If your house was built during the era when small, cozy rooms were in vogue, you may be anxious to open up your living space and make your home more inviting to guests. Removing a wall (or a half-wall) in your living or dining areas can go a long way toward improving the flow of your home, but the prospect of tearing down walls may make you nervous. What should you know before beginning this process, and is it a project you can handle yourself? Read on to learn more about identifying and removing non-load-bearing walls in your home.
How can you tell whether your wall is load-bearing?
Although load-bearing walls can be removed in some scenarios, when renovating your home, it's best to modify only the walls that don't provide any structural support for your home. If your home is single-story, your walls are used to hold your home together and support your roof, while multi-level homes have ground floor walls designed to support both the top story and the roof.
To determine whether a wall in your home is load-bearing, your first step should be to go to the basement (or crawlspace) and look for beams running the length or width of the home. These support beams generally indicate the presence of a load-bearing wall, so any interior walls that are situated parallel to these beams are likely crucial to your home's structural integrity. If you can't access the area beneath your home or don't have many visible beams, you'll instead want to look for floor joists (similar to a car jack). Walls running perpendicular to a floor joist are usually more likely to be load-bearing than not.
Should you try to remove the wall(s) yourself or hire a contractor?
Unless you're certain beyond a doubt that the wall or walls you plan to remove aren't load-bearing, it can be a good idea to enlist a contractor in this process to ensure you're not about to generate a major repair bill. However, if you're taking down an existing half-wall or know that the wall you're removing isn't providing support for anything else, you may be able to handle the interior demolition yourself.
First, you'll need to cut into the wall with a reciprocating saw to allow you to begin tearing the drywall out by hand (or with a sledgehammer). You'll then use this saw to cut the nails holding the studs in place, removing the stud in one piece or cutting it in the center to make it easier to maneuver. Once you've finished this, you'll likely be left with a plaster and sawdust mess to clean up, but your wall will be cleanly removed without affecting the rest of your home.