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OVERVIEW

 

Many homeowners wish that their master bedrooms were larger or perhaps their dining room and living room were one. You can often create larger living spaces in your home by removing non-weight bearing walls. It is always tempting to just start knocking things down but demolishing a wall can be tricky. But with a little planning, you will avoid a house full of dust, long waits to duplicate moldings and trim, and other unplanned construction expenses.

The main problem with demolishing walls is controlling damage to other parts of the house. It is easy to damage adjacent walls, ceilings, and floors if you do not take certain precautions. Also, you should be concerned with whether or not the wall is a bearing wall, as well as saving moldings, doors, and trim for future projects. The key to solving all these problems is to do some planning and proceed with care.


 

 

Skill Level & Time to Complete

 
  • Beginner - 6 hours 
  • Intermediate - 5 hours
  • Advanced - 4 hours
  - Plaster dust can be very irritating to eyes and lungs. Be sure to wear safety goggles and a dust mask when demolishing plaster.
  - During demolition it is very easy to step on upturned nails. Try to wear heavy boots and pound down nails that might be stepped on.
  - Do not try to clean up plaster dust and debris with an ordinary household vacuum. Often, this type of duty is more than they can handle and they will break.
  - To protect floors that might be easily damaged, try covering the floor with drywall. It is not that expensive and it does a good job of protecting the floor from sharp objects (unlike plastic).



SHOPPING LIST


Materials List
   Plastic sheeting
   Masking tape
   Dust mask
 
Tools List
   Claw hammer
   3 lb. sledgehammer
   Crowbar
   Reciprocating saw
   Nail puller
   Heavy-duty dustpan
   Heavy-duty vacuum
   Screw Gun
   Chisel
   Utility knife
   Safety goggles
   Work gloves
   Reciprocating carbide blades

 

1. Before you start, it is critical to determine whether or not the wall you are about to demolish is a load-bearing wall. If it is a load-bearing wall, you will need to find a way to make up for its supporting function, either by installing a header or another wall close by. A good rule of thumb is to remove a small portion of the wall and ceiling and see if there is a double top plate on the wall or if the joists above meet over the wall. Other methods of determination include taking note of the joist sizes above and their loads and consulting span tables (available at your local building department) to see if the joists need a bearing wall.
2. Be sure that you remove or cover up all furniture in the rooms that you are removing the wall from, and cover over all the doors with plastic and masking tape to keep the construction dust contained. It is also a good idea to open the windows in the room so that you can exhaust some of the inevitable dust.
3. To demolish a wall, you essentially reverse the construction process. Typically the trim is removed first, followed by the plaster or drywall, any plumbing or electrical lines, the studs, and then the top plate and bottom (sole) plate. To remove the moldings and trim, gently pry them away from the wall. Then, using the reciprocating saw (with a metal cutting blade), cut through the nails from behind the molding. Doorjambs can be removed the same way after the casing is removed.
4. Nails can be removed from moldings and trim by pulling them through the molding from behind with a nail puller. By pulling them out from behind, you can prevent the finish from being harmed.
5. Remove fixtures from the wall, like wall sconces by first turning off the power, unscrewing the nuts or screws that hold them on, and disconnecting the attached wires. Once the wires are disconnected be sure to put electrical tape or wire nuts over the bare ends of the wire before turning the power back on.

 

6. Before you start removing any plaster cut along the corners of the wall so plaster from other walls and ceilings will not be pulled off with the plaster you are about to remove. In situations where the corners are reinforced with wire mesh, use a metal cutting blade in your reciprocating saw.
7. If your wall is covered with lath and plaster, first knock the plaster off the lathe with a small sledgehammer being careful to knock the wall only hard enough to break the plaster but not the lathe. After the plaster is removed take a claw hammer or crowbar and pull the lathe off. By doing these two operations separately the debris will be much easier to handle.
8. If your wall is covered in button board with a plaster coat or standard drywall, pound a hole in the wall, and from the hole use the crowbar to pull the plaster/drywall off the wall.
9. If there are any electrical lines or boxes in the wall they must be removed. First, turn off the power, then remove the electrical boxes, and remove any conduit to a point where it is no longer in the wall. Next, reinstall the boxes out of the way of the wall and reroute their electrical lines to them. Finally, put wire nuts over the ends of the conductors (wires) and a cover over the boxes. For specifics on how to make new electrical connections or install switches and plugs, please see our electrical tutorials.
10. For freshwater pipes in the wall they will have to be cut and capped out of the way or rerouted. For waste water pipes the solution is not so simple as it is critical that waste water pipes drain properly. You may have to hire a professional plumber to reroute these critical pipes.

 

11. If your wall is a supporting wall you will need to build a temporary support before removing it. To build a temporary support, wedge a 4x4 under the ceiling, parallel to the wall you are removing, with 4x4s every 2 to 3 feet. Toe nail the 4x4s together to keep them from moving and If necessary use shims to make sure the top 4x4 is tight up against the ceiling. It is also a good idea to have some 2x lumber (the wider the better) under the vertically placed 4x4s to guard against damaging the floor.
12. Remove the studs by knocking out any blocking and cutting along the joint between the stud and the plate with a reciprocating saw. It may also be possible to knock the studs loose by hitting them at the base parallel to the wall and pulling them off the nails on the top plate.
13. Finally, pry up the top and bottom plate with a crow bar. So that you do not damage the floor with your crowbar slip a piece of scrap wood under the bar. Finish the room by using skills described in other tutorials including electrical work, finishing the floor, and installing new drywall on the wall and ceiling.

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