I wrote this Instructable with my sister in mind: she was thinking of opening up a wall in her home. I thought if she’s determined to do it she might as well know what she’s getting herself into, right?
For us, removing an interior wall was the best investment in time and effort we’ve ever undertaken. Because our house faces north and there are no windows in the front of the house, our dining room was dark and uninviting. Opening up the shared wall to our family room let in a flood of southern light and has changed the whole flow, look and feel of our main level.
Step 1: Things to Assess Before You Begin
There are many things to consider such as whether the wall is load bearing, how to transition the flooring where the wall is removed and whether there are there any utilities such as plumbing or electricity in the wall cavity that may have to be moved. It’s not as easy as just knocking through to the other side!
Most importantly, if you don’t know whether a wall is load bearing or not, call in a professional. Don’t be tempted to mess around with a wall that could potentially be holding up your second story! Bryan Baeumler has some good insight on load bearing walls in the video clip I linked to.
Step 2: You Will Need.....
You may or may not need all of the following items depending on your own situation:
- Safety goggles
- Wet/dry vac
- Plastic to cover furniture if it can't be moved
- Stud finder
- Sledge hammer
- Crow bar
- Drywall knife
- Painters tape
- Chalk line
- Drill w/bits
- Reciprocating saw
- Portable light with extension cord
- Drywall mud
- Drywall taping knife
- Drywall tape
- Drywall corners (4)
- Paint (in a colour of your choice)
Step 3: Turn Off Electricity and Explore for Wiring
My husband used to build custom homes, so he knew our wall wasn’t load bearing and we went ahead with opening it up. Once we determined the size of our opening, he cut some exploratory holes into the bottom of the drywall to see what obstructions we would need to deal with (you can see them near the bottom of the picture). Whenever you’re cutting into drywall, ALWAYS TURN THE ELECTRICITY OFF AS A PRECAUTION! I learned that the hard way on my very first house reno when I was shocked by a loose wire.
We discovered one electrical outlet on the other side of the wall (on the family room side) where the wires were in the way of where we wanted to cut our opening. We had a licensed electrician move it over for us: don't hesitate to hire professionals when it comes to any electrical aspects of the work; it's better to be safe than sorry.
Step 4: Determine Size of Opening
Before you start, don’t forget to don a mask, safety goggles and gloves. This is messy, dusty work so don’t overlook these safety precautions. Speaking of dusty, cover up any furniture pieces you’re not able to move to another room. Have a wet/dry vac on hand to vacuum up any debris as you go to keep the work site as clean as possible (or you’ll just trek the dust through the rest of the house).
My husband used a stud finder to determine where the studs were. If you’re able to, it helps to open right up to the studs on either side of the opening (instead of in between) so you won’t have to add additional studs to finish it off. We were going to be building some sliding shoji screen doors for our new opening, so we took that into consideration when determining the width (we wanted to have the choice to open it up completely or close it when we wanted more privacy). Our finished opening (once the ends were drywalled) was 61" (each door was made 31 3/8" in width so we'd have some overlap on the wall).
It’s helpful to mark the opening with painters tape so you can clearly see where you’re cutting, but we used pencil to draw out the opening on the wall. Another way to clearly define your cut it to use a chalk line and snap your vertical lines on the wall.
Carefully remove the baseboard on either side of the wall (you’ll be using it again to trim out once you’re done). A drywall taping knife can help you get between the wall and the baseboard to start to lift it away, then use the crowbar to pry the rest of the length from the wall.
We decided to remove our drywall right up to the ceiling so we scored and cut along the lines with a utility knife. If you have crown moulding that you want to keep, as in my sister’s case, you’ll want to match the height of your opening to other doorways in your home. In that case, remove the drywall up to the height of the doorway, then cut the studs with a reciprocating saw and leave them hanging from the ceiling so you can add in a header. If your crown is plaster, be careful as you nail in the header or the force of hammering may crack it. The video at this link gives some good general tips for framing out an opening in a non-load bearing wall and framing out for a pass-through.
Before beginning, my husband drilled through the corners of our established lines so we could accurately transfer our cutting lines to the other side too.
Step 5: Break Down the Walls
My husband cut through the drywall on the other side with the utility knife as he did previously . I couldn’t wait to kick through the lower parts of the wall, which was way more fun than just pulling it off! There’s a reason that demo day is a favourite among many HGTV personalities!
You can use a sledge hammer to break through the wall, however we worked on one side of the wall at a time and used brute force to break the drywall off in sections (it’s actually not very hard once the perimeter is cut). We pulled the drywall off the studs as we went.
Step 6: Remove Studs
Once the drywall is removed, you can start pulling out the studs within the opening.
You can cut the nails with a reciprocating saw first along the top and bottom plates or just use a hammer (or sledge hammer) to knock the studs outwards until the bottom is released. You can then pull out the upper end of the stud and remove it.
Once the studs are removed, you can cut the bottom plate through to the floor and the top plate against the ceiling and remove those too if you are taking the opening full height.
I’ve had the crow bar shown in the last picture since I renovated my first house and it’s an absolute must for any renovation. A crowbar will make short work of pulling the bottom plate away from the floor.
Step 7: Finishing Touches
My husband capped the ends of the studs with some drywall, then applied drywall corners to each edge (4 in all). He took care of mudding and sanding the opening.
Once it's all dry, you can now re-cut the baseboard you removed to size and re-use it (in our case, we took the opportunity to replace our baseboards on the entire main level).
We primed, then re-painted our previously red walls with a colour called ‘muslin’ from Benjamin Moore; it’s a lot easier on the eyes!
With the wall finished, my husband then mocked up my vision for our sliding doors in cardboard so we could visualize how it would look. You can see more about our shoji screen doors in this post!
We replaced the carpeting with hardwood floors, installed the sliding doors and, as you’ll see in the before and after below, we also replaced our light fixture.
Step 8: Before and After - Please Vote!
The pictures show how our dining room looked before we took down the wall and after we opened it up.
It's amazing what a little sweat equity can do for a space: now the light floods in from the back of the house and illuminates the space. It’s fresh and modern; it even looks bigger. We couldn’t be happier with the result!
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If you're interested in more home improvement ideas, our blog - Birdz of a Feather - has plenty of DIYs that show the transformation of both our home and garden. You can subscribe here :) If crafts are your thing, check out our posts under the Craft Rehab category.