Demolishing a Bank Vault: What Would It Take?

More and more these days, buildings that once served very specific uses are being purchased and, instead of being completely torn down, are repurposed. Firehouses have been turned into loft apartments. Old abandoned industrial warehouses are flipped into trendy office buildings. Most of these buildings, if they have “good bones,”  are only limited by the foundation and load-bearing beams on their interior when it comes to a remodel. There is one type of building with a very specific purpose that creates a unique remodeling challenge into itself — a bank. It’s not uncommon for older banks to the repurposed, but there is the question of what to do with the bank’s vault. In this article, we’re going to look at some of the challenges that go into demolishing a bank vault.

How a Bank Vault is Built

It may or may not come to a surprise, but bank vaults are not technically installed into the banks they serve. Due to their bulky size and immense weight, they’re delivered to the construction site of the bank before the bank is constructed. Once the vault is in place, the bank is built around it — closing it in place. The construction of the vault itself is built by the manufacturer at their location. Most bank vaults in modern times have walls made of steel-reinforced concrete. The concrete used is an especially thick mixture contains metal pieces incorporated into the mix to make the material practically drill-proof. The door is also filled with this same nearly-impenetrable concrete. Steel rebar make simply smashing the vault a fool’s errand. Vault construction has evolved over the generations to deter everything from would-be robbers wielding liquid nitroglycerin to angry robs during a riot. There are even reported instances of bank vaults that survived nuclear blasts with their contents intact. So, how on earth do you demolish a bank vault?

How Some Have Demolished Bank Vaults

Bank vault demolition is an especially unique case because bank vaults were designed to be impervious to demolition attempts by robbers and mother nature alike. One demolition crew in Manakto, Minnesota spent a week with a wrecking ball and a mounted jackhammer to completely flatten historic bank vault to make way for an entirely new building. In that case, the vault contained concrete walls that were 2-foot thick and thin rebar spaced every 2-3 inches vertically as well as horizontally. Recommendations for demolishing a bank vault within an existing structure basically come down to two options: hammering and cutting it out in sections. Other sections of the walls, floors, and ceiling can have the cement hammered away with a mounted jackhammer. Using a diamond-bladed wet saw, the concrete can be cut into sections. After each section is cut, it would need to be hoisted out of place using the appropriate equipment. To be honest, since every bank vault is different, demolishing a bank vault is a huge undertaking, which leads us to our next conclusion.

Preferably, Repurpose The Bank Vault

Removing a bank vault and leaving it’s building intact is a tremendous pain. The best solution for a bank building owner who has no need for the bank’s vault to also repurpose the vault structure. This isn’t simply an idea — bank vaults have been repurposed into all manner for useable spaces for their new owners. From specialized lounges in restaurants to board rooms in companies to wine cellars, old bank vaults have been given second chances at usefulness. While this sounds like a terrific idea that any bank building owner could undertake, there are a number of safety factors to consider. Make sure that the vault is inspected by a licensed professional. Have a plan in mind for HVAC ventilation of the space. Also, plan on keeping the vault door open at all times if you’re going to keep it installed. Better yet, consider having it welded open to avoid any accidents. Overall, there is no reason why a vault in your new space can’t be a great conversation starter.

If you’ve decided that the vault absolutely has to go or you’ve decided to just level the entire bank building and start new, the demolition experts at DT Specialized Services can help. Knocking down the old to pave way for the new is what we love to do and we’d love to help.