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Accidents That Can Happen When You Tear Down A Wall
4 Tragedies that can happen when you tear down that wall: Source/ Realtor.com/advice
Odds are good that you've stared at a wall or two in your home and thought: Hmmm, how amazing would this place look if we knocked it down?
Open floor plans, after all, remain supremely popular these days. In a recent National Association of Home Builders survey, 70% of home buyers said they preferred a home with either a completely or partially open arrangement, with 32% preferring the layout completely open.
Yet it will cost you if you hire a professional contractor to remove a wall—anywhere from $500 to $4,000, according to HouseLogic.com. All of which may have you wondering how hard it could truly be to take a sledgehammer to a little drywall yourself. Save some cash, get out some aggressions—what's not to love?
Sorry, guys. As it turns out, tearing down a wall isn’t quite as simple as it looks on TV. In fact, it can come with some serious risks.
“DIY is OK for making aesthetic updates, like replacing a kitchen’s backsplash or retiling a bathroom, but there are major safety risks when you remove walls,” says Jesse Fowler, president of Tellus Design + Build, based in Southern California.
In other words, you’re better off hiring a structural engineer to design a customized plan for removing the wall, and then paying a home contractor to do the work. When you hire a professional, “You get peace of mind knowing that you’re not going to do serious damage to your home," Fowler says.
Using a certified contractor also protects you from being liable for any potential damage done to the home during construction, since the contractor would be on the hook for the costs, says State Farm representative Angela Testa. And that means you can forget about having to file a home insurance claim. A contractor can also help you obtain the necessary building permits.
Truth be told, plenty of homeowners skip these precautionary steps. They simply roll up their sleeves and attempt to do the work themselves—or worse, try to save money by hiring a subpar contractor. If that’s the case, you might run into some serious and costly problems. Here's a heads up on what could be in store.
The ceiling caves in
If you mistakenly damage or remove a load-bearing wall—which, of course, helps carry the weight of the house—brace yourself. “In most cases, the plaster will crack and the ceiling will sag,” says Brian Kelsey, a licensed contractor and host of the online video series "Kelsey on the House." Worst-case scenario: “The ceiling could cave in right away,” says Kelsey. Bummer.
One sign that an interior wall is load-bearing is if it extends for more than one story all the way up to the roof. However, given the risks involved, Kelsey recommends hiring a structural engineer to determine for sure whether it is load-bearing.
In addition, Fowler says homeowners shouldn’t rely on blueprints alone. “Things happen during construction all the time, and builders make changes without updating the plans,” he says. A wall that might not lookload-bearing on paper could, in fact, be supporting the structure of the house.
The electricity goes haywire
Nearly every interior wall contains some type of electrical wiring, says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a national home improvement company based in Ann Arbor, MI. “You might not see electrical outlets on the exterior of the wall, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential electrical issues beneath the surface,” Sassano says.
The damage would likely be minimal if, say, the wiring connects only to a ceiling light. However, if you destroy wiring that connects to a junction box, you could lose power throughout the house and damage the entire electrical system. In addition, "Electrical issues can be hazardous to your health,” Sassano warns. Depending on what the structural engineer recommends, you might need to hire an electrician to assess the wall.
The house floods
Major plumbing problems can also arise when you take down a wall. “I’ve seen sledgehammers cut right through water pipes,” says Kelsey. A structural engineer can help you identify potential plumbing problems in advance and advise whether you need to hire a plumber to investigate.
Potential plumbing complications can be costly. “If you need to relocate a waste line, it’s going to be expensive,” says Fowler. Still, doing the job properly “will cost a lot less money than damaging the pipe during the removal,” he says.
The hardwood floors won’t match (oh, the horror!)
Obviously, some people would not call this a tragedy, but you might—especially if you absolutely adore your home's naturally aged antique hardwoods.
If the adjoining rooms both have carpeting, you don’t have to worry about cosmetic issues, like the floor getting scratched, during the removal of the wall. Hardwood flooring, meanwhile, poses a challenge. “Typically, the wall was installed prior to the flooring, so you’re going to have a gap in the flooring between the rooms once the wall is gone,” says Fowler.
Even if you have flooring left over from the initial build (which isn't as likely in the case of older homes), “If the [current] flooring has wear and tear, the repair is going to be noticeable,” says Fowler. If that’s the case, even a great contractor won’t be able to make the merger look perfect—but a professional will still do a better job than you if you performed the work yourself.