Guide to the Demolition, Disposal & Open Burning of Abandoned Houses

Abandoned houses can pose problems for communities, including how to legally demolish and dispose of them.

For more information, contact the following divisions within the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality:

  • Disposal of Debris: Division of Waste Management at 701-328-5166
  • Open Burning: Division of Air Quality, Liz Trythall at 701-328-5153 or (
  • Burning of Buildings: Division of Waste Management, Justin Otto at 701-328-5246 ( or Jane Kangas at 701-499-5208
  • Asbestos Removal: Division of Waste Management, Asbestos Program at 701-328-5166 or (

Before any demolition action is taken, these factors must be considered:

  • Disposal of debris.
  • Compliance with open burning regulations.
  • Removal of asbestos.
  • Removal of appliances, lead batteries, chemicals, garbage and other contaminants.

Permissible Types of Burning

Certain types of burning our allowed but are subject to the following conditions:

  • Fires set for the removal of dangerous material,when there is no practical or lawful method of disposal, must be approved in advance by the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality.
  • Where there is imminent danger to human health or safety, open burning may be conducted, but notification to the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality is required as soon as possible.
  • A fire purposely set for the instruction and training of firefighting personnel is authorized; however, a notification of demolition must be submitted to the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality 10 days before the scheduled burning. The building must be inspected for asbestos, and all asbestos-containing material must be removed.

Open Burning Variance Application

All others who want to burn a house must apply for and receive a variance to the North Dakota Air Pollution Control Rules. Variance applications can be obtained from local public health units or from the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality. The application must be approved by the local fire department and the local public health unit, if applicable, before being submitted to the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality for review. The fire department and/or the local public health unit may want to inspect the site before endorsing the application. If the application is approved, a variance will be granted for 60 days.

The burning must comply with the following conditions:

  • No public nuisance can be created.
  • The burning must be conducted in such a way that an occupied building downwind is not adversely affected.
  • The amount of dirt, grass and leaves on the material being burned must be minimized, and the material must be dry enough to burn cleanly.
  • All reasonable attempts must be made to remove oil, rubber, appliances, lead batteries, chemicals, garbage, asphalt shingles and other materials prior to burning.
  • If weather conditions impede smoke dispersion, burning may not be conducted.
  • The burning must not create a traffic hazard on a high- way or public road nor may it create a hazard for an airport or landing strip.
  • All burning must be attended and supervised at all times.
  • Burning is prohibited if the fire index is in the extreme category.
  • If state or local fire officials determine conditions to be unsafe for open burning, all burning must cease.
  • Residue from an open burn may be disposed of in a municipal or inert waste landfill.

These North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality guidelines are designed to help communities legally demolish and dispose of abandoned houses.

Your local public health unit can provide information about open burning variance applications.

Disposal of Debris from Household Demolition

Most debris generated from demolishing a house can be managed as inert waste if a few simple measures are followed. Inert waste is a waste that will not potentially pollute surface water or ground water or serve as food for insects, rats, mice, etc.

Inert Waste Includes:

    • Wood
    • Bricks
    • Plaster
    • Dry Wall
    • Ceramics
    • Plastic
    • Metal
    • Siding
    • Insulation
    • Asphalt or Wood Shingles
    • Glass
    • Asphalt or Portland Cement Concrete
    • Carpets, draperies, furniture, mattresses, clothing, etc., also may be disposed of in an inert waste landfill.
    • Clean-burn residue can be disposed of in an inert waste landfill.
Non-inert waste materials must be identified and removed from the home prior to demolition.

Inert waste can be managed at a local inert waste landfill. If such a facility is not available or does not have adequate capacity, the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality would consider a variance for such unusual circumstances. Inert waste landfill site selection, construction, operation, and closure, as well as local zoning issues, must be adequately addressed. Contact the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality at 701-328-5166 for a list of permitted and permit-by-rule facilities, as well as a list of recyclers. Other information includes the following brochures: Guideline 1 - Emergency Waste Management and Disposal, and Guideline 16 - Operation of Inert Waste Landfills.

The following wastes are prohibited from disposal at inert waste landfills:

    • Household garbage, food, animal carcasses and other organic wastes, unless the site has been designated an emergency putrescible waste disposal site.
    • Liquids, solvents and paints.
    • Maintenance and cleaning chemicals or products.
    • Pesticides, fertilizers and other yard, garden or agricultural chemicals.
    • Oil and oil containers, lead acid batteries and all appliances.
    • Fluorescent light fixtures and bulbs, mercury-containing electrical switches and thermostats, and electrical transformers.
    • Regulated asbestos-containing materials in commercial buildings.
    • Other wastes that may form a contaminant; pollute surface water, ground water, or the air; or attract insects, mice, rats, etc., unless specific approval has been granted.

Recycle and reuse materials whenever possible.
Appliances, batteries and waste oil are prohibited from disposal in North Dakota and should be recycled. Some metal materials, as well as large amounts of concrete or asphalt, may be recyclable, depending on local markets, processors and the amount of material.

Removal of Asbestos

The owner of property to be disposed of is required to comply with the following asbestos regulations, unless the property is a house or an apartment building with four or fewer units:

  • All affected parts of a facility undergoing renovation or demolition must be inspected for the presence of asbestos-containing materials (ACM) prior to the start of the project. The inspector must be asbestos-inspector certified through the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality.

  • All regulated asbestos-containing material (RACM) that would be disturbed during renovation or demolition must be properly removed before the start of the project. RACM includes all friable (easily crumbled) ACM and non-friable (not easily crumbled) ACM that will be made friable during the project. If the building or rubble will be burned, all asbestos-containing material is considered a regulated substance. People who remove the material must be certified and contractors must be licensed through the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality.

  • All asbestos-containing waste material must be properly disposed of in an approved landfill. A waste shipment record (WSR) must be started prior to transportation of asbestos-containing waste material. The WSR must be delivered to the landfill operator when the material is deposited for disposal. A copy of the completed WSR then must be submitted to the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality within ten days.

  • A Notification of Demolition form must be submitted to the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality for all demolition, whether or not asbestos is present.

For more information on Asbestos and Asbestos removal see the Department's Asbestos page.

Last Updated: 01/10/2020