Open-concept floor plans have become one of the most sought-after features among home buyers and homeowners alike. As a remodeling company, the majority of the projects we do involve some extent of removing or shortening walls to create a more open, airy overall feel. Among the many before and after transformations we share, the ones that include a wall removal are by far the most impressive. It’s amazing how different a space can look and how much better the area can be utilized once unnecessary walls have been removed!
By itself, taking down a single wall might seem like a quick and easy job. Unfortunately, it’s often harder than most people realize, especially if the wall houses pipes, ducts, or electrical wires that will have to be relocated. Walls may also be framed, drywall, brick, or plaster. Depending on the material and construction, each specific wall removal cost and process will vary. That’s why it’s always a good idea to hire a knowledgeable contractor to assist you in this job!
If you are considering a wall removal project, either by itself or as a part of another major remodeling project, here are 4 things you should know:
1. The Difference between a Load-bearing and a Non load-bearing Wall
A critical factor in any wall removal project is whether or not the wall is load-bearing. Not all walls are load-bearing; some are simply partitioning and hold plumbing or electrical lines. Others, however, may be supporting the load above – either the roof, ceiling, or a second floor. A non load-bearing wall is typically fairly easy to remove, even if it requires relocating pipes and wires. A load-bearing wall, however, cannot be removed without first securing the load it carries so that the house remains structurally sound. This is done by installing an engineered beam to support the weight of the structure once the wall below has been removed.
If you have the blueprints of your home, the load-bearing walls should be easily identifiable.
If you do not have blueprints, the only sure way to tell is to hire a structural engineer or a contractor with structural knowledge to come take a look at the wall(s) in question prior to moving forward with a wall removal project.
2. Exploratory Surgery May be Necessary
Unfortunately, the unknown contents of a wall may result in unexpected hazards, additional expenses, and unwanted delays in construction. While none of these things sound ideal, sometimes they cannot be avoided; we can’t see through walls, so it’s hard to say what’s inside until we open it up. Typically, a wall with drain pipes running through it is 6-inches thick while one without drain pipes is 4-inches thick. However, there may be more inside a wall than just pipes. This includes insulation of many kinds, and possibly hazardous materials like mold or asbestos. For that reason, it’s a good idea to have your contractor take a look inside the wall by opening up a small area first and performing “exploratory surgery.” This process will inform you of the specific contents and the potential expenses involved, and allow you to make the proper decisions regarding safe removal of the wall.
3. Many Factors Influence the Cost of a Wall Removal
Before entertaining the idea of removing a wall in your home, it’s important to understand that there are a lot of determining factors that go into the final cost. As mentioned, removing a load-bearing wall is a much more complex and expensive process than removing a non load-bearing wall. Load bearing walls must first have an engineered structural beam installed, which can be costly. The average hourly rate of a master carpenter is $65-$75 an hour, give or take, usually with a 3-hour minimum. Potential rerouting of electrical wires and piping is another expense, requiring the skills of licensed professionals that have their own hourly rate – anywhere from $75-$125 an hour. The material of the wall is another contributing factor; brick or cinderblock walls will take longer to demolish than a framed wall with sheetrock over it. Of course, this is all assuming that there is no hazardous material or major structural issues. These expenses can be even higher for homes with multiple stories.
4. Neighboring Rooms Will Also Require Modifications
One thing we always try to remind our clients of is that a wall removal is never just a wall removal – it always requires modifications to the neighboring rooms. For example, if a wall is removed between a kitchen and a living room, new flooring must be installed where the wall previously was. More often than not, this results in replacing the flooring in the entire kitchen and living room, even into hallways and bedrooms/bathrooms off the living room. If the idea of the wall removal is to open the room and create a flowing floor plan, the last thing you will want is to have mismatched flooring breaking up the consistency of the design. You’ll also need to consider painting of the ceiling and trim, and the possibility of other modifications, such as lighting. It’s wise to have a thorough discussion about these modifications with your contractor before committing to the project.
Removing a wall in your home can create an entirely new aesthetic while improving the functionality and utilizing available square footage. Whether you are considering a large-scale remodel or just want to open up a portion of your existing floor plan, the Medford Team would be happy to help! Contact us today for more information!
The Medford Design-Build Team