Removing a load-bearing wall

Should I remove a load-bearing wall to open up space? Renovating your home? Let experienced self-builder Michael Holmes help make your project a success.

Renovating your home? Let experienced self-builder Michael Holmes help make your project a success. This article looks at removing a load-bearing wall to create a more open-plan space.

Click on a question below to jump to the answer or scroll down to find out more…

We have a load-bearing wall between our kitchen and dining room and want to remove it to create more space. Are there any restrictions we should be aware of?

Almost any wall can be removed or altered, providing structural implications are taken into account. Removing internal partition walls does not require planning permission (unless the building is listed, in which case listed building consent is needed). All alterations must comply with the Building Regulations.

Leasehold property owners will need to get permission from the freeholder. Any work that involves alterations to a shared party wall or structure must comply with the Party Wall etc. Act.

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How do I know if a wall is load-bearing or not?

It will be obvious if a wall is load-bearing if it supports another wall in the storey above. If you’re unsure, a builder will usually be able to establish if it’s loadbearing or not by lifting the floor covering in the rooms above the wall. If the floor joists run parallel with the wall it’s not load-bearing. If the floor joists sit on top of the internal wall and the floorboards run in the opposite direction, then it is a load-bearing wall.

A non load-bearing wall can be removed or opened up easily, with only cosmetic implications. However, make sure an electrician or plumber safely disconnects any services within, or on the wall, before demolition. If there is any doubt, consult a structural engineer (you can find one at istructe.org). If the wall is structural, they’ll be able to produce the calculations and drawings required.

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What replacement options are available?

When a load-bearing wall is altered or removed, it will need to be replaced with a new load-bearing structure, typically rolled steel joists, supported on either steel posts or masonry columns with concrete pads cast into them.

There is usually a choice between forming a wide opening/archway, or removing the wall and concealing the steelwork within the ceiling void, and keeping supporting piers or columns to a minimum. If two or more intersecting load-bearing walls are removed, it is often necessary to leave a structural post or column in the room. Openings can be spanned by timber or reinforced concrete beams. Larger openings can be spanned by glulam beams (visit glulam.co.uk), made up from layers of laminated timber. They’re more eco-friendly than steel but tend to be much deeper, so they can’t be concealed.

In a traditional property, steel beams can be encased to look like timber beams. This is done by fixing a U-shaped resin mould around the beam (visit oakleaf.co.uk), or by wrapping it in a U-shaped envelope made from oak (oakmasters.co.uk).

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