5 Things To Consider
Are you close to having a nervous breakdown because of your cramped kitchen, or fed up of having to walk sideways around the dining room table to be able to pass? It isn’t a viable option for all of us, but by knocking through / down a wall between two rooms, you can avoid the feeling of claustrophobia!
This alteration can not only offer the potential to turn a once dark and dingy corner of the house into a light and spacious multi-purpose area (without increasing the footprint – not even an inch!) but it can improve the internal flow of the house and help it to function better. And if it is a potential resell you are thinking about, what sells better than that?
Don’t be restricted by just putting a hammer to the wall and bringing it all down. If it is a feasible option for you, give serious consideration to the endless list of design opportunities it brings, not just increased useable floor space.
But wait, don’t get too excited just yet. You want the remodel but not the expense, so don’t go making foolish mistakes and throwing your money away; do it properly and read our guide to knowing which walls could cause you a potential headache, and when you need to call in the professionals. As chartered surveyors and architects, we can help point you in the right direction, but to start, consider the following five things:
1. Is it a load-bearing wall?
First off, just what is a load-bearing wall? This is a wall fundamental to the structure of the house and, whether your home is single storey or multiple storeys, this is a biggie. Identified wrong and played around with, these walls could end up costing you. We can help you identify the walls, and a structural engineer will need to be employed to take care of the structural calculations that would be required if that wall is to come out. But the cost you say? Well, let us imagine that you don’t employ the correct people to identify the wall and you go ahead and remove it. When your house crumbles around you, you will soon regret not paying out that small sum in contrast to what you will be paying to rebuild your house.
Follow our general guide to identifying a load-bearing wall but (and we cannot stress this enough) if you are in any doubt please call in a professional.
2. What could be hiding inside?
Children have nightmares that monsters could be skulking in their closet. We have nightmares that something unexpected is lurking buried inside a wall or under a floor. Unfortunately, this is often the case with walls inside the home. Before you put hammer to wall, check if the wall has any plug sockets / light switches installed. If this is the case, then you will need to reroute the electric cables and, in more extreme cases, potentially water pipes and more. Unless you are qualified in these areas we highly recommend calling in a professional and paying them a small sum to help you out.
3. Are you after seamless integration?
In most likelihood, you will be looking to knock an internal partition wall down to increase the space and make two rooms into one. Open plan is, after all, currently in fashion. Consider, however, the implications this will have on the floor and ceiling finishes. Do you currently have tiles in the kitchen and laminate wood flooring in the dining room? Once that wall comes down you will be left with awkward gaps between the two which can be difficult to patch together (and will, quite frankly, more often than not look naff). Remember that those two rooms weren’t designed to work together. So an expense to consider is the relaying of a floor finish over that area that brings the two former rooms together, rather than keeping them divided.
4. Do I need to contact Planning or Building Control?
You will not need to inform the planning department unless the wall in question is external, is involved in a larger extension (see the exemptions list on http://www.gov.gg/planning), or if your building is listed.
An application to Building Control will need to be made, however, and you need to be in receipt of a Building Licence before any works commence. One of the main reasons behind this is because any alterations to the wall could affect your escape route in the event of a fire. In most cases, the removal of a wall between two rooms won’t, but if you are going one step further and knocking the wall down to relocate or install a new one, then you are potentially affecting a route that has already been signed off as acceptable by Building Control. Yes, really. We have had experiences in the past where clients are gobsmacked to learn that they need to contact Building Control to tear down an innocent partition wall in their own home. But it is best to avoid those costs now than pay them further down the line.
5. Design opportunities / implications
If you are striving to make your home more open plan, consider strongly if this works for you and whomever you share your home with. If you live solo, great, go ahead and remodel. But if you are sharing your space with partners and children, think carefully if going open plan will work for your family. Yes, removing a wall, or multiple walls, can make a space feel bigger without adding any actual floor area to the existing footprint, but with that you are making it easier for sound to travel. Ask yourself if it will work if you have a child tackling their homework at the dining room table whilst you are watching television a few metres away. Personal functionality of the space will play a more crucial role if the house is your forever home. If you are looking to sell on, think more generally.
It goes without saying that any remodelling work causes a disturbance of some kind. Tearing down walls will inevitably cause dust and mess, so keep this in mind when planning the removal.
That being said, the removal of a wall can provide you with an endless list of design opportunities, and you should be excited, not frightened, by the prospect. There is no need to just tear down the entire wall and leave it at that. We can help you with all of your design needs, but to give you a thinking point, how about creating a ‘look-through’ and design a breakfast bar / additional seating area for a kitchen? Or retaining part of the wall, installing some feature beams to match your décor, and turning it into a showstopper?
Gary Naftel BSc(Hons) MCIArb MRICS
The information in this Coffee Break article is intended for guidance only. The authors cannot accept any liability for any loss or damage which may result from the use of this article.