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Our expert guide to removing an internal wall – part 2

Image of the kitchen of @dreambound74 with internal wall removed

Our expert guide to removing an internal wall – part 2

In part one of this guide, Jo Buckerfield, founder of Your Space Living, talked through some of the initial questions to ask when removing an internal wall. Here, in part two, Jo offers even more expert advice, so be sure to read on. If you missed part one of our planning special, catch up here.

Image of Jo Buckerfield Your Space Living
Image: Jo Buckerfield, Your Space Living.
I’ve decided to remove an internal wall to open up my kitchen. Who’s my first port of call?

A builder is the first person involved in this job. They’ll remove the wall, install any structural supports, level floors and make good. The final result should be seamless and the builder will work around other specialist tradespeople to bring everything together. Your builder should also communicate regularly with your local authority’s building inspector, who’ll make sure all work complies with regulations.

Is a structural engineer always needed?

If the wall coming down isn’t load bearing, you won’t need a structural engineer. However, it’s essential to involve a structural engineer if you’re thinking of removing a load-bearing wall. Crucially, he or she will work out what materials are needed to support the ceiling when the wall is gone – for example, a reinforced steel joist (RSJ). They’ll also calculate the design, assembly and size of the RSJ and specify other supporting structures needed to keep it in place. All of these details will be presented in an illustrated document and sent to your local authority building inspector. You’ll also need to keep a copy of this document for your own records.

What happens when a load-bearing wall is demolished?

A lot happens before the wall itself is removed. First, temporary support structures need to be put in place to take the strain when the wall comes down. A common solution is to use a number of steel props or ‘acrows’ with masonry supports at regular intervals. Depending on the size of the wall, allow around two days for this.

The reinforced steel joist (RSJ) replacing the wall will also need extra support. This comes in the form of reinforced blocks called padstones, which stop the original blockwork from crumbling under the weight. The RSJ is then lifted into place. This is a relatively quick process as automated lifting machines are used. In my experience, you should allow a full working week for a load-bearing wall to come out and be replaced by a custom-designed RSJ.

How do I cover up a steel joist so that it doesn’t affect the look of my space?

Building regulations stipulate that steel joists must be covered for fire protection purposes and local authorities are very strict about this. The most common material used is fire-retardant plasterboard that can be skimmed with wet plaster and decorated in your preferred style. A recent trend I’ve seen is to paint all the ceiling elements, including the joists, in the same colour as the walls. This works well with light colours and helps to minimise the impact of low beams. Another important consideration is the design and layout of the furniture. Where possible, you should avoid cabinet positions that clash with the beam.

I want to leave my RSJ on show – is this possible? Can I paint it?

Building regulations stipulate that steel support beams need to be covered but there are solutions if you want to see the contours of the steel. For example, you could apply a coat of intumescent paint. This specialist coating is fire-retardant and must be applied before the beam is installed. After the installation, any scratches or paint chips will need to be fixed. All this work must be carried out under strict guidelines as it’ll be checked and signed off by your building regulations officer. As with all structural work, it’s best to consult a registered structural engineer, who’ll guide you through all the dos and don’ts.

Don’t miss: The first part of this feature on removing an internal wall can be read here.

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: The RSJ is now a striking feature in this kitchen belonging to @dreambound74.

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?