Guide to Removing Interior and Exterior House Walls

House facade

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One of the most common questions that homeowners ask is if they can remove a wall. Taking down walls means serious home remodeling, more than just painting the room or replacing kitchen cabinet fixtures.

Removing a wall is a total transformation of rooms and your home in general. Because wall removal can result in a serious weakening of your house's structure, you need to know what walls you can and cannot safely remove, until normal conditions.

Warning

Only a licensed and experienced contractor, architect, or structural engineer can determine if a wall within your house can be taken down. Often, parts of the wall may need to be opened up to determine the strength of the wall.

Exterior Walls

Generally, exterior walls cannot be removed. If exterior walls are removed, it's usually part of a larger building project such as a home addition.

Exterior walls are almost always load-bearing and cannot be taken down without seriously weakening the structure of your house. Even taking out part of an exterior wall such as a door or window header is not recommended. All parts of walls, especially exterior walls, are there for a reason and cannot be removed.

If you do take down an exterior wall, a significant amount of shoring-up is required to maintain your house's strength, just to hold it up temporarily.

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 or an outset, it most certainly is not load-bearing. So, the front and side of the closet can both be taken down. If the closet wall runs all the way across a room, it still is likely a partition wall that can be removed.

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 four-by-four or greater, it's almost certainly load-bearing. Any type of beam or LVL lumber will be supporting weight. All perimeter walls support weight.

Because basements often have many support columns, some homeowners or builders create walls from one column to the next column. These false walls can create laundry rooms, mud-rooms, dens, guest bedrooms, and more. These connections can usually be removed.

Lengthwise Interior Walls

If the interior wall runs the length of the house and equally bisects the house, chances are good 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 might 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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Widthwise Interior Walls

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 that the wall is running parallel to the rafters.

Attic Walls

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.

Knee Walls

Knee walls are often found in attics and are short walls that cover up the lower triangle section where the roof meets the flooring. Knee walls are usually in place for decorative purposes or to create more storage. Knee walls are not structural and can be removed.

Divider Walls

Provided that you can determine the true outer dimensions of the room, most walls that divide the room can be taken down. Divider walls are extraneous to the structure of a room or home. Divider walls are there for privacy or soundproofing but not to hold up other structures.

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