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Our expert guide to removing an internal wall – part 1

Image of the kitchen of @ck_homestyle with internal wall removed

Our expert guide to removing an internal wall – part 1

One of the most common questions Jo Buckerfield, founder of Your Space Living, gets asked in her role as a kitchen designer is, ‘How can I create more space?’ One solution is to remove an internal wall to create an open-plan space. Read on for Jo’s expert tips on how best to do this, which experts you’ll need to engage and how to get started. This part one of a two-part planning special (click here for part two).

Image of Jo Buckerfield Your Space Living
Image: Jo Buckerfield, Your Space Living.
What are the benefits of removing an internal wall to create an open-plan layout?

An open-plan space has many benefits. For example, you can keep an eye on kids while you’re cooking and bring the family together in one place for some quality time. Plus, open-plan makes cooking a lot less solitary as the chef can be part of the conversation rather than shut away in a separate space. It can also introduce more light: in some period properties, the front room can feel dark and cramped, so knocking through to form an open-plan living room enhances the flow of light.

 Is open-plan right for me?

This is a very sensible question to ask – especially before you start! Believe it or not, during the recent COVID lockdowns, many open-plan kitchen owners have wanted to replace the internal walls they’ve removed, often because the sounds and smells from the kitchen have become too intrusive. Another problem is the lack of personal space that open-plan creates. Think about the impact of an open-plan layout in your home and family life before you embark on the project.

What’s the first step to removing an internal wall and creating an open-plan space?

The most important thing to do before you call on the professionals is to put your house in order – not literally, but by checking your household insurance, including building and contents policies. Make sure you’re covered for your current house configuration as well as the changes you hope to make.

What do I have to consider first when planning to remove an internal wall?

Check your finances as house re-modelling isn’t cheap. You’ll need funds in place to get the work done and to cover unforeseen issues. I’m not a financial advisor so I can’t go into detail here but your bank or mortgage advisor would be a good place to start.

Should I talk to the local authority planning department before pushing forward with my plans to move an internal wall?

Yes – if you’re planning to remove an internal wall, I’d highly recommend a speculative chat with your local planning office. It’s a great way to learn more about the process and understand your authority’s requirements. As long as your house isn’t grade listed, removing an internal wall won’t need planning permission. However, you do need to adhere to building regulations.

Should I contact my neighbours about my plans?

Yes, definitely. Even minor works can cause significant disruption to you and those around you. For example, during the building phase, you may have several vans parked outside your home as well as a skip for rubbish. Building work can be noisy and messy too, and your neighbours should be given fair warning.

What’s the difference between load-bearing and non-load-bearing walls and why is this important?

A load-bearing wall is an integral part of a house’s structure: it supports the weight of other elements such as the roof or a wall above it. Removing a load-bearing wall without following specific guidelines could bring things crashing down around you – literally!

In contrast, the primary function of non-load-bearing walls is to act as partitions between designated areas. They carry just their own weight so there’s no risk of damaging the structure of your home if you remove one.

Image of the kitchen of @stead_eddie_
Image: @stead_eddie.
How do I know if a wall is load-bearing?

The quickest way to check is to look at the architectural plans for your home. If you don’t have these, you may be able to tell from the direction of the joists in the ceiling. If they run at right angles to the wall, they could be using it for added support.

This isn’t the only clue and in fact, there are many other ways to tell if a wall is load-bearing. I strongly recommend sourcing independent qualified advice. A reputable builder or, better still, a registered structural engineer is the best person to ask.

If the wall I want to remove is non-load bearing, can I remove it myself?

In theory, yes. Removing the wall itself isn’t particularly difficult for a physically able individual but that’s just the start. The next steps may need expert attention and you may find it simpler to call on the professionals for the whole job. A competent builder will smash through plasterboard and timber frame in minutes and deal with the remaining ceiling, walls and floors. If you’re lucky, that might just mean a bit of plastering and a repaint. A more likely scenario would be extensive plastering, a replacement ceiling and significant floor levelling. There’s also a good chance you’ll need to re-route electrical wires and radiator pipes. These are all jobs for skilled tradespeople and shouldn’t be tackled by the uninitiated.

Don’t miss: Our expert guide to removing an internal wall continues in part two.

About Your Space Living: Established in 2012 by husband and wife Jo and Mike Buckerfield, Your Space Living is a home design studio based in South Wales.

Featured image: Removing an internal wall has created this beautiful kitchen-dining space belonging to @ck_homestyle.

Want more? This is just one in a whole series of blogs we’ve put together with the help of some rather special interiors (and other) experts. Why not take time to browse through the others?