5 tips for removing walls

An open plan kitchen diner area. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

An open plan kitchen diner area. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos - Credit: Archant

If you want to demolish a wall, start by establishing what sort of wall it is.

A wall being knocked through in a home. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

A wall being knocked through in a home. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos - Credit: Archant

1. Both stud-partition walls (plasterboard over a wooden frame, or lath and plaster) and partition walls (bricks or blocks) are usually straightforward to remove, while main supporting walls, which are made of bricks, blocks or stone, aren’t. Stud-partition walls are very rarely load bearing, although they can occasionally become so over time, while partition walls may or may not be load bearing. Main supporting walls are load bearing and tend to be expensive to remove.

2. Load-bearing walls should never be taken down without using adequate supports and inserting a permanent steel beam (or steel frame) to take the weight the wall was supporting – not a job for DIYers. This type of work must be checked and signed off by a building control officer from the local council, or an approved inspector (who does the same job for a private company), to ensure it complies with building regulations. Even removing non-load-bearing walls can be of concern to building control, if, for example, it would create a layout that breaks fire regulations.

3. To determine if a wall’s holding something up, there are various things to look at, including the joists and what’s sitting on the wall, if anything, in the loft – visit wikihow.com/Tell-if-a-Wall-is-Load-Bearing for advice. Sometimes it’s obvious, but if it’s not, consult a structural engineer – don’t take a chance because getting it wrong could make your home liable to collapse. A structural engineer will also be able to calculate what type of steel is needed to replace the wall.

4. In most cases, removing a wall won’t require planning permission. However, if you’re combining wall removal with an extension, as is often the case with kitchen-diners, you may need consent from the local council for that, and all the layout changes will need to be drawn on plans for the application.

5. With listed buildings, it’s important to get listed building consent from the local council before removing a wall. Of course, permission may not be granted, which could make creating an open-plan layout impossible. With leasehold properties, you usually require the permission of the freeholder for alternations – knocking down a wall could potentially affect the whole building. If the work affects a shared (party) wall or other shared structure, you may need to serve a party wall notice on your adjoining neighbours – see gov.uk/party-wall-etc-act-1996-guidance for more information.