How to Tear Down a Wall

If you own a single story home and would like to do some remodeling you may be able to remove a partition wall yourself. Once you verify that the wall is not a bearing wall, most partition walls can easily be removed within an afternoon. Before beginning this or any other home improvement project, be sure to check with the local and state governments to verify if you need any permits.

The most important thing to do before tearing down a wall is to determine if the wall is structurally necessary. A structurally necessary wall is called a bearing wall; it helps hold some of the weight of the house. If you want to remove a bearing wall you must consult a contractor or an architect. Otherwise you can do serious damage to the structural integrity of your home. A partition wall does not hold any load other than its own weight. They are built only to separate spaces and create rooms.

All exterior walls that are perpendicular to ceiling and floor joists are load bearing and cannot be removed by the homeowner. Typical home construction also has one interior wall that runs perpendicular to ceiling joists to help hold the load. Look in your attic or crawl space at the ceiling joists. If the ceiling joists are joined to a interior wall, that wall is load bearing. Walls that are not attached, or walls that are parallel to the ceiling joists are typically not load bearing and can be removed. If you have any question as to the purpose of your wall, consult an architect or home inspector.

Also examine your wall for signs of possible electric work or plumbing that may be located within the wall cavity. If you find anything you can still remove the wall, but you must pay a professional to reroute the pipes or wires before you begin.

Once you have determined what wall to remove, the process is simple. Before beginning, cover as many surfaces as possible with drop clothes and other measures to prevent mess. Wear old clothes, gloves, safety goggles and a painter’s mask.

First remove any molding on the wall with a crowbar. Now is also time to remove the door if the wall contains one. To remove a typical gypsum board (drywall) wall, knock a hole in your wall with a hammer. Then use the hammer or a crowbar to pry large sections of the board off the studs. Remove one side completely before removing the other side as well.

After all of the studs are exposed, they are easily removed. Use a saw to cut the stud apart in the middle. Then rock the pieces of the studs to loosen the nails until they can be removed. Work from one end to the other to reduce the chance of getting injured by an exposed nail.

Next remove the sole plate. This is the piece of wood that is attached to the floor that the bottoms of the studs were nailed to. To remove, cut out a small part of the sole plate with a saw. Then use a crowbar to pry the sole plate up from the floor. To remove the top plate, carefully cut away the ceiling materials. Then you should be able to pry off the top plate with a crowbar.

The real challenge after removing a wall is patching the ceiling, floor, and wall to look like the surrounding areas. This is why wall removal is often combined with other cosmetic alterations to the interior of your home. Before removing any wall, decide how you are going to treat these areas. Are you going to repaint the wall after patching it? Do you have enough flooring to fix the area where the sole plate once was? Answer these questions and be sure you have the expertise to patch these surfaces before taking down the wall.

Like many home improvement projects, a careful homeowner can complete this small remodel with no additional help. If you are not confident in your abilities or not comfortable with tools, start with a smaller project before removing a wall. You may decide that you are not patient enough to do home improvement products and your money is best spent on a professional contractor.

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