by Jane Noble
Oct. 08, 2016
Isn’t it just the best part of all those home renovation TV shows, watching homeowners rip out walls? They just go at it and get rid of all their frustrations at the same time. But they don’t really need to know what they are doing as they are being supervised by a knowledgeable remodeling contractor. You may have great remodeling ideas about opening up your space. Before you grab the sledgehammer and take a swing, you might want to hold back a second and consider a few things.
Your number one question should be: Is the wall load bearing? If the answer is yes, you can’t just remove it without considering the implications, particularly in a two-story house. Reinforcements have to be added to accommodate the stress the second story will put on the other walls. This is not a DIY project and you don’t want to risk the integrity of your whole house by making an error. An architect or engineer can determine what kind of support will be needed to replace the wall such as posts, headers or beams, and what temporary framework will be needed while the wall is being removed. Removal of structural walls usually requires a permit.
A shear wall is composed of braced panels, often made of plywood, designed to counter the effects of lateral loads caused by hurricanes and earthquakes. Basically if a hurricane hits, a strong connection to a shear wall may stop your roof blowing off. If an earthquake causes sideways movement, a shear wall may prevent everything buckling and falling in on itself.
There is a joke in Southern California that rain will make people panic and stop dead in their tracks, whereas earthquakes are so common it’s like, oh well. But jokes aside, if you have a shear wall, you may want to keep it. It is only when danger strikes that you will realize its value. If you still want to go ahead and dismantle it, consult with a structural engineer first so you don’t set yourself up for future problems.
Non load bearing walls divide rooms and may house electrical lines, plumbing or HVAC. Telltale signs are things like light switches, thermostats or vents. You can use a voltmeter to see if electrical current is running through the walls. Power or plumbing lines will have to be rerouted and supply and return vents for your heating may have to be relocated. You will likely need a professional to deal with this.
What kind of flooring is on either side of the wall you want to demolish? Even if it is the same, you are going to be left with an awkward patch that will be difficult to blend in. You don’t want it to be obvious that a wall used to be there. If have neither the funds, nor the inclination to replace all the flooring, there are various transitional borders that can tie the two areas together, depending on the flooring type. If you want to create a seamless transition replacing the flooring will be your best option.
The ceiling will have to be patched, primed and painted. The texture will determine how easy it is to match up. If there is crown molding involved, this could be a little trickier.
You may have to patch and then paint the drywall where the wall was removed.
This may seem obvious but don’t rush into demolishing something which can’t be put back. Your goal may be to bring more light into an area and create a better flow. You may be able to achieve this by knocking only part of the wall down.
Demolishing a wall is a dusty, messy job. You definitely need to wear goggles to protect your eyes, a long sleeved shirt to protect your skin, and a face mask to avoid breathing in particles of drywall.