Removing an Interior Wall
Want to remove a wall? Removing an interior wall is
a commonly considered remodeling task. People often want to enlarge a
room or open up the flow of their home by eliminating a wall. In many cases removing a wall is pretty easy to do. However,
it isn't a task that can be done without some serious consideration first.
Interior walls are either load-bearing or non-bearing. A load-bearing
wall is a vital component of your home's structure that supports a load
above it, typically a load of several tons. Determining whether a wall
is load bearing is not necessarily a straightforward process. There are
things to look for to make a determination. Unfortunately, there are
things that could be missed or things unseen that make determination
more difficult. For this reason, a professional should be consulted before
the planning progresses too far and certainly before you attempt to
remove a wall yourself.
An alternative to removing a wall is to create an opening in the wall.
This is much easier than removing a wall entirely, especially a load-bearing
wall. The opening can be quite wide, six to eight feet or
even wider. An opening in a load-bearing wall will require a header
to be installed over the opening and that header is supported by studs
at either end, thereby transferring the load. Another alternative to
completely removing a bearing wall is to replace the wall with one or
more support columns. In this way you can open up the room while keeping
the engineering and constructions costs down.
Once you have made the determination that a wall is not load bearing,
removing a wall that is non-bearing is a project that can be tackled
by a do-it-yourselfer. However, there are some considerations as well
as some possible snags to this project. The first most likely concern
is whether there are any electrical or plumbing runs through the wall.
Removing an outlet shouldn't be difficult. But relocating switches or
rerouting wiring that goes elsewhere in the house can be complicated.
Dealing with water supply, drains and venting could also make wall removal
difficult. It isn't unusual for a wall to be opened up and the surprise
inside results in a change in the design plans. This even happens with
pros. This is not to say that such problems can't be resolved,
but the solution may be so expensive or difficult that a redesign is
Another thing to consider when removing a wall is matching the ceiling
of the two rooms. Ordinarily, they should be the same height, however,
they may not be precisely level with each other. Furthermore, even though
a wall may not be load-bearing, it may be preventing the ceiling joists
from sagging. Removal may result in those ceiling joists relaxing or
bowing a bit. A transition detail can bridge mismatched ceilings. But
if you are counting on a smooth continuous expanse of ceiling between
the two rooms, you may be forced to make some significant repairs to
one or both ceilings to achieve the look you want. Similarly, the floors
will have a several inch gap between the flooring of the two rooms. You
will need bridge this gap if you won't be redoing the entire floor covering.
How To Remove a Non-Bearing Wall
Start by turning off the electricity at the breaker. Next, mark what
is to be removed. Remeasure and double-check everything before you start
demolition. Now, use a razor knife to cut the along the corner
where the wall meets the ceiling. As you pull the drywall off the wall,
this will help prevent tearing the paper off the ceiling drywall.
Because there may be electrical wires, pipes or even treasure hidden
inside the walls, never just start cutting into the wall. Start by removing
the wall material. This will be dusty work and so wear breathing masks
and seal off nearby areas to keep the dust mess down. Using a hammer
to make a hole in the wall and reach in with a gloved hand and pull off
the drywall. Keep working until all the drywall is down. Haul out debris
regularly to keep your work area safe.
Once the drywall is off, you can see all the wiring and plumbing that
will have to be addressed. In the case of electrical outlets, if they
are at the end of circuit, you can simply disconnect the wires from
the immediately preceding outlet in the chain. If the outlet has wires
outbound to another outlet, then it will be necessary to install a junction
box to splice the wiring or to rewire the circuit. Switches may be dealt
with similarly to outlets, although deletion may not be an option, it
may be necessary to relocate a switch to a different wall.
Plumbing, whether water supply or drain, waste and vent, can be more
complicated to deal with. It may be necessary to open another wall and
rerun the plumbing there, or another option may exist. This is a good
place to get an expert opinion. As a last resort, creating a plumbing
(or electrical) chase may be an option. A chase is similar to a chimney,
it allows the pipes to pass from the floor to the ceiling, hidden from
sight. The outside appearance can be disguised as support column.
Once any utilities have been dealt with you can begin removing the
studs. One way to remove the studs is to knock them lose from the bottom
plate with a heavy hammer and then twist them loose from the top. If
space is tight, you can saw through them in the middle and then twist
out the top half and the bottom half separately. In some cases, it may
be possible to use a reciprocating saw to cut the nails between the top
plate and the ceiling joist and simply push the whole wall over.
Removing a wall can be a great way to change the look of your home and
to provide expansive space. However, consult a professional
first to make a determination about the feasibility of removing a wall
early in your planning process. Also, be sure to check with your local
building department and obtain any necessary permits before starting