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Wall Removal – Not as Easy as you Think

mechanical lines and framing of a project in progress
Just how easy is it to remove interior walls? Here are some things to consider.

Whenever we meet with a homeowner considering a major interior renovation like a kitchen, one of the more common requests we get is removing a wall to “open up the space”. Removing an interior wall can be a great solution to accomplish this, but sometimes it’s a little more complicated than just taking a sledge hammer and swinging away.

Uncovering a large beam

First, and most importantly, we need to find out if the wall is load-bearing by having an engineer perform a site inspection. More times than not, the wall in question turns out to be load-bearing, but we do luck out on occasion. If the wall is in fact load bearing, the engineer needs to size a new beam to transfer the load above according to the span of the new opening. The wider the span and heavier the load, the larger the beam needs to be. In some cases, the span is so great and/or the load above is so heavy, the new beam size prevents a flush ceiling or affects the height of the new opening. Then, you have to deal with supporting everything below by installing a new structural pier with a concrete footing.

plumbing lines hidden behind walls
Hidden plumbing lines.

So now you’ve taken care of the structural implications of removing a wall, but as you’ve torn away the drywall, you’ve discovered a bunch of electrical, plumbing, and/or HVAC lines. Obviously, these need to be rerouted or relocated, which is always a challenge, but usually feasible with a little creative troubleshooting.

Ok, you’ve addressed the hard parts. What else could there be? Hint: Look up and look down. That’s right, the ceiling and the flooring. In almost all cases, when removing a wall, you have to patch in flooring and drywall to fill the voids the old wall covered. Hardwoods can be tricky, depending on the condition and type of existing floors and the direction they’re running. If the hardwoods aren’t “prefinished”, you may be forced to sand and finish a large area to blend everything in. The ceiling can also be tricky, especially if it’s popcorn, which may force you to scrape all the ceilings, refinish, sand, and paint. Finish trim and painting are a couple other issues you may encounter as well.

wall removal can expose gaps in hardwood floors
Wall removal can expose gaps in hardwood floors.

These are just a few of the obstacles you may come across when removing a wall, which can ultimately prove to be very difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. These are also some of the MANY reasons why you should hire a professional when considering a major remodeling project or something as “simple” as a wall removal. For more information on the Do’s and Don’ts of remodeling, check out the rest of our blog.

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