Guide to Removing Interior and Exterior House Walls

Removing walls in your home, whether interior or exterior, can be a great way to open up and change the layout of your living space. However, it’s not a project to take lightly. Proper planning and preparation are essential to ensure the structural integrity of your home. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know before knocking down interior or exterior walls in your house.

Understanding Load-Bearing vs Non-Load-Bearing Walls

The first step is determining what type of wall you want to remove – load-bearing or non-load-bearing. This will significantly impact the removal process.

What are Load-Bearing Walls?

Load-bearing walls support the weight of the structure above them. They transfer the load from ceilings, floors, and roofs down to the foundation. Removing a load-bearing wall requires installing a beam to carry the weight.

Some signs that a wall is load-bearing:

  • It’s aligned above a support beam in the basement or crawl space.
  • There are ducts, electrical wiring, or plumbing running through it vertically.
  • It runs the full height of the house, from floor to ceiling.
  • The wall has columns or thick beams supporting it.

Consulting the original house plans can confirm whether a wall is load-bearing. An engineer can also determine if a wall is load-bearing by analyzing the structure.

What are Non-Load-Bearing Walls?

Non-load-bearing walls are partition walls that simply divide up interior space. They do not support structural weight. Removing these is a much simpler process but still requires care.

Some signs that a wall is non-load-bearing:

  • It does not align with beams or footings in the basement.
  • It does not run the full height of the room.
  • There are openings like doors or arched walkways in the wall.
  • It’s parallel to the floor joists instead of perpendicular.

Again, house plans and an engineer can verify if a wall is non-load-bearing.

Getting the Necessary Permits

Check with your local building department to determine if you need permits for removing interior or exterior walls. Most jurisdictions require permits since improper removal can lead to structural damage.

Provide the building department with your plan, specifying which walls you want to remove and whether they are load-bearing. If removing exterior walls, you may also need zoning approval.

Pull all required permits before starting demolition. Failing to get permits can result in fines, delays, and having to redo work up to code. The permit process ensures your project meets standards and passes inspections.

Preparing for Interior Wall Removal

If you’ve confirmed that an interior wall is non-load-bearing, the removal process is fairly straightforward. Here are some tips for interior wall demo:

Gather Supplies

You’ll need safety gear like eye protection, dust mask, work gloves, and steel-toe boots. Make sure you have the right tools – sledgehammer, pry bar, reciprocating saw, utility knife, and shop vac. Rent a dumpster for debris disposal.

Disconnect Utilities

Locate any electrical wiring and plumbing lines running through the wall. Turn off power and water supply lines and disconnect wiring/pipework. Cap pipes and wires so they don’t leak during demolition.

Clear the Area

Remove any furniture, art, and valuables from the adjoining rooms. Sweep and vacuum to clear dust and debris. Lay drop cloths in the work area to protect floors.

Check for Hazards

Test wall materials for lead paint or asbestos. Special removal procedures apply if these hazardous materials are present. Wear proper PPE.

Start Removal

Carefully cut into and demolish the drywall or plaster using your utility knife, reciprocating saw, or sledgehammer. Break materials into manageable pieces for disposal. Use pry bars to remove nails, wood, and drywall.

Dispose of Debris

As you work, regularly clear debris into garbage bags and haul to your dumpster. Vacuum dust. Make sure to wear a respirator to avoid inhaling particles.

Follow all safety procedures, work carefully, and properly dispose of materials. With the right prep work, removing a non-load-bearing interior wall is usually quick and straightforward.

Step-by-Step Guide to Removing Load-Bearing Walls

Removing a load-bearing wall is a complex project that requires expertise to execute properly. Follow these key steps:

Consult an Engineer

Work with a structural engineer to develop a detailed removal plan. They will specify which portions of the wall to remove, any needed temporary bracing, and the new beam size.

Improper removal of a load-bearing wall could severely compromise the structural integrity of your home. Do not attempt removal without an engineer’s recommendations.

Install Temporary Supports

Before starting demolition, the engineer’s plans will direct you to install temporary bracing like wooden posts, steel columns, or hydraulic jacks. These temporary supports will hold up the weight of the structure when the wall comes out.

Disconnect Utilities

As with non-load-bearing walls, you need to shut off, disconnect, and cap any electrical, plumbing, or HVAC systems running through the wall.

Remove Wall Sections

Following the engineer’s directions, carefully demolish the wall in sections starting at the top. Remove drywall, then work your way down removing wood framing, bricks, or other materials.

Never remove the entire wall in one go. Take it down gradually with temporary supports in place. This keeps the structure stabilized.

