, the more likely it has hundreds of seen and unseen structural issues. For example, holes in the floors and ceilings are obvious. Years of heat, cold, water, and animal damage can ruin the walls, floors, and ceilings or the support systems within them. Sometimes, a building has “good bones.” Often, some of those bones are weakened by rot. Your inspector may advise you to run the other way if they find excessive damage to the property.

Health Hazards

Decades ago, people either didn’t know what was bad for them or didn’t care. Your potential property could be filled with “time bombs”—asbestos, lead, mercury, radioactive materials, shoddy electrical wiring, and garbage. Before swinging a hammer and manning a saw, you may need to hire a professional industrial waste disposal company to lab pack hazardous materials. Study the history of the building you plan to renovate in order to get a better idea of how much the previous owners left behind for you to clean up.


Nature will find a way inside neglected property. Animals come through broken windows, busted doors, holes in roofing, and other means of ingress. Birds, raccoons, rats, mice, squirrels, insects, and other beasties make for terrible guests. They’ll occupy the building, eat whatever they can find, leave droppings in places you can’t imagine, and reproduce. An abundance of pests can bring disease, damage, foul odors, and an ongoing battle against infestations. Clearing up whatever nature leaves behind is not a pleasant job, so decide if you want to tackle this job.

The Human Element

The last of our four considerations for cleaning up abandoned property is the most troubling. Abandoned properties attract different kinds of people. Squatters or homeless people are simply trying to find a place to live, however dangerous the place is. Abandoned buildings also attract substance abusers, criminals, and vandals. Before you buy a property, know the area and what to expect. Dealing with the “eviction” of any person or persons can be difficult, emotional, and even dangerous.