This post is dedicated to my sister who’s thinking of opening up a wall in her home. Even though I love her house just the way it is, 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.
However, it’s not as easy as just knocking through to the other side. There are 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. 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 this video clip:
As hubs used to build custom homes, he knew our wall wasn’t load bearing so we went ahead with opening it up. Once we determined the size of our opening, hubs cut some exploratory holes into the bottom of the drywall to see what obstructions we would need to deal with. We only found an electrical outlet on the other side of the wall. 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.
If you’re able to, it helps to open up to the studs on either side of the opening so you won’t have to add additional studs to finish it off.
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).
First remove the baseboard on either side of the wall (you’ll be using it again to trim out once you’re done). Hubs used a stud finder to determine where the studs were. 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.
We decided to remove our drywall right up to the ceiling so hubs 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.
We worked on one side of the wall at a time and used brute force to break off the drywall in sections (it’s actually not very hard once the perimeter is cut). We pulled the drywall off the studs as we went.
Once the first side was done, hubs drilled through the corners to the other side so we could accurately transfer our cutting lines. He cut through the drywall on the other side with the utility knife as he did before. 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!
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 hammer the studs outwards until the bottom is released and then pull out the upper part.
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. As you’ll see later we were going to be installing sliding doors (designed by me and built by hubs and a friend).
I’ve had the crow bar shown below since I renovated my first house and it’s an absolute must for any renovation (I can almost hear my sister asking me to borrow it now!) It will help pull the bottom plate away from the floor.
Hubs took care of mudding and sanding the opening. 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 painted our previously red walls with a colour called ‘muslin’ from Benjamin Moore; it’s a lot easier on the eyes! Hubs then mocked up my vision for our sliding doors in cardboard so we could visualize how it would look. You’ll see more about those in our next post!
We replaced the carpeting with hardwood floors, installed the sliding doors and, as you’ll see in the final reveal, we also replaced our light fixture.
Here’s how our dining room looked before we took down the wall…
And here’s how it looks now.
The light just 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!
Next up, I’ll be posting some tips on how we did the shoji screen sliding doors. In the meantime, if you’re interested in other DIY reno’s, check out our laundry room tiled backsplash:
And how to make the most of your staircase and landing:
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In case you haven’t heard, we’ve just started a new category called Craft Rehab. This link is where you can find craft projects such as the blue jean planter and dog bone basket shown below. Some people think these blue jean planters are creepy; others think they’re fun, but we can all agree that they’re definitely unique 🙂
This dog bone basket is the perfect gift for any dog lover in your life – or make it for yourself to corral all your dog toys!