Blog - Wall removal. Benefits, implications and what to expect.

Removing walls in your house or apartment can add space and a whole new open feel to your home. This can add value to your home, rejuvenate the look and feel and enable the use of space that is otherwise non-usable.
Issues Vs. Cost

Primary issue: Safety 
Secondary Issues: Aesthetics and usability
Before you embark on wall removal plans, you need to review the implications of removing the wall. This will give you a better idea for what work is involved and  give a better estimation of how much the project may cost. Some wall removals are straight forward and relatively cheap to remove, while others can be complicated, requiring greater budget.

Questions to ask before removing a wall
To see how involved the project might be, you may wish to get a general idea of the answers to the following questions yourself. This way you can have a better understanding of what a professional needs to consider.

Wall removal is not a DIY job. A structural engineer has the required expertise to investigate and appropriately answer these questions:
What building material is the wall constructed?
Brick walls tend to be load bearing and timber constructed walls are more likely to be load bearing in only 50% of their applications. Tapping on the wall can sometimes determine if it is timber or brick wall. 

What is the wall supporting?
What is above or on top of the wall? Is it another floor? If so, is it timber flooring or concrete flooring or roof, or a combination? Are there any beams at the ceiling level that run to the side of the wall?

The answers to these questions will determine what beam is required and the complexity of the design. 

What type of floor connects to the bottom of the wall?
This can give you an idea of how the floor above is constructed. If you are at the top level of an apartment or house then this has no relevance. But if there are habitable levels above,  this can give you an idea of how the floor above the wall is constructed.

While next to the wall of interest, tap on the floor you are standing on and if it feels dense like a rock, then you’re probably standing on a concrete slab. If you tap on the floor it feels slightly hollow then you’re likely on timber flooring. 

Are there electrical or plumbing services in the wall?
These services are likely to be in bathroom or kitchen walls, also check for power outlets. If there are services, then you will need a qualified tradesman to remove and then  reinstall the service at a different nearby location.

Is the wall for removal currently used as a bracing wall for the building?
Not all load bearing walls resist purely vertical gravity loads. Some also resist lateral forces against wind, earthquake and impact forces. Uncovering the wall lining will reveal if the wall is used for lateral bracing. This type of wall removal requires the most engineering, especially because it affects the overall stability of the building. 

In some cases, the answers to the above questions will not be readily available and destructive removal of ceiling lining will be required by a professional. If the wall for removal is load bearing, then at the very least, a new beam is required. Depending on the new span and loads on to the new beam will determine if the new beam is timber or steel. It will also determine how deep, wide and long the beam should be. A steel beam is more expensive than a timber one and larger beams cost more than smaller ones. Depending on the site conditions, you may also require posts and footings.

Some wall removals require more than the sizing and installation of a new beam. The process can be quite involved and wall removal should never be undertaken without first consulting the professionals.
Refer to out info-graphic at Your Building Journey From Supplier Selection to Construction for an overview of the planning and construction process.

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