Removing an interior, non-load-bearing wall is messy, dusty work, but it's not a difficult job, and most walls come out more cleanly than you might expect. The basic process involves checking the wall for wiring, plumbing, or other elements you don't want to damage. Then, you break through the drywall and begin taking it off piece by piece. You can break off the pieces by hand, but a cleaner approach is to cut the drywall along the edges of the studs and take off large pieces. The final step is cutting and prying out the wall framing—the studs and plates.
Before you get started, you need a plan for moving or terminating any wiring, plumbing, or ductwork that runs through the wall. But much more important, you must confirm that it is not a load-bearing wall. A load-bearing wall provides structural support for weight loads above the wall, so it cannot be removed without a new structure that takes its place. Removing a load-bearing wall is a project that requires professional help.
Locate all wiring, plumbing, and HVAC lines or ducts in the wall before starting demolition. Turn off the power to all electrical circuits in the area, and leave it off until all wiring affected by the wall removal is safely terminated.
Equipment / Tools
- Non-contact voltage tester
- Flat pry bar
- Hammer or sledgehammer
- Utility knife
- Dust mask or respirator
- Hearing and eye protection
- Work gloves
- Reciprocating saw with demolition blade
- Plastic sheeting (optional)
Turn off the Power and Water
Turn off the power to all electrical circuits in the work area by switching off the appropriate breakers in your home's electrical service panel (breaker box). Remove all outlet and switch covers from the wall and check for voltage at each electrical box, using a non-contact voltage tester. If any outlets or switches will stay in place during the initial demolition, remove the outlet or switch screws and pull the device away from its electrical box.
If there are water pipes located within the wall, shut off the water at the nearest branch shutoff (if available) or at the home's main shutoff valve. If the pipes in the wall are vent or drain pipes, it is not necessary to shut off the water.
Remove Doors (as needed)
Remove any doors in the wall by unscrewing their hinges from the door jambs. If you plan to reuse a door, you can remove the door casing (molding) and cut through the nails that run through the jambs and into the wall framing, using a reciprocating saw with a metal-cutting blade. Then, slide the jamb frame out of the wall.
Remove All Trimwork
Carefully remove all trimwork, such as baseboards, from the wall, using a flat pry bar. If you have to tap the bar with a hammer to get it started, do it so that any damage occurs on the drywall rather than the trim (if you're saving the trim).
Cut All Paint and Caulk Seals
Cut through the paint and/or caulk where the wall meets the ceiling and adjacent walls, using a sharp utility knife. When you remove drywall, this will prevent peeling of the paint and drywall paper on the adjacent surfaces.
Enclose the work area with clear plastic sheeting to contain dust. Hang the sheets from the ceiling so they extend to the floor. Drywall dust is extremely fine (yet abrasive) and can easily drift from the work area if it is not sealed off.
Punch Starter Holes in the Drywall
Put on eye and ear protection, heavy gloves, and a good-quality dust mask or respirator.
Gently tap the drywall with a large hammer, such as a framing hammer, or a sledgehammer to create starter hole. If the wall does not easily punch through, you are probably hitting a stud. Move the hammer a few inches to the side and try again.
Cut Between the Studs
Outfit a reciprocating saw with a demolition blade. Insert the blade into the starter holes to cut out sections of drywall between the studs. Wall studs are usually located 16 inches apart, from center to center, leaving a 14 1/2-inch space between studs. Aim to cut sections that you can grasp and remove in single pieces.
Be careful not to cut through any remaining wiring, pipes, or ductwork inside the wall.
Pull off the Drywall Sections
Pull off the sections of drywall to remove them from the framing. If there are edges where you couldn't cut through the drywall, give the piece a sharp tug, pulling straight back, to break it along the uncut edges. Drop the removed pieces into a bin or set them in a stack for removal; don't just drop them on the floor where you can trip over them.
Remove Drywall From the Other Side
Remove the drywall from the other side of the wall, using the same techniques. You can work from either side of the wall, but sometimes staying on the starting side is easier because you can see where the studs are.
Remove the Studs and Plates
Use the reciprocating saw to cut each stud horizontally near the middle of the stud's length. Pull back the cut ends of the studs toward you to pry them away from the nails securing them to the top/bottom wall plate.
When all of the studs are removed, use the pry bar and a hammer to pry the top plate from the ceiling framing. Do the same with the bottom plate, prying it away from the subfloor.
Bend over or remove all nails before carrying them out or discarding them. Clean up the area and remove all drywall dust before taking down the plastic sheeting. You can vacuum small amounts of dust with a shop vac, but it doesn't take long before the vacuum starts blowing dust everywhere; it's better to sweep first.
It's a good practice to bend over or remove nails from each piece of framing after it is removed. Leaving even a single nail sticking out of wood is an accident waiting to happen.
How to Save Full-Length Studs
It's easiest to cut the studs and tilt them away from the plates to remove them, but if you want to reserve the studs at full length, you can cut the nails at one one end, then pry the stud away from the opposite plate.
Use a metal-cutting blade on the reciprocating saw. Cut with the blade flat against the plate. The blade will shave off the end of the stud as it goes through the joint and cuts through the nails. Once the stud is free from the plate, pull the stud away from the wall and work it back and forth as needed to free it from the nails on the other end.