Guide to Removing Interior and Exterior House Walls

  • 01 of 07

    Can I Take Down Exterior Walls?

    A woman walks past an exterior wall.
    Natalia Martin Rivero / EyeEm / Getty

    Next to "Is there hardwood under that carpet?" the second-most-popular question among homeowners must be: "Can I take down that wall?"

    Taking down walls means serious home remodeling is happening--it's more than just a covering-up of surfaces. It means a total transformation of rooms and your home in general. But, as you might guess, wall removal can result in a serious weakening of your house's structure.

    Q: Can I Take Down an Exterior Wall?

    No. Exterior walls are almost always load-bearing and cannot be taken down without seriously weakening the structure of your house.

    If you do take down an exterior wall, significant shoring-up is required to maintain your house's strength.

    Disclaimer

    These are not rules for taking down a wall; nothing here is an absolute. Rather, this article aims to provide clues for your detective work in deciding whether a wall can be removed in a one-floor house with a basement. Only a licensed and experienced contractor and/or structural engineer can determine if a wall within your house can be taken down.

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  • 02 of 07

    Can I Take Down Closet Walls?

    Not load-bearing, a closet wall juts out into a room.
    David Papazian / Getty

    Yes. The front of a closet wall is typically a partition wall and is not load-bearing.

    If the closet wall has a "jog," as shown in the picture, it most certainly is not load-bearing. So, the front and side of the closet can both be taken down.

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  • 03 of 07

    Can I Take Down Basement Walls?

    Basements are generally designed so that walls provide vital support to the upper floors.
    Constantin Renner / EyeEm / Getty

    No, and yes.

    Basement walls are a tricky issue. Some of the walls may be absolutely critical to the structural integrity of your house, while other walls may be partition walls that bear no loads from above.

    Let's start with the "No" part. Most basements have a support structure which helps bear the load of the house's first floor above. So, it's not a question of "Does the house have supporting columns and beams?" The question is, "Where are they?" Suffice to say, you do not want to remove anything related to the support of the floor above.

    If the column is a 4x4, it's almost certainly load-bearing. No one will construct a partition wall from 4x4s.

    Now for the "Yes" part. Because basements are often rife with support columns, enterprising homeowners sometimes build walls from one column to the next. These false walls can create laundry rooms, mud-rooms, dens, guest bedrooms, etc. These connections can be removed.

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  • 04 of 07

    Can I Take Down an Interior Wall Running the Length of the House?

    A lengthwise wall runs perpendicular to the rafters, up to the entire length of the building.
    Andrew Mwai / Getty Images

    Perhaps. If your interior wall runs the length of the house--and equally bisects the house--chances are that this wall is load-bearing. If it's a basement wall, the chances are higher.

    If it's a first-floor wall, the chances are lower. In fact, these interior walls which bisect the house may be there simply because below of adequate support below in the basement.

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  • 05 of 07

    Can I Take Down a Wall Running the Width of a House?

    Width-wise walls run parallel to the rafters.
    La Bicicleta Vermella / Getty

    Often yes. Walls running width-wise are better candidates for removal than walls running length-wise.

    In many houses, it is difficult to determine width and length at a glance. Length means running perpendicular to the rafters. Width means running parallel to the rafters.

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  • 06 of 07

    Can I Take Down an Attic Wall?

    Queen Post Truss
    Queen Post Truss. Creative Commons; Wikipedia

    Yes, in many cases. Partition walls in attics may be identified because they are nailed directly to the floor and have vertical studs every sixteen inches.

    A truss (pictured) is composed of triangles and is a supporting member. A truss or any part of a truss should not be removed.

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  • 07 of 07

    Can I Take Down a Wall Which Divides a Room?

    Yes. Provided that you can determine the true outer dimensions of the room, most walls which divide the room can be taken down.