When you want to enjoy more space in your home, extensions and conversions aren’t the only ways to go. You also have the option to rearrange the internal structure of the property in order to improve the flow. Not only can this turn claustrophobic rooms into attractive open spaces, it can also allow you to take more advantage of natural light and score major points with modern homebuyers.
One of the best ways to do this is by removing an interior wall. However, you should never start knocking walls down without thinking it through! In a worst case scenario you could damage a load bearing wall, seriously undermining the structural integrity of the building (or, to put it another way, making it more likely to fall down!)
With proper planning, on the other hand, you can remove almost any wall in less than a week. A local builder will be able to assess the requirements for the job, such as whether the wall is safe to simply smash through. If not, a structural engineer will be required to perform calculations for a steel beam or lintel, which will replace the wall in holding the rest of your property up.Depending on whether any utilities need to be relocated, such as electrical sockets or radiators, you may also need the help of an electrician or plumber.
Before getting started, there are a few things which you need to figure out. The first, and perhaps the easiest, is knowing whether your home is a listed building or not. It is usually legal to make changes to the interior of a property without planning permission. However, if your home is listed then the work will require listed building consent. Trust us: it is much better to take a second to find this out now than having to deal with penalties for unapproved work down the line.
Next, you will need to find out whether the wall you want to remove is load-bearing or not. A ‘load-bearing wall’ helps to hold up the structure above it, while non load-bearing walls are essentially just there to shape the property’s interior.
It is important to realise at this point that simply removing either wall without proper planning will be a bad idea. We have already mentioned what removing a load-bearing wall can do to a property, but non load-bearing walls also serve an important purpose. Many of them contain elements relating to your utilities, such as electrical wiring or plumbing. Even if a wall is hollow, it can still support plug sockets, switches, radios and so on, or it could even be holding wall-mounted storage units like shelves or cabinets. In other words, simply smashing through a wall like this would also cause problems, even if your home stays standing.
So, how do you gauge how much work it will be to remove a particular wall? The answer is to ask a local builder to assess it on your behalf. In addition to letting you know about what kind of wall it is, they will also be able to point out whether it is fulfils other purposes, such as protecting you in the event of a fire.
If it is indeed a load-bearing wall, your builder will tell you that you will need a structural engineer’s help going forward. In a nutshell, their job will be to provide structural calculations to deduce how much weight the wall takes.
Now, in order to remove a load bearing wall, something will need to be installed in its place to support this weight. For this, your structural engineer will recommend an appropriately sized lintel or RSJ. This requires careful calculations from a qualified professional. In other words, you cannot simply do it yourself. In order to make sure of this, a building inspector will arrive to assess the work, only providing a building approval certificate if it has been handled by a qualified Pro. Once the new beam is installed, it will be sealed up, plastered and painted over.
At this point you will also need to think about anything on the wall that will need to be relocated. Are there any sockets, switches, radiators or anything else fixed to the wall? Relocating utilities like this will add to your costs, but it is imperative that the work is handled by an appropriate Pro. Electricals should only be altered by a qualified local electrician, while radiators or other plumbing utilities should be moved by a plumber or heating engineer.
One final thing to keep in mind before moving onto the removal itself is that this kind of work greats a great deal of mess. Be sure to ask your builder about whether their quote includes building waste removal and ensure that any flooring or furniture is covered before the removal starts.
The cost of removing an interior wall really depends on the amount of work required. Aside from the need for structural calculations, you can also add to your bill by:
As always it will be worth contacting several different trade professionals in order to collect quotes to compare. In general, you could expect removing an internal wall to cost anything between £20 and £65 per square meter.
While all of these elements together will usually leave you having to pay at least £1000, it is important to compare this with what you could potentially save. Removing an internal wall, even a load-bearing one, is often much cheaper than building an extension or renovating a room.
If you live in a property that is attached to another, such as a terraced or semi-detached house, removing a load-bearing wall would have the potential to affect your neighbours' properties. This is true even if the wall in question is nowhere near a party wall; if two properties are attached and one becomes structurally unsound, the second property could also become unsafe to live in.
In a case like this, removing the wall would require a party wall agreement. This will involve sending a party wall notice to your neighbour, giving them enough time to appoint their own surveyor if necessary. You can also hire a party wall surveyor to deal with this on your behalf.