As we approach Thanksgiving and the end of the year holiday season, I thought it would be great to re-share this article as we all make more time to gather with our families.
“I can’t stand it anymore. Every time I entertain, my guests all crowd into my tiny kitchen and I can’t move around. Sometimes they all sit in the living room and leave me to carry on a conversation through the wall. This is so annoying.”
If you have ever said this or even thought it, this article is for you. If you have ever been over to a friend’s house and seen them struggle with this situation, forward this article to them.
Today, I’m talking about taking down the wall between two rooms – usually a kitchen and dining room, but this article applies to any wall that needs to be taken down between two rooms. In fact, the pictures in this article were taken from a project where the wall was between a sitting room and a dining room.
In this particular case, Betty wanted to have her whole family sitting at one table during the holidays or at special gatherings.
Here’s a picture of where the wall was before, just as we were starting to take out the drywall:
The above picture was taken from the kitchen doorway looking into the dining room. The doorway in the left of the picture is between the dining room and the sitting room.
That same day, only the framing of the original wall remains, but you can already get a sense for how open the space will be.
The wall is now completely removed. However, some new drywall will need to be put in place. Some electrical has been moved and the chandelier needs to be centered in the new space.
The job is nearly done. You can see the ceiling has been completed and the chandelier moved to its new space. All that remains is the new carpet install and moving everything back into the new room.
THE NEW ROOM (as prepped for a baby shower…one of those special gatherings!)
What are the steps that have to happen to take down the wall between two rooms?
Before tearing down anything, first think about how you will arrange the new space if you do decide to take down the wall.
Look at your furniture layout. How will you arrange the furniture in the room once the wall is gone?
If you have kitchen cabinets along the wall that is going to be removed, how will you reconfigure that wall? Make sure that eliminating the wall solves your problems and does not create a new one. Sometime laying out your space on graph paper can help you see how everything will go together.
If you’re unsure if you are laying it out right or are worried you might be creating other problems, talk to an interior designer or an experienced contractor. They may be able to help you think about things you may not have thought of yet.
One quick side note on layout – Make sure you understand how people will walk through the new space. Sometimes when you change a space by moving a wall, the way people walk through the area can be impacted.
Once you are sure that taking down a wall will work for your space, the next thing to figure out is can you take the wall out. Most of the time, the answer is yes.
Sometimes a wall is load bearing. This means that the wall supports other areas of the house – perhaps a roof or second floor.
Figuring out a load bearing wall from a non-load bearing wall can sometimes be tricky. My advice is to consult with a structural engineer. I think this makes sense for two reasons. First, if you really are serious about moving that wall, the city will want to see engineering when you pull the permit. Second, what will you do if you start tearing the wall out and discover half way through that it really is a load bearing wall?
A structural engineer’s consultation will cost you about $300 to $500.
Oh, and if it turns out your wall is load bearing, keep in mind that it can still be removed. It will just be a bit trickier.
After you make sure taking out the wall makes sense and you know if it is load bearing or not, think about what other work will need to be done when the wall is removed. The most common issues you will run into is matching the flooring, matching the ceiling and walls, and let’s not forget there is often electrical and plumbing in walls that will need re-routing. Consider how switch locations will be impacted by removing a wall. Sometimes removing a wall puts the light switch in a very odd location.
If you go through these steps and everything still makes sense, the next step is to take the wall out.
If you decide to hire a remodelor, make sure they have done at least 7 of these types of projects. Experience counts here. You will know you are talking to an experienced remodelor if they talk to you first about layout, they recommend getting an engineer, and they talk to you about other areas impacted by this wall removal.
If you are the do-it-yourself type of person, you can do this work yourself although it requires advanced carpentry skills, especially if the wall is load bearing. Make sure to pull the proper permits. If you ever sell your house, un-permitted work can be a big problem.
Once the work is done, invite your guests over and see how the new space works!!
Mike Otto, Fair and Square Remodeling