Install New Beam

With sections of the wall removed, install the new steel I-beam specified by the engineer to permanently carry the load. Securely bolt the beam to the floor and ceiling.

Complete Removal

Once the new beam is properly in place with temporary bracing, you can safely take out the remainder of the wall. The beam will transfer the weight to the ends of the former wall.

Inspection & Finishing

Call the building inspector to approve the new beam installation and wall removal before finishing the space. Then patch floors, ceilings, and wood framing as the last step.

A professional contractor experienced in load-bearing wall removal is recommended for this complex process. But with proper engineering guidance and temporary supports in place, it can be done safely.

Removing an Exterior Wall: What You Should Know

Eliminating an exterior wall allows you to open up the interior space to the outdoors. This brings in more natural light, improves views, and makes rooms feel larger. Here’s an overview of exterior wall removal:

Structural Considerations

Exterior walls are typically load-bearing, so a new beam will be required to transfer weight once the wall is removed. Consult an engineer to determine the proper beam size and placement.

You’ll also need temporary bracing while removing sections of the wall to prevent shifting or collapse. Take particular care at the wall corners since these provide critical structural stability.


Since you are creating a large opening in the building envelope, the new space needs weatherproofing. Install flashing, sealand caulking around the old wall edges to prevent water intrusion.

You may need additional insulation in the now-exposed wall cavities to maintain energy efficiency. Consider adding overhangs if removing upper walls to prevent rain entry.

Zoning Regulations

Most jurisdictions have zoning rules about building setbacks – the distance between your home and adjacent property lines. Removing an exterior wall can impact setbacks. Review regulations to ensure your project complies.

You’ll likely need a permit for exterior demolition. Provide zoning officials with plans noting property boundaries and the extent of wall removal.

Finishing Touches

Match the wall finishing of the newly exposed interior to give a seamless look. Install exterior siding or trim around the new opening to blend it with the rest of the home’s facade.

Consider adding French doors, sliding glass doors, or insect screens in the created opening. Paint and decorate the space to complete the new aesthetics.

With proper planning and technique, eliminating an exterior wall can greatly enhance your living space. Just be sure to address structural needs, weatherproofing, zoning, and finishes.

Cost to Remove Interior and Exterior Walls

If you’re weighing the benefits of opening up your home’s layout, an important consideration is cost. Here’s an overview of pricing:

  • Non-load-bearing interior wall demo – $3 to $8 per square foot; $500 to $2,000 total
  • Load-bearing interior wall removal – $15 to $25 per square foot; $3,000 to $7,000 total
  • Exterior load-bearing wall removal – $20 to $35 per square foot; $5,000 to $10,000 total

Factors impacting pricing include:

  • Wall size and type of materials (drywall, brick, etc.)
  • Load-bearing requirements like new beam materials and labor
  • Access complexity – walls between small rooms are harder to remove
  • Electrical, HVAC, and plumbing rerouting needs
  • Disposal fees for debris removal
  • Geographic location and contractor rates

Get multiple quotes to find the best value contractor. Search for demolition specialists experienced in structural work. Never attempt load-bearing removal without an engineer – the cost of a collapse would be immense.

Proper planning, technique, and contractor selection can lead to successful, cost-effective wall removal to open up your home’s footprint.

Safety Tips for Removing House Walls

Knocking down walls demands cautions measures. Follow these top safety tips:

  • Turn off electricity and water lines before starting demolition.
  • Wear eye protection, masks, ear plugs, gloves, and steel-toe boots.
  • If removing a load-bearing wall, have temporary bracing engineered and installed.
  • Check for asbestos and lead paint – use proper hazmat removal procedures if present.
  • Work methodically and carefully – don’t damage the adjoining structure.
  • Prevent dust buildup by misting debris with water as you work.
  • Use ropes when taking down wall sections to control the fall.
  • Clear debris frequently to eliminate trip hazards.
  • Inspect for vermin or insect nests before removing exterior walls.
  • Rent dumpsters and remove debris promptly to keep the site organized.
  • Ensure new beam installations are approved before finishing drywall or other surfaces.

Demolition accidents can cause serious injury or property damage. Maintaining safety procedures and hiring experienced contractors reduces the risks. Protect yourself, your home, and workers by staying cautious.

Alternatives to Full Wall Removal

Removing full walls may be excessive if you only need a limited opening. Some alternatives to consider include:


Frame a new archway in the existing wall. This opens up the space while retaining overall structural integrity. The curved top requires an experienced mason for brick walls.

