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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 more practical.

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 any work.

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