What to Know Before Knocking Down a Wall

Monday, February 23rd, 2015 by Danny Peterson

Want to expand your home? To make your rooms bigger, or perhaps to add a new room altogether? The good news is that it can be done. The bad news is that it’s going to be a little messy! Your new space has got to come from somewhere, and to make that happen you’re going to need to knock out a wall or two to give your home some room to grow. If knocking down a wall sounds like an extreme measure, consider this: People do it all the time. We often work on remodeling projects that encompass wall demolition. Your walls are meant to be durable but not necessarily to be immovable, and if you have a carefully considered renovation plan that involves a wall or two being torn down, you shouldn’t hesitate! You should, however, know what you’re getting into. And since most homeowners have very little experience knocking down walls, that can be tricky. So what do you need to know before demolition time comes? We have a few pointers to offer you:

  1. You don’t want to knock down a wall until you have a specific plan. Work with a contractor to develop a strategy and a blueprint before you start tearing into plaster or drywall! Have a good idea of how you want to enlarge your home; how your new space will connect to the current space; how the new space will be used; whether you will need a new doorway or simply an open concept; and even how your expansion will affect natural light in your home.
  2. Not every wall can be torn down, at least not immediately. You don’t want to do anything drastic without assessing the structural bearing of the wall. If that wall is necessary for supporting your roof or your upper floor, then obviously you’re going to need to rethink things.
  3. Something else to appraise: What’s inside the wall? If it’s an external wall then it’s likely there is no plumbing within it, but any wall could have wiring or HVAC connections. This is something else to have your contractor appraise.
  4. Note that, when appraising what’s inside your walls, you may find something unexpected—like an unused gas line—that will need to be safely removed and disposed of. This can be an added expense for your project, so allow yourself a little budgetary wiggle room.
  5. Removing the wall in a single story home is different from removing the wall in a two-story home. Removing the wall in a two-story home is, frankly, tougher, more complicated, and likely more expensive. You will definitely want to hire an experienced contractor to look at it and offer advice.
  6. You also want to think about the ways in which a wall removal will impact your floor and ceiling. If you remove the wall from a hardwood floored area, you are likely going to be left with an empty spot, and it can be very hard to fill in that empty spot in a way that looks seamless and natural. Ideally, you’ll replace your flooring when you do your wall demolition and remodel. (Note that if you have carpet as opposed to hardwood, matching a new piece can be much easier.) As for the ceiling, matching a smooth or popcorn ceiling is usually doable, but moldings can be trickier.

Adding to your home can add immense property value, to say nothing of comfort and utility. You just want to make sure you’re doing it right—and that includes approaching your wall demolition strategically.

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