Guide to Removing Interior and Exterior House Walls

House facade

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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.

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 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.

Closet Walls

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.

Basement Walls

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

Most basements have a support structure that 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, and more. These connections can be removed.

Interior Walls Running the Length of the House

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. These interior walls which bisect the house may be there simply because below of adequate support below in the basement.

A lengthwise wall runs perpendicular to the rafters, up to the entire length of the building.
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A Wall Running the Width of a House

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.

Attic Wall

Partition walls in attics may be identified because they are nailed directly to the floor and have vertical studs every 16 inches.

A truss, however, is composed of triangles and is a supporting member. A truss or any part of a truss should not be removed.

A Wall That Divides a Room

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

Some walls that divide a space are important to the building's structural integrity, and cannot be removed.
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