May 1, 2024

Demolition (noun): Turning trouble into rubble.

OSHA defines demolition as “the dismantling, razing, destroying, or wrecking of any building or any part thereof.” In plain English, that means tearing down structures. But demolition is more than wrecking balls and well-timed explosions — it’s a multi-stage, tactical process that demands expertise and a firm commitment to safety.

Why would a construction company need to destroy buildings? Generally, our clients hire us to complete demo projects for one of three reasons. They may want to repurpose a site, tear down an unsafe structure, or demolish old buildings that fail today’s structural codes and safety regulations. Charley Toppino & Sons has the experience to safely level these properties and make room for the enduring, characteristic construction Key West deserves.

Now that we’ve given you a primer, let’s talk demo.

How Does Demolition Work?

At Charley Toppino & Sons, we tackle demolition with three different approaches: manual, mechanical, and implosive. Our team matches the method to the specific needs and objectives of each project. The result? Efficient, safe demolition.

Manual Demolition and Deconstruction

Many projects — especially remodels — call for special precision. Whether we’re removing an exterior wall to expand a building’s square footage or changing the layout of a commercial space, we approach each project with careful consideration. It’s crucial that we only remove what the client requests. Nothing more or less.

Enter manual demolition: a by-hand brand of destruction perfect for detail-driven demo. Equipped with sledgehammers and crowbars, our workers remove unwanted walls, flooring, and other elements from smaller structures in dense urban areas.

At Charley Toppino & Sons, we believe in preserving elements of the past while building the future. That’s why we offer deconstruction: the salvaging of existing materials or fixtures for later reuse. While manual demo requires more manpower (and man hours), it’s the best way to modernize local structures while honoring the Keys’ history.

Mechanical Demolition

When they hear the word “demo,” many people picture mechanical demolition. This versatile, cost-effective approach involves the use of heavy equipment like the following:

  • Wrecking balls
  • Bulldozers
  • Excavators
  • Skid steer loaders
  • Cranes
  • Material handlers

Mechanical demo is ideal for large-scale projects — think infrastructure changes or industrial site clearance. While it may be more disruptive than deconstruction, mechanical demolition saves time and keeps workers out of harm’s way.

Building Implosion

As the Keys’ leading demolition contractor, Charley Toppino & Sons has access to exclusive equipment: strategically placed explosives. We’ve spent a century navigating state and local regulations, complying with safety guidelines, and mastering this highly specialized approach. 

In this form of demolition, explosive charges detonate in sequence, destroying load-bearing supports. This causes the building to collapse in on itself — that’s why we call it an implosion. It’s best for leveling large, complex structures in urban areas. Our crews have the training and experience to meticulously plan and execute building implosions.

Types of Demolition

Every demolition project is different. Factors like the structure’s material makeup, each client’s goals, and the presence of hazardous waste determine our approach at Charley Toppino & Sons. Typically, our demolition projects fall into these three categories.

  • Interior demolition: We approach interior demolition with surgical precision. Our crews remove inner walls, old plumbing and electrical systems, outdated flooring, damaged ceilings — you name it. We preserve the building’s exterior, gut the interior, and prepare it for a new lease on life.
  • Abatement: When we find hazardous materials in a building, abatement becomes part of our demo process. That term refers to the process of removing asbestos, lead, and other carcinogens from residential and commercial properties. With over 100 years of experience, Charley Toppino & Sons has mastered safe, efficient abatement.
  • Total structural demolition: Also called complete demolition, total demo is exactly what it sounds like — razing a building and leaving nothing behind. Our team systematically destroys the entire structure, clearing the way for new construction or environmental restoration.

Our Full-Service Demolition Process

We offer self-performed, full-service demolition throughout the Florida Keys. The Charley Toppino & Sons team has handled our fair share of high-profile projects, including the demolition of an existing structure to make way for the new Monroe County courthouse. We also brought down an elementary school before starting on sitework for the Gerald Adams School in Key West. While every project is unique, most follow the below process.

1. Survey the Building

Before demo begins, we do our due diligence. Our team investigates the site and creates an engineering survey with topographical details, property lines, and other features. This up-front work protects our team and empowers us to make the best possible decisions for each project.

2. Identify and Remove Hazards

We also scour the property for asbestos, heavy metals, radioactive material, silica, and other hazards. Left unchecked, these substances could become airborne or enter local waterways. Our abatement experts take the right steps to identify and safely remove all threats.

3. Make the Demo Plan

At the same time, our leaders collaborate to create a plan for demolition. This document takes all factors into account, including budget, state and local laws, permits, the size and material makeup of the structure, its surrounding area, and any applicable green initiatives. Once completed, the demo plan serves as the blueprint for the project.

4. Ensure Worker (And Bystander) Safety

At Charley Toppino and Sons, we’re here to create a good quality of life for everyone — our crew, our community, and our clients. That’s why we set sky-high standards for our job sites. We don’t just follow guidelines; we go the extra mile to keep our crew out of harm’s way.

Our team wears the right personal protective equipment (PPE) for every project, including the following:

  • Hearing and eye protection
  • Hard hats
  • Gloves and boots
  • High-visibility clothing
  • Personal fall arrest systems (PFAS)

Additionally, our workers receive the supervision, training, and tools they need for each step of the demolition process.  

5. Demolish the Structure

Using one or more of the methods outlined above, our team deconstructs, guts, or levels the structure. We also implement dust suppression methods and noise control to protect our crews and communities.  

6. Clean Up and Remove Debris

The last steps of any demolition? A comprehensive cleanup and proper debris disposal. We can’t build on a pile of rubble and rebar! Charley Toppino & Sons uses specialized equipment to haul away scrap, leaving every job site better than we found it.

Clearing the Way for Florida’s Future

As the Keys’ leading construction company, we know how to do demo the right way. A century of experience has taught us that bigger pieces make a smaller mess, PPE is non-negotiable, and training keeps our people safe. Every day, we contribute to the sustainable growth of the place we call home. Contact Charley Toppino & Sons for more information about controlled demolition.


Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Construction and Demolition Debris Recycling.

Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Demolition: Construction in Reverse, with Additional Hazards.

Occupational Health and Safety Administration. OSHA Fact Sheet: Demolition and Cleanup.