5 Things You Must Consider Before Removing a Non Load-Bearing Wall

Removing Wallpaper Prior To Taking Down Wall - 134308985
Removing Wallpaper Prior To Taking Down Wall. Getty / Anik Messier

Before you remove your non load-bearing interior wall, consider these points about structural carpentry, permits, demolition, and how loads are carried.

1.  Make Sure You Not Following (Potentially Flawed) Trends

Summary:  Walls have good points and you may actually want them.

Older houses were segmented into many small rooms.  One reason was to better control heating.  Another reason was that milled lumber was not capable of spanning great distances.

 Old growth forests that produced massive beams were thinning out, yet the day of inexpensive laminated veneer lumber (LVL) had not yet arrived.

Newer, post World War II houses began to adopt the open floor plan and span those distances.  These are houses that have a single large communal area that includes kitchen, dining room, family room, and perhaps even other rooms.

Today, as homeowners think more about green-building and smart energy-saving tactics, few methods are as efficient as heating and cooling individual rooms rather than the whole house at once.  

In only the last 30 years, we have already seen how the vaulted (or cathedral) ceiling has fallen into disfavor as an energy vampire.  Could the open floor plan be next?

2.  Determine That It Is Really Not Bearing Loads

Summary:  There are ways to determine if the wall is not load-bearing before you consider taking it down.

Walls always define rooms.

 But they only sometimes bear weight from above and are important to the structural integrity of the entire house.

  • But walls built at a perpendicular angle still might be non load-bearing.  A closet is a good example.

3.  If In Doubt, Confirm That It Is Not Load-Bearing

Summary:  Hire a structural engineer if in doubt.

Determining whether an interior wall is bearing or not bearing loads can be a tricky business.

You can get the opinion of a contractor, who will charge you an hourly or flat fee to check out the wall.  

If you are particularly concerned about getting an expert opinion, hire a structural engineer.

The structural engineer will charge a fee and this fee is often quite high. Also, the engineer may have a minimum charge, so it may not be possible to have him or her come in for just half an hour.

4.  Permits Likely Needed

Summary:  It is not load-bearing.  Yet your city still wants to know about it.

Permits and more permits!  As time goes by, municipalities add even more remodeling activities to their permitting list.

Even though you have determined that you can remove your wall with zero effect on the house's structural integrity, your city or county permit agency still does not quite believe you.

This is because there is a long history of homeowners before you removing walls and causing serious damage to the house and even injuring others.

So, do not take it personally.  Pay the $85 for the permit and consider it the cost of doing business.

5.  You May Find Wires, Pipes, and Other Sensitive Items Within the Walls

Summary:  Wires and pipes are an obstacle but do not prevent you from removing the wall.

Removing an interior non bearing wall is as simple as demolishing it and sending all the waste materials down to a roll container. While this is not a job that can be accomplished within 2 hours on a Friday evening, you may find that it is easier than expected. In fact, the main thing that you need to be concerned about is utilities running through the interior wall: electrical, plumbing, cable, and telephone.

If your interior non bearing wall has utilities, then you have the added cost of hiring a plumber or electrician to come in and “cap off” those utilities.

For electrical, you will be left with a junction box that is covered by a blank face plate, which can usually be painted over.