The homify guide to safely demolish walls

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
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Here on homify, we pride ourselves on providing tips and advice on architectural and design works. Some are light-hearted (such as matching your scatter cushions to your drapes), while others involve more elbow grease (like when we coach you on building your own garden pond).

Today’s article tackles a project that is a bit more strenuous – demolishing an interior wall. Most of us have been in that position of needing to get rid of a wall for whatever reason. And a lot of the times we have relied on professionals to deal with the mess, rubble and safety issues. 

However, here on homify we laud anybody who wants to get down with a DIY project; so, should you pride yourself on tackling a project hands-on, want to lend a helping hand to your husband or friend, or just want to save some money on your next renovation, then this smashing guide (pun intended) to wall-demolishing safety is definitely aimed at you!

Is it a load-bearing wall?

First and foremost, determine if a load rests upon the wall you intend to destroy. Load-bearing walls run perpendicular to floor joists, and are typically situated towards a home’s centre. The floor joists can be viewed from a basement or crawlspace. Remember that such a wall on the first floor will extend to the top floor. 

All exterior walls are load-bearing. If an addition has been added, an exterior wall may not always be as evident, yet it still carries the weight of what is above it.

Rather consult with an engineer or contractor to determine which walls are safe to remove.

Score the ceiling

OPPIDANS ROAD, PRIMROSE HILL: modern Kitchen by E2 Architecture + Interiors
E2 Architecture + Interiors

OPPIDANS ROAD, PRIMROSE HILL

E2 Architecture + Interiors

Lessen the mess later on by scoring the area between the wall you are planning on demolishing and the ceiling. Using a sharp object (an NT cutter works beautifully), slice at the area where the ceiling and wall meet up, effectively separating the two surfaces. This will prevent sheetrock that you will remove from taking bits of the ceiling down with it. 

Just be sure not to cut too deep or damage your ceiling, as there is no point in busting out that wall and leaving a sliced-up ceiling surface behind. 

Speaking of saving a ceiling, see our homify-approved: Creative Ceiling Designs.

Check for plumbing and wiring

Any wall that contains plumbing, electrical outlets, or HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning) should be approached with extreme caution. Be sure to always check both sides of the wall.

If there is live electricity running through the wall, shut off the main power. And should plumbing be present inside the wall, forget the sledgehammer and instead opt for a saw to cut out the drywall and reveal the pipes. 

Remember to turn off the water main and consult with a plumber before removing any pipes.

Beware of asbestos

Using asbestos in ceiling treatments was banned in 1978; therefore, lots of houses built before then might contain asbestos. Although it is likely to be dangerous only if it is released into the air and breathed in, asbestos does put you at a long-term risk of developing lung cancer, asbestosis or mesothelioma (a cancer that forms in the lining of the chest or abdomen). 

Experts say that there should be little or no risk if the asbestos is enclosed and left undisturbed, but it must be regularly checked for signs of deterioration. 

However, we say safety first! Have your ceiling tested if you are unsure, and be sure that the insulation is removed by a professional. 

homify hint: Symptoms of asbestos generally include respiratory problems. Coughing and shortness of breath are the two most common problems, followed by chest pain and clubbing of the fingers.

Protection is key

Re-Upholstery: modern Living room by Plumbs
Plumbs

Re-Upholstery

Plumbs

Demolishing a wall will send shards of wood and drywall particles everywhere, so no need to let that get on your chic furniture. Place a drop-cloth or cardboard on both sides of the wall and cover the furniture in each room with sheets of plastic. 

If it’s possible (and not too much of a convenience), we would suggest moving the furniture into a room far from the wall-demolishing zone, keep them even further out of harm’s way. 

Be sure to protect yourself as well as your furniture: wear safety goggles, gloves, and a respirator mask. And make sure that the kids and pets are nowhere near the construction area. 

Reciprocating saw or sledgehammer?

Sometimes it can be fun to swing a sledgehammer and smash something (like pretending that wall is your boss or one of your exes… ). And a sledgehammer can most definitely bust through a wall with ease; however, a more efficient (and less violent) way of removing the wall is by using a reciprocating saw with a bi-metal/demolition blade. 

This will do all the hard work for you. It will cut through wood and nails with no problem, so you still get your desired results. 

homify hint: Pieces of wood and exposed nails can cut rather quickly through a trash bag. Rather double bag that debris to prevent breakage (and pain) when carrying it out of your home.

Did our safety hints help? What other tips can you add to increase safety when it comes to taking out walls?
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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