Removing an internal wall? What you need to know
Open plan living is very popular nowadays and removing an internal wall can open up your living area and add additional light and space without too much expense. Whilst it is possible to do the work yourself, we would recommend getting the experts in, is a much safer option. There are qualified architects, engineers and builders that have the specialist skills and equipment to carry out this kind of job for you. However, whether you intend to do the work yourself or hire a professional, it is valuable to understand the process required when knocking down an internal wall.
There are two types of internal walls:
This is where a wall, usually made of brick or blocks, separates rooms and is needed to transfer loads from other parts of your property’s structure, roof and floors down to the foundations. Taking down a load bearing wall will mean you need to employ an architect or structural engineer to work out calculations for the replacement support that will be used in place of the wall being removed. Whilst this consultation will cost you money, it should be worth it in the long run and they will be able to advise you of all the options and minimise the risk of anything going wrong. Your will then need a builder who knows how to ensure the work is carried out safely and with minimal disruption to your home.
This type of wall will usually be of timber frame construction covered in plasterboard. It doesn’t support anything above it, removing it shouldn’t cause any structural damage. However, every situation is different, and we would still advise checking with and using a professional to assess and carry out the work.
Generally taking down a stud or non-load bearing wall does not need building regulations approval but there are exceptions. For example, if the wall you are considering removing means your staircase would then be open to your kitchen/living room there are serious implications for fire and escape and the need for additional protection, which can be onerous and costly. If you live in a flat, although the wall is deemed to be non load-bearing, this could have serious consequences relating to the means of escape provisions from your flat and other parts of the building. (Professional advice should always be sought in these situations)
Do I need planning permission?
No, you generally don’t as it is an internal change to a domestic property however we recommend you check with your local planning department. If yours is a listed property you will need listed building consent to carry out any work. Visit the planning section of your council’s website for more information on how to do this
What is the process for taking down a load bearing wall?
Once your structural engineer has visited to assess the work, calculated the correct load and taken measurements for the beam (also known as an RSJ or joist and usually made of steel but can be timber), you will need to make a building regulations application to us and pay a fee before the work starts and provide us with your structural engineer’s calculations for the new supporting beam.
Our in-house structural engineer will then suitably assess these calculations within a maximum of 10 working days to ensure they are sufficient to carry the ‘load’ and email you or your agent to confirm this. Your builder can then order your beam, and have it delivered to your home.
Knocking out the wall will be messy and dusty and the floor above will need to be supported whilst the work is carried out by metal acrow props which will remain until the new support is put into position. Once this has been done, your builder should call us out to inspect the work and ensure it is correctly installed before it is boarded for fire protection and plastered over. On satisfactory final inspection we will then issue you with a Completion Certificate to confirm the work met the building regulations. (Make sure you keep this document safe as it will be needed if you sell your home in the future.) You will find some additional information on taking down internal walls in our Guide to Renovating your Home.
Besides the obvious things like plastering and painting where the new beam has been installed, you may also need to budget for rerouting any electrical wires around the new opening, new floor covering and repainting and plastering your ceiling.
What if I don’t apply for building regs?
It is a legal duty to apply for any notifiable building regulations prior to any works taking place. If you take down a load bearing wall without applying for building regulations it is at your own risk and you cannot be sure that the work has been done safely or that you aren’t compromising an escape route in the event of a fire. If the Council discover these works have taken place without the necessary building regulations, then enforcement proceedings could be taken against you and nobody wants that.
We get several calls a year from homeowners who are in the process of selling their properties who did not ask us to check the work at the time and the work has been brought to light in a buyer’s survey. We are usually able to help in this situation by regularising the work provided it has been carried out correctly, however this is costly and disruptive as you will need to provide calculations and expose the beam causing damage to your decoration and potentially holding up the sale of your property.
If you are thinking about taking down a load bearing wall in the near future, recommendations from friends and neighbours who have carried out similar work are always a good starting point. Our building control team is happy to discuss the building regulations aspect of a project with you too and can be contacted during office hours on 0330 024 9355.