Open Plan Living? Questions to Ask before Knocking Down that Wall

There’s an increasing trend in home renovation of ‘open-planning’ living, kitchen and dining space but there’s no guarantee it will add property value and in some cases could even devalue your home. This article will take a look at some sensible questions to ask before committing to an open plan renovation.

What type of wall am I knocking down?

Generally you are likely to find three types of wall within a house.

i) Stud partition walls are usually erected to divide a large room into two separate smaller rooms. Constructed from a wooden frame overlaid with plasterboard, stud partition walls are the safest and easiest to remove in order to create an open plan space, and leave minimal decorative ‘tidying up’ after removal.

ii) Partition walls are usually four inches thick and solidly constructed from aerated blocks or bricks. Partition walls are generally safe to remove, but if you are in any doubt as to whether removal may adversely affect the stability of your home always seek professional advice first. Removing a partition wall is labour-intensive and generates considerable dust and mess. Floors may need repairing and remaining walls replastering once a partition wall has been taken down.

iii) Main supporting walls (or ‘load-bearing walls‘) tend to be nine inches thick and are fundamental to the structural integrity of a building. The removal of a load-bearing supporting wall should not be attempted by anyone other than a building professional with access to the necessary specialist equipment, and advice from a qualified structural engineer or architect should be sought prior to the commencement of any project.

Does the wall contain plumbing or gas pipes or electrical wiring?

In order to avoid potentially harmful accidents when removing an internal wall it should first be checked for embedded plumbing or electrical connections which must be disconnected and made safe before work starts.

How will my existing furniture fit into a new open plan layout?

Walls are very handy for placing furniture against. Before you commit to open plan living it’s worth considering the rearrangements that may be necessary to accommodate furniture such as sofas, bookshelves, cabinets and wall-mounted televisions once the wall against which they’re positioned has been removed. The loss of a wall may even result in the need to dispose of furniture which no longer has a logical place in an open plan living environment.

How will removing an internal wall affect the resale value of my home?

If you’re considering removing a wall and going ‘open plan’ because you are committed to staying in your current home for a long time, the effect on value may not be of paramount importance to you. However, if there is a likelihood that you might sell your house in the short-to-medium term it’s worth thinking whether the removal of a wall will adversely affect your home’s value. Remember – removing an internal wall reduces the number of rooms in your house by one.

Creating a large bedroom from two smaller bedrooms will turn a four-bedroom house into a three-bedroom house. Experts have mixed views on this though. For example Location, Location, Location presenter Phil Spencer states in this article for the telegraph about increasing the value of your home; “Knock down the walls. Those that aren’t load-bearing, anyway. Buyers are more interested in the amount of usable space, rather than the number of rooms”.

There’s no right or wrong answer on this one really, you need to research the value of comparable homes in your area to see if your house is likely to sell for more with or without an internal wall (its worth remembering a buyer can always put up a new partition wall if they need the extra room back!).

Can I tolerate additional noise and or smells in the house?

If your intention is to remove the wall which separates a kitchen and dining room, take into consideration the noise generated by washing machines, tumble dryers and other kitchen appliances. Additionally, cooking smells which were once confined to the kitchen will now spread over a greater area. It’s also worth noting that if you frequently entertain guests, the contents – and state of tidiness! – of your kitchen will be on display every time you have visitors. Similar considerations will apply in any situation where two rooms are being consolidated into one.

How will my heating bill be affected?

The larger a living space, the more difficult and costly it is to heat – this applies particularly if the removal of an internal wall has resulted in a reduction in the number of available central heating radiators.

Do I require planning permission to knock down an internal wall?

Planning permission is not required for the removal of an internal wall unless your home is a listed building. However, before you make any structural alteration to your home you must obtain Building Regulation Approval from your local authority.

Can I afford the renovation costs of open plan living?

Whether you choose to undertake the work yourself or obtain professional help, knocking down an internal wall will require a budget that covers at least the cost of cleaning your home and restoring the décor once the wall has been removed.

Any structural building work such as adding steal beams to provide support where supporting walls have been removed is generally cost intensive both in terms of materials and labour. Even relatively minor alterations involving partition walls create a large amount of waste which you’ll probably need to hire a van or a skip to dispose of.

There may be many other expenses to consider; plumbing, rewiring, replacement flooring, equipment and a multitude of professional costs for example. Knocking down an internal wall is a project that should not be undertaken if there is any risk that the job will be left ‘half-finished’ because of a lack of funds.

[Image Courtesy of Jeremy Levine Design]

avatar Name: Alexandra Eager
About: Formerly Finance and Operations Director of anmarketing agency. Now luckily semi-retired. Amateur interior design buff, constantly experimenting on my own home (much to the chargrins of hubby) and passionate about anything to do with home interiors and improvements. Wish my house was bigger!

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