Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: you’re in your kitchen, and you look around at the walls closing you in. You think to yourself: “It sure would be nice to get some of the sunlight from the dining room in this kitchen”. You start to think about how much nicer it would be to host dinners if there was no separation between the kitchen and the rest of your home. The more you think about it, the stronger the urge to just grab a sledgehammer and..

Stop!

Before you take a swing at your wall, there are a lot of things to consider. While knocking down walls seems simple enough, you could get yourself in a whole heap of trouble if you start swinging blindly. Here are 9 things to think about before you start smashing:

Is the wall load-bearing?

This is the most important question – if you knock down a load-bearing wall, your whole home could collapse onto you.

There are a few ways of telling whether or not a wall is load-bearing. Here are some signs that a wall may be load-bearing:

  • The wall runs perpendicular to your floor joists.
  • The wall is in the center of your home.
  • The wall is above support beams in your basement.
  • Supports from the attic are coming into the wall (or into the wall located above it).

These are, of course, just signs that your wall is load-bearing – experienced remodelers and builders can usually tell at a glance, but if you’re new to renovating, it’s probably best not to take the risk (even if you’re pretty sure it’s not load-bearing).

Your wall may play a supporting role even if it’s not load-bearing – sometimes, ceiling joists are supported by a wall, and you’d have to create another structure to support those joists before knocking the wall down.

What is the wall painted with?

Older homes contain all kinds of health hazards. Asbestos usually comes to mind when people think about old home remodeling dangers; lead paint is another common danger to be concerned about. You’ll want to take steps to verify if there’s lead paint covering a wall, and then take all necessary safety precautions to avoid lead exposure.

Substances containing lead often need to be disposed of separately from general waste – check your local, hazardous waste guidelines.

Is there plumbing inside the wall?

Here’s a nightmare scenario for you: you take a swing into your wall, only to hear a metallic thud. In an instant, water careens out of your wall, damaging large swaths of your home.

Again, before doing that, you can investigate to find any plumbing that might be running through the wall. Are there bathrooms directly above the wall? Is there plumbing you can see in your basement that leads up to the wall? These are all indicators that there are pipes in the place you plan on demolishing.

Of course, the best way to know whether or not there are pipes in your wall is to hire a plumber.

What about electrical and other utilities?

Your wall might not be load-bearing, and it might not have plumbing in it, but chances are it does have some kind of wiring. It might be cable wire or regular electrical – either way, you want to be very careful about knocking out the wall. You’ll almost definitely need to hire an electrician.

The same thing goes for other utilities – HVAC vents, gas lines, and a whole bunch of other utilities might run through or be supported by your wall. You can investigate these things on your own, but your best move, almost certainly, is to hire a professional.

Do you have the permits?

Every municipality handles construction projects differently – in some places, even tearing down a wall requires a permit.

What permits you’ll need can vary substantially, so call your municipal building department to double check.

Do you have the experience?

This has been a recurring theme throughout this piece, so hopefully you get the point by now. Most people don’t know the first thing about plumbing, electrical, construction, or other home renovation essentials – and when tearing down a wall, you need to know about all of them.

A demolition expert can really help with a project like this. Few people know that there are different types of demolition services – for instance, you can hire a company to do partial demolitions, like taking down only one wall, rather than completely demolishing a building.

Are you ready to renovate?

Renovation takes a lot of time and a lot of energy. You’re going to need to move all of your furniture (and any other items) away from the wall being torn down. Tearing down a wall is a messy process – there’s a lot of dust and debris that can fly everywhere. It can also be time-consuming – especially if you have to reroute utilities.

You’ll need to plan well ahead of your renovation – even if it just consists of knocking down a wall. You might, for example, need a dumpster rental to handle all of the debris and broken bits of wall.

Do you have the budget?

Obviously, all of this is going to cost you some amount of time and/or money. If you’ve got all of the know-how and resources, then the cost will probably be pretty low – you might just need to rent or buy some equipment for demolition and clean up.

Those of you who will need to hire professionals, on the other hand, are going to have to budget accordingly. Take your time, talk to multiple contractors, and get estimates.

Are you sure you want an open floor plan?

This is probably one of the most important things of all to know. An open concept home can be a wonderful thing, but there are potential downsides:

  • Foot traffic can come at you from all angles – that can be a problem if you’re cooking and you have small children.
  • Noise will travel more easily throughout your home.
  • You’ll have to rearrange the floor plan of your space.

Think hard about whether or not you really want an open concept home before you start tearing down walls – it’s easier to break them down than it is to put them back up again!

We hope this helps you hone your wall-smashing ambitions into some safe, creative destruction.

 

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