Remodeling: Removing a Wall




Introduction: Remodeling: Removing a Wall

The first in my series of remodeling Instructables that cover some common projects I encountered when remodeling my kitchen. All of the Instructables can be viewed in my Kitchen Remodeling Guide (Coming Soon).

In this part we tear down a couple of non-load bearing walls. In some cases Repeat(Sledge Hammer + Wall) = Removed Wall is a legitimate strategy but this Instructable shows a more civilized and less messy way of accomplishing the same thing.

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Step 1: Tools

  • Drop cloths - Old blankets and sheets work well too.
  • Dust masks, glasses, and gloves - Safety first.
  • Sheet rock saw
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Claw hammer
  • Scoring knife
  • Screwdriver - Standard and Phillips bits are necessary.
  • Pry/Breaker Bars
  • Hack saw
  • Ladder
  • Shop vacuum
  • Helpers - A great opportunity to come together as a family, destroying things in the name of progress. Just provide a light at the end of the tunnel (a meal, etc.) to keep the helpers motivated.

Step 2: Prep

Before you start any work you need to make sure you don't get electrocuted. If the wall you are removing doesn't have any outlets or wiring (Isolated or stub wall with no outlets or switches) then you can skip this paragraph. If, once started you find wiring come back to this paragraph and follow it. Eventually you are going to shut off the power to the wall at the breaker but before you do it is a good idea to label all the switches. Once everything is labeled then shut off the breakers in the work area. Make sure to test all switches and outlets so you don't get any surprises. With the power off remove the wall plates and then remove the switches and outlets from their boxes, or remove the entire box if it is attached to the wall and not a stud.

Take anything hanging or attached to the wall off. Remove screws, nails, etc. Pull everything sitting next to the wall, away.
Use a pry bar to remove the baseboards and trim. You don't care about damaging the wall but, if you plan on reusing any of the trim, use caution.

With the wall now bare, lay out drop cloths around the perimeter of the wall and cover everything you can in any adjoining rooms, drywall dust is the worst.

Before moving on have a little fun. Grab a permanent marker and go to town. Hit it with your hammer a couple of times (watch for studs). OK enough fun, back to work.

Step 3: First Cut

Find the edge of a stud either by knocking, electronic stud finder, or looking for electrical boxes (outlets, switches) which are attached to studs. The wiring in the wall should be running at waist height or probably lower. Just to the side of the stud and at about should er height insert the drywall saw into the wall. Cut a roughly foot square hole in the wall with the saw and remove the cutout panel.
Look inside the hole and verify the position of the wires and any other obstacles. Mark the a horizontal line on the wall a couple of inches above the wires.

Step 4: Get to Work

Now that you know where everything is it's time to stop messing around with hand saws and break out "The Destroyer" a.k.a. your reciprocating saw. Using a standard claw hammer punch holes in the top of the wall on each side of every stud. This gives you easy access with the saw blade as trying to plunge cut will probably snap the blade. Cut both vertical edges down to the wiring first then across the top. At this point the drywall will snap at the bottom and can easily be removed by hand. Watch out for the panel join at the 4 foot height mark, when you cut the top there is a chance it will fold at this point without any help.
It's good idea to cut small panels out of each wall section so you can verify there is nothing hidden in the wall. Continue like this until all the upper sheet rock is down.

At this point you should be able to look into all the walls and see what sort of wiring and boxes are in the way at the bottom.
Using the hand saw or, very carefully, the recip saw, cut the lower panels away in much the same way as the upper panels. Cut both vertical edges and then just snap the piece off.

Step 5: Wiring

If you don't have any wiring in your walls just move right along.

I am not a licensed electrician in your state (or mine) so take this with a grain of salt and make sure you do a little research. If you don't know what you're doing then get someone who does.

First you need to decide what you are want to do with any switches, outlets, lights that were in the old wall. It basically boils down to relocate or remove.
If you are going to remove just cut and cap the wires near where they come in and salvage any components that remain. It is probably prudent to label the wires with their breaker number and anything they still connect to.
If you are go to relocate then you need to determine exactly what runs where and powers what. This will involve lots of turning the breaker(s) on and off. Drawing a wire map of sorts can really help as can labeling wires as you figure them out. What you are looking to figure out is which lines are coming from the breaker and what lines run to other components (lights, etc) and which components those are. Most likely when you do figure everything out you will just cut everything at the boxes leaving as much wire to work with as possible.
Later in the series (Island Installation) I'll talk more about reinstalling some of the things I removed here.

Step 6: Frame

Back to the destruction.
Insert the blade of the recip saw into the gap between a stud and the upper cross piece and cut the nails holding the stud in place. Repeat this for each stud to be removed. If the upper piece is not secured to another wall be careful when cutting the last couple of studs.
If the cross piece is free at this point remove it. If it is secured just leave it for a bit. Using a back and forth rocking motion and brute force the studs can be removed from the footing. Watch out for the nails that will be sticking up. With all the studs up you can use a pry bar to lift the footing off of the sub-floor.
If your top piece is still in place have a couple people stand under it, supporting it, while you cut the end(s).

Step 7: Clean-Up

Now all that remains is to clean up the mess, contain any wire ends until you're ready to rewire, and move on to the next step of your remodel.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out the rest of the series coming soon!
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    3 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago on Step 3

    I am about to take on this exact same project! Curious to know what you did with the outlets and switches as far as relocation?

    kitchen view.jpglivingroom view.jpg

    Answer 10 months ago

    Sorry, didn't get a notification of your question. You've probably already dealt with it but for us there was only one outlet on the inside, which I ran up between the inner and outer counter units. (We built an island out of Ikea cabinets, one counter height facing in, one bar height facing out, and the outlet went on the back of the bar unit facing back into the kitchen. I'm not sure any of that makes sense.)
    For the switch we just moved it to the other side of the doorway and added it to the existing switch gang. It was relatively easy because the basment below only had a drop ceiling and the back of the switch we were adding to was in the pantry/closet so cutting and patching the wall wasn't a big deal.


    5 years ago

    Great share may I suggest that if you decide to remove any wall to make sure it is not a load bearing wall and sticking a box fan facing outside in a window near the tear out will cut back on a lot of sheet rock dust