Double Wall Penetration

Cut an opening in two parallel walls, like between a kitchen and dining room. This “window” opens sightlines without sacrificing privacy like a full removal.

Partial Wall Removal

Eliminate a top or bottom portion of the wall while leaving framing in place. For example, removing the area above a half wall opens the space while adding a railing retains separation.

Install a Large Opening

Instead of demolishing the entire wall, you can make one large pass-through. Common options are wide French doors or floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors.

Pocket Doors

Install a sliding pocket door in the wall framing. When open, pocket doors provide an unobstructed opening without taking up floor space.

Discuss options with contractors to find the best balance of openness versus cost and effort. Leaving portions of the wall may be the smarter solution.

Tips for Finishing After Removing Walls

Once walls are removed, there are some key steps for finishing the new open space:

  • Inspect framing – Ensure any remaining studs, rafters, and trim are intact and undamaged before enclosing them.
  • Update electrical – Rewire ceiling lights, outlets, and switches in the expanded room layout. Install any additional circuits.
  • Install flooring – Refinish hardwood or tile flooring to create an unbroken look in the joined space.
  • Blend wall colors – Paint, wallpaper, or match paneling to create a continuous color scheme and aesthetic.
  • Add molding and trim – Install crown molding at the new ceiling line and architectural details to disguise the transition.
  • Rearrange furniture – With the furniture footprint no longer broken up, come up with an optimal new layout for the larger room.
  • Landscaping (exterior walls) – Backfill soil or pour a new patio, walkway, or deck up to the home’s new exterior edge.
  • Caulk and weatherstrip – Seal any gaps around the old wall edges to prevent moisture intrusion or energy loss.

Take time to make the previously divided spaces blend into one cohesive area. Careful finishing ensures your beautifully opened up rooms look like they were always meant to be that way.


Removing interior or exterior walls is an intensive yet rewarding project for your home. By carefully evaluating if a wall is load-bearing, getting engineer plans, securing permits, and following demolition best practices, you can open up your layout in a structurally sound manner.

Always put safety first during removal by having temporary braces installed on load-bearing walls, wearing protective gear, and controlling dust. Budget appropriately based on if the wall is load-bearing and its size.

With smart planning and a professional contractor, eliminating walls in your home can create the open, airy living space you’ve always imagined. Just be sure to do it properly to avoid undermining the home’s structural integrity. The end result will make the effort worthwhile.

FAQs About Removing House Walls

Can I remove a wall myself or do I need a contractor?

Non-load-bearing walls can be DIY, but load-bearing removal requires an experienced contractor. They have the expertise to properly shore up walls and install new beams. Always consult engineers.

What’s the best way to demolish a plaster wall?

Plaster walls are brittle so sledgehammers can easily damage nearby walls. Use an electric multi-tool with an oscillating blade to carefully cut the plaster into manageable sections for clean removal. Wear eye protection and a mask.

How do I remove a brick wall?

Use a hammer and chisel to carefully chip away mortar from bricks and loosen them. Don’t forcefully swing a sledgehammer at brick walls since this can cause cracks. Once bricks are freed, remove them individually without damaging surrounding bricks.

Can I turn a load-bearing wall into an arch or will that weaken it?

It’s best to consult a structural engineer, but in most cases, an arch can support the same weight as a wall. Ensure it’s properly engineered and reinforced with angle irons or concrete lintels before removing wall sections.

How can I tell if a wall removal will impact my home’s resale value?

Open concept spaces are popular with buyers. But dramatically changing original layouts or exterior facade may detract value. For resale impact, make wall removal enhancements look seamless, finished, and consistent with the home’s style.

What walls should never be removed in a house?

Avoid removing exterior walls in the corners or at critical structural junctions. Never remove walls that provide fire separation between units in multi-family homes. Also don’t remove a wall if you are uncertain whether it is load-bearing.

Key Takeaways on Removing Interior and Exterior House Walls

  • Identify if walls are load-bearing or non-load-bearing before attempting removal. Consult engineers and original house plans whenever possible.
  • Obtain proper permits from local building departments before starting demolition.
  • Brace and support load-bearing walls during the removal process per engineer specifications.
  • Work carefully and methodically when taking down walls to avoid structural damage or injury.
  • Address weatherproofing, insulation, zoning setbacks, and exterior finishes for outdoor wall removal.
  • Budget appropriately based on wall size, materials, and load-bearing considerations. Removing load-bearing walls costs significantly more.
  • Finish openings smoothly by blending trim, flooring, paint, lighting, and furniture aesthetics in the newly joined space.

Guide to Removing Interior and Exterior House Walls