Open floor plans have been one of the hottest trends in real estate for the last several years. And anyone who is undertaking a renovation of an older home and attempting to update it any way knows that sometimes the best way to go about this is to remove a few walls. Taking down a wall seems like a quick and easy job, but it’s often harder than most people realize. A wall can contain pipes, ducts, and electrical wires, and it may also be load bearing.
Walls may also be framed, drywall, brick, or plaster. All of which may have different costs and techniques associated as well. That’s why it’s always a good idea to hire a knowledgeable contractor to assist you in this job.
Difference Between a Load-bearing and a Non Load-bearing Wall
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When a house is built, it needs to be structured to hold up the roof in a one-story home or the floor above in the lower level of a two-story home. For a one-story home, the roof can be held up in two ways. Either through a truss system that distributes the load in the attic or through the walls. In a two-story home, the lower walls always support the upper, while the upper floors may or may not be supporting the roof.
Not all walls in a home are load bearing. Some are merely partitions and may have plumbing or electrical wires running through them. Others, however, may be supporting the load above. A non load-bearing wall is much easier to remove. You may need to reroute your wires and pipes, but the wall itself can come down with no issue. A load-bearing wall, however, can’t face removal without also rerouting the load it carries so that the house remains structurally sound.
Determining Whether a Wall Is Load Bearing
It’s not easy to tell whether a wall is load bearing just by looking at it. If you have the blueprints of your home, that should tell you, but not everyone has the blueprints available.
Unless you know that there are no load bearing walls in your home due to an attic truss system on a one-story home, the only way to tell is to hire a structural engineer. A structural engineer can tell by looking at the house, the layout, the thickness and placement of the walls and determine for you whether or not the wall is load bearing.
What to Know Before Taking Down a Wall
Photo by Andrea Booher [Public domain] from wikimedia commons
Sometimes, you won’t know what to find inside the wall until you open it. Sometimes it’s possible to tell if pipes are going to through a wall by it’s thickness; a water wall is 6-inches thick while a non-water wall is 4-inches thick. But other times, there may be more in that wall than you realize. This includes insulation of many kinds depending on how old the house is, and possibly hazardous materials like mold or asbestos.
So, it’s a good idea to have your contractor take a few looks inside the wall by opening up a small area first. Then, you need to be aware of the total expense and any additional work that may come along with removing it.
How Much Does It Cost to Take Down a Wall?
There are a lot of factors that go into determining the cost of taking down a wall. Load bearing walls must first have a structural header before the process of removing the wall. You will need to reroute electrical wires and pipes. Brick or cinderblock walls will take longer to demolish than a framed wall with sheetrock over it.
Assuming that the wall is non load-bearing, and is not a water wall, it should cost around $400 to $500 to remove the wall, including 3 hours of work for a carpenter at $70 an hour and 3 hours of work for an electrician at $65 – $85 an hour. If you need to reroute plumbing, add another $200 for a plumber at $45 – $65 an hour for roughly 3 hours of work. This is all assuming that there is no hazardous material or major structural issues.
If the wall is load bearing, costs will increase to between $1,500 and $3,000 including the cost for a structural engineer. The carpenter to build a header, and the additional moving of wires and pipes. Costs can climb even higher for homes with multiple stories.
Create Your Ideal Home
Whether you’re building a new addition and need to take a wall down to access the new space, or you want a clean, open floor plan in your home, it’s good to know what you’re getting into with wall removal. With the many factors that go into the removal, it’s best to hire professionals for this job. Take it slowly and one step at a time to make sure you are removing the wall safely and that you understand the costs, and enjoy your new space!.