Renovation Story Part 3: The Walls Come Down

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Taking walls down to open up your space is easy, right? You just take a sledge hammer and start swinging. Wrong! Depending on what’s inside that wall, and the extent of its structural bearing, removing a wall can be a painless endeavor or a major structural change.

What’s inside those walls?  Major systems such as plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. It is a good idea to consult with an architect and getting a structural engineer on board is an absolute must if it is a load-bearing wall.

Kitchen wall shared with neighbor.

Kitchen wall shared with neighbor.

A two-story home definitely needs a structural engineer. It’s a major engineering effort to accommodate the stress the second story will be putting on the other walls. And if you are on the first floor of a condominium such as, the weight of the entire building is on your hands (or walls).

Working closely with her architect, Joanne Larson carefully planned the removal of the wall between the kitchen and living areas, as well as removing closets and moving walls in the hallway to accommodate larger baths, and a master bedroom closet.

This requires moving plumbing and electric that not only serves the needs of the new layout, but also takes into consideration these same systems as they affect the neighbors.

A word about neighbors here: When you a renovating a home that is not a single-family house, you must be respectful of the neighbors. They hear everything – jackhammering, pounding, and power tools. Give them a timeframe of when they can expect the noise, and when it will be done, and if you can, offer to put them up in a hotel for a night or two during the worst of it. Once the renovation is complete, invite them for dinner. A good bottle of wine doesn’t hurt either.

When removing a wall, you’ll also have to consider what’s going to happen to the floor and ceiling. Hardwood floors will be difficult to patch between rooms and be made to look seamless. Ideally, you’ll replace the floors to make everything match up.

Matching popcorn ceilings or smooth skim is fairly easy, but molding can get tricky. If you have older molding that you want to keep, it’s going to be difficult to match that with the new space. Your architect can help you out here. Click to read more of this post from the Whit Harvey Group.

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