This post is for to my sister who’s thinking of removing an interior wall in her home. Even though I love her house just the way it is, if she wants 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.
Considerations Before You Start
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 missing 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 mess around with a wall that could potentially be holding up your second story!
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 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. Then you won’t have to add additional studs to finish it off.
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. If you clean as you go, you’ll minimize trekking the dust through the rest of the house.
Remove Baseboard and Drywall
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. That way, 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. When necessary, we 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. It 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 gone, you can cut the bottom plate through to the floor. Also cut the top plate against the ceiling and remove if you are taking the opening full height. As you’ll see later we’re 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. 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. In addition we installed the sliding doors and, as you’ll see in the final reveal, replaced our light fixture.
Before and After
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 end of the house and helps illuminate 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 want more info on how we installed the K.N. Crowder door system that we used (they make the best track systems!), check out the post on the double pocket doors we installed in our basement.
Feathering the Nest, One Room at a Time
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 to learn how to tile a wall and install a patterned backsplash. Or this staircase makeover.
We’ve also just started a new category called Craft Rehab. If craft projects are your thing, browse our Craft Rehab Category. It’s 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!
Sara, I am gobsmacked! You did a whole lot more than knock down a wall. I love this transformation. It’s warm and elegant, inviting and magazine-worthy. I’m pretty sure you’ve convinced your sister to take out a wall after seeing this. I know I would.
We don’t have your construction skills, but I think anyone thinking of doing this kind of project would be happy to get this kind of advice. Kudos to you both.
Thank you! It was all done in multiple stages so the final reveal does have a big impact. I think the sliding door is my favourite part of the project because we can still have the privacy of a wall, but still let the light in.
I love those sliding doors, too, and wish I had a way of incorporating them into our home. Our house is all on one floor, no basement and fairly small by today’s standards, but we remodeled it to better suit our needs about 12 years ago and it’s been great. I’m all about light. We removed our fireplace (wood-burning fire places are now banned here because of air pollution, and replaced it with a twelve foot window. The light pours in. We added a solar tube in a dark entry way and an operative sky light in the one bathroom that doesn’t have a window. I’m so happy for you. How long have you lived in this home?
I’ve lived here 15 years; I bought the house when I was still single and my husband moved in 4 years later. We didn’t start any interior renos until we were finished the gardens so it’s all been a work in progress in the last 10 years. We’ve been thinking about adding a solar tube in our upper hallway which is also dark. Do you like it? We also have a bathroom without a window and have also been thinking of a skylight for there – any regrets on the skylight? Is it keeping watertight?
I’m so impressed that you could buy a house on your own, Sara. Good for you. And what fun that you married someone that compliments your skills and together you’ve been doing all these projects. Mike and I did our share of projects on his townhouse, before buying this house together and moving to San Jose. We also did several projects in the garden. Once our two boys came along, those projects stopped. We had fun though. I love the skylight! It’s operable (moves up and down) with interior blinds that slide open and closed or move out of the way altogether by remote control. You can set it on a timer if you want to vent the room for say 15 minutes, and it closes automatically when it rains. In 12 years we’ve had to replace the remote control once. It’s never leaked!
I first saw a solar tube in my sister’s master bedroom closet. I kept looking for the switch to turn the light off, before realizing it was her solar tube. Again, ours has never leaked. It has a back up lightbulb, so it can be used after dark as a hall light.
I scrimped and saved for a house since I first started working at a young age so I was proud to work my way up the housing ladder on my own. Of course, it’s much more fun sharing projects with a partner though!
What a great idea to have an operable skylight and a backup lightbulb on the tube. Thanks for the link and the info! I guess there’s another post or two in the offing if we ever move ahead with these projects 🙂
I remember looking at condos and townhouses (all I could afford) in the late eighties, early nineties. I too was saving, but then got married at 35, and we bought a house together the following year. We’ve been here since 1996.
I love your projects, Sara!
I didn’t get married until I was 41 so I had more years to work up the housing ladder. I started with a condo too then bought a house and renovated it. I was able to take the profit and reinvest in another one. I reno’d two houses before this one; we’ll probably stay here for the long haul.
Sara, I’m smiling at yet another thing we have in common. We must be close to the same age if I’m doing the math right (I turned 57 in October), and we both married later in life. But wow, renovating two houses on your own. You’ve got me beat by a mile.
Here is the link: http://www.veluxusa.com/products/skylights
I knew to expect something beautiful in the after but, OMG! I was still wide eyed with my jaw on the floor. Absolutely inspiring!
Thanks Angie! I’ll have another post soon on the doors 🙂 By the way, I loved your Tube TV transformation! I’ve never used a Kreg jig before; I really should get one!
Thank you! Yes, you should get a Kreg Jig 😉 Mine is only a mini but, it was totally worth it!
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I love the Shoji sliding screen doors. Where can I find the instructions on how to make them?
Sorry Nadine – It was one of the few projects done before I started blogging that was never documented so unfortunately I don’t have instructions 🙁