A lot of older buildings weren’t configured with maximising space in mind, so you tend to get a lot of needless walls boxing things in. But removing them can fully transform your living space.
For instance, you might be considering a more open-plan kitchen and living area.
Where food is cooked was traditionally removed from the main living areas. But cooking is an increasingly social activity, and in newer builds, the kitchen is frequently married to the living room. And the trend in modern buildings leans heavily towards more open spaces generally.
But if you live in an older building, you might be thinking it’s time to get handy with the sledgehammer.
Here are the main things to keep in mind before you start swinging.
First off, you need to establish if the wall you’re thinking of demolishing is a solid structural wall, or just a partition or ‘stud’ wall.
Sanjay Nairi, CEO of Refurb-It-All – which is a member of the Federation of Master Builders – has some advice for the best way to proceed.
“First of all, give the wall a tap. If there’s a dull sound, it’s likely to be solid. But a hollow sound is an indicator of a stud wall.
“This isn’t necessarily conclusive though. For example, a plywood stud wall may not sound hollow.
“So next check upstairs to see if anything is resting on the wall. If there’s a solid wall in line with it upstairs, or joists resting on it in the attic, that also suggests that the wall downstairs is load-bearing.”
Consulting floorplans should also give you a better idea of whether it should be removed or not.
If in any doubt, it’s best to defer to your builder or structural engineer. They should be able to quickly identify how best to proceed.
Speaking of which, you can read about how to find a reliable tradesperson here.
This will largely depend on the complexity of the job, and how handy you are.
If you’re 100% sure that the wall is a stud wall, then you have the option of removing it yourself if you’re confident with your DIY skills.
However, this can be further complicated if there’s pipes or wiring in the wall. It’s best to remove the plasterboard and expose the inside of the wall before concluding whether to demolish it yourself.
If there are any electric sockets or radiators that need to be rerouted or removed, you’ll definitely want to get a pro in.
If a wall is load-bearing, it doesn’t mean it can’t be at least partly removed. However, you’ll certainly want to consult a professional rather than attempting it yourself.
Removing internal walls doesn’t usually require planning permission, but altering a structural wall is likely to require buildings regulations approval.
In this case, you’ll need to get a structural engineer to examine the property and produce a report before building can proceed. This tends to cost around £200-300. Which may not seem cheap for a call-out and piece of paper, but is a good price for the peace of mind that everything’s not going to come crashing down.
Removing a structural wall usually requires beams to be installed, otherwise known as reinforced steel joists (RSJ). So costs begin to stack up, but at least discovering that a wall is load-bearing doesn’t mean you’re out of options.
Other things to consider
Reconfiguring your internal space comes with a few additional considerations. And you probably won’t be surprised to learn that they’re likely to have an effect on the overall cost:
In addition, although you’re under no obligation to do so, it’s nice to tell your neighbours if you’re having work done. Particularly if there’s going to be noise, and tradespeople with equipment frequently accessing the building.
Don’t forget to tell your insurer before you do any building work or renovation including: