Wall Removal 101: Removing Load-bearing Walls

Homeowners often wish to remove a wall for a variety of reasons, including to enhance style or function. However, removing a wall isn’t as simple as pulling out a sledgehammer and knocking it down. Removing a wall requires the right tools and expertise to ensure the structural integrity of your home is maintained.

The specific process to remove a wall depends on whether the wall is loadbearing or not. A loadbearing wall holds the weight of the structure above and requires a more complex process and higher cost to remove. Whereas, interior non-loadbearing walls can be removed at a lower cost and with no effect on your home’s structural system.

How to Know if a Wall is Loadbearing

First, exterior walls are almost always loadbearing, and will always require engineering to move, shorten, or create new openings in the wall. It is more difficult to determine if interior walls are loadbearing. The best way to determine which walls are loadbearing is by consulting a structural engineer to review the existing framing. If you have access to the original construction documents for your home, then you can send those to a structural engineer to review and interpret. 

If you do not have access to the original plans, schedule a consultation with a Structural Engineer to confirm whether the wall you plan to remove is loadbearing before you move forward. Columns or pillars that run through your home may also be loadbearing. Treat these like you would treat the removal of a loadbearing wall.

How to Remove a Loadbearing Wall

You need the expert knowledge of a Structural Engineer who will create the signed and sealed engineering plans to remove the wall and provide adequate support with an alternative, like a beam or column. These plans are required for permitting. It’s ill-advised to attempt to remove a loadbearing wall without a licensed contractor.

You risk damaging your home if you do not remove a loadbearing wall correctly. For example, you may experience sagging of the floor or ceiling, cracks in the drywall or sticking in the doors or windows if there is not adequate shoring during construction. In the worst-case scenario, the home could collapse. Instead, seek the guidance of a Structural Engineer to protect you and your home.

What is Needed to Remove a Loadbearing Wall

As more homeowners embrace an open floor plan, loadbearing walls are being removed in favor of open-concept spaces. However, proper support needs to be put in place before attempting to remove the wall. A Structural Engineer will determine if a beam is necessary and how big it is.

Temporary support will be added before the removal process, which prevents the house from collapsing as the beam is installed. As the beam is fastened into place, any damaged parts of the framing will also be reinforced with increased support. An inspector will review the work and ensure it’s done properly before the remodel can continue.

Know When to Contact the Professionals

Part of the home renovation process often includes wall removal. Just remember, work with professionals when needed to ensure the proper procedures for the project. You want to protect your home and investment. At Russell Rowland, we understand the importance of loadbearing walls and how to identify and properly remove loadbearing walls. Contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your wall removal project.