Demolishing a wall or removing a section of one is common in modern renovations. With the shift towards open floor plans, removing interior walls has become a stable skill for carpenters and contractors.
I’ve removed lots of walls in my career, both partitions and load-bearing. I suggest leaving load-bearing walls to the professionals. However, removing a partition wall is well within the skill set of a handy and confident homeowner.
In this article, I’ll talk a bit about how we professionally demo walls, what that process looks like, and how to do it safely.
Preparing for Demolition
The first and most important part of demoing a wall is establishing whether the wall is a partition or a load-bearing wall.
As the name suggests, load-bearing walls serve as vital structural components in your home. Partitions, on the other hand, don’t serve a structural purpose and only exist to divide the interior space of a house. Whether a wall is a partition or load-bearing wall will determine how to safely remove it.
Load-bearing walls should be left to professionals. Before demolishing a load-bearing wall, contractors build a temporary wall to support the load while the wall is being demolished. This is left standing until a replacement support system can be installed. Then, they secure the work area with tarps and makeshift partitions to minimize dust and contain debris. Once everything is set and in-place, they can begin the demolition.
Preparing to remove a partition only involves a couple major steps. First, remove or sever all utilities to the partition. This will require a basic understanding of plumbing, HVAC, and electrical systems. Cutting into a live wire during a demo can cause injury; cutting into a water pipe can cause a disaster. So, getting it right should be your top priority.
After that, put down coverings to protect your flooring, like tarps and dropcloths, and you’re ready to go.
There are two main ways to approach demolition: disassembly or destruction. Which one you or a contractor choose will likely depend on circumstances and preferences. They’re both equally acceptable methods, but they have different trade-offs.
Disassembly is a slower process of methodically taking the wall apart. This method is great if you’re working on a finished house because it minimizes debris and dust, as well as keeping demoed material in large pieces for easy removal.
Destruction is a fast and forceful process. It’s a great method when you want to get it done quickly. The trade-off is that it’s messy and loud. Sledge hammers and power tools make quick work of a wall but throw a lot of particles into the air. This can leave a dust coating throughout the entire house.
Hiring a Contractor
Demolishing load-bearing walls requires specialized skills, experience, and tools. Homeowners should strongly consider hiring a licensed contractor rather than DIY. Most contractors should be comfortable with removing a load-bearing wall. Nonetheless, look for ones with remodeling experience and a portfolio of similar projects.
Verify licensing, insurance, and bonding. Meet in person for an estimate so they can assess the worksite. The contractor should identify issues and recommend solutions. Make sure the bid covers debris removal and structural work.
Cost to Remove a Wall
The cost to take down an interior wall depends on several factors:
- Load-bearing or partition
- Wall size
- Structural modifications needed
- Project complexity
Non-load-bearing removal typically costs $500 to $1,000 for an average-sized wall. For load-bearing walls, expect to pay $1,500 to $10,000.
The cost to remove a load-bearing wall depends on the amount of work and material required to secure the structure after removal. This can be hard to quantify without seeing the wall. For the average home, you should expect to pay no more than a couple thousand. For expensive or structurally complex homes, you could end up paying as much as $10,000.
So, Is Demolishing Interior Walls Difficult?
Confident, knowledgeable DIYers should have no trouble removing partition walls. I recommend hiring a qualified contractor to double-check that the wall is not load-bearing and give advice and recommendations.
For load-bearing walls, let the professionals handle it. Incorrect removal can create dangerous or even disastrous damage to your home. At the very least, occupants would have to vacate the home until the damage could be remediated.
FAQs About Demolishing Interior Walls
How can I tell if a wall is load-bearing?
Load-bearing walls run perpendicular to the ceiling joists. There are some edge cases, though, so hire a professional to assess the wall before doing a DIY removal.
What demolition can I DIY?
You can do a DIY removal of any non-structural component of the house. Correct identification is important, so consult with a professional before undertaking any demolition.
Does knocking down a wall require a permit?
Yes, in most cases. Check with your local authority to find out permit criteria and requirements.
What if I don't like the open layout after removing a wall?
Partitions can be freely added or removed, so you can build a new partition wherever you like.
Can I sell after removing a load-bearing wall?
Yes, as long as it’s within the code and passes any legally required inspections.