Pros and Cons of Removing a Load-Bearing Wall

Kitchen & family room depicting load-bearing wall removed.

Are you an HGTV addict? It’s hard not to like home remodeling shows. You get to see the results in fast-forward, with just enough of the work thrown in to make it fun. There’s one particular show – you might know which one I’m talking about – where in almost every episode they are removing a load-bearing wall.

When the work is all done, and the room is decorated, the idea of tearing down a wall to make more space or bring in more light seems appealing and easy.

Thousands of people are getting the idea that tearing down a wall will change their whole house. But, is it as easy as it looks? Once you know everything that goes into tearing down that wall, will it still seem as appealing?

Pros of Tearing Down the Load-Bearing Wall

  • Do you need a bigger kitchen?
  • Want to keep an eye on your kids?
  • Need more room to entertain?
  • Does the wall block natural light from entering the living spaces?
  • Do you want an open floor plan with one big area for everyone to be together?
  • Do you want to get rid of the “circle” created by most floor plans with too many adjoining doorways?

As you might expect, the pros of removing a wall are mostly convenience, function, and aesthetics.

No one is going to remove a load-bearing wall because it’s practical. However, sometimes removing that one wall can make such a massive improvement over the home’s original layout that it’s worth the expense.

While you’re looking at between $3,000 and $10,000 to remove the wall, this price takes into account all the surrounding things you will have to change – such as flooring.

You already know why you want to move the wall. The expense is something you are willing to pay for a drastically different house.

However, do you know what goes into this renovation, and are you ready to encounter problems along the way?

Cons of Tearing Down a Load-Bearing Wall

Not everything about this process is a con, but make no mistake; it is a process. Let’s go over the steps, and what could go wrong or delay the process.

Consult a structural engineer

Involving a structural engineer is a good first step. However, it does make the process take longer and potentially become more complicated than a regular renovation.

Whenever you remove a load-bearing wall, you have to add a beam to support the weight, especially if your house has two stories.

A structural engineer will help your contractor come up with a plan, which will keep your home safe when that prominent wall comes down.

Some local governments require the approval of a structural engineer when any wall comes down, regardless of whether it’s load-bearing or not.

Demolition could get expensive

If your house is old and has plaster and lath walls, prepare for a more time-consuming and costly demolition. Regular drywall or paneling isn’t so difficult.

Snags you could hit with what’s inside the wall

The same principle applies if the wall in question contains plumbing, wiring, ductwork, or all three!

Not only does it take more time to knock down a wall containing mechanicals, but it’s much more costly as well.

Now, you will need a new plan for wiring, plumbing, and ductwork. If your house has two stories, it’s much more likely that your wall contains some or all of these.

Flooring and texture matching

If your walls and ceiling are textured and if your flooring is different on each side of the wall, prepare to pay for expensive patching or simply re-doing the entire floor and ceiling surface.

Beams are expensive

The more weight your wall was designed to hold, and the longer the span, the more expensive the beam. In some cases, you will need to use a steel I-beam, which can be very expensive.

Expect the unexpected

Before your contractor ever swings a hammer at that wall, he will be almost 100% sure of what’s behind it.

However, that doesn’t mean there might not be surprises. You can only be sure when the wall is open. A good contractor will reserve a bit extra from the budget for unexpected costs, but there are simply no guarantees.

You could also run into problems with lead-based paint or asbestos, which need remediation if your house was built before 1978, which can cause delays and higher costs.

Takeaway

While knocking down walls isn’t nearly as easy or fun as certain television shows make it look, it can be rewarding and worth the investment to change the interior of your house.

Is your house located in Southeast Michigan? If you have any questions about the viability of removing a load-bearing wall in your home, we are happy to help!

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