House and Home

Open-plan living is all the rage, and it's easy to see why; sociable, light, and an instant space where all the family can be together (even if they're all busy doing different things)
Open-plan living is all the rage, and it's easy to see why; sociable, light, and an instant space where all the family can be together (even if they're all busy doing different things)
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Open-plan living is all the rage, and it’s easy to see why; sociable, light, and an instant space where all the family can be together (even if they’re all busy doing different things).

So if you currently have adjacent but separate kitchen and dining rooms (or another room that could be put to better use, perhaps a small study or utility room), then creating one big kitchen-diner/family room will seem like a great way to enhance your home.

But be warned, it’s not simply a case of getting out your sledgehammer and letting the wall have it...

The first thing to establish is what sort of wall it is. Both stud-partition walls (plasterboard over a wooden frame, or lath and plaster) and partition walls (bricks or blocks) are often straightforward to remove, while main supporting walls, which are made of bricks, blocks or stone, aren’t.

Stud-partition walls are very rarely load-bearing, although they can occasionally become so over time, while partition walls may or may not be load-bearing, but main supporting walls are, as they hold up the roof and rest of the house.

Load-bearing walls should never be taken down without using supports and inserting a steel beam to take the weight the wall was supporting.

This type of work must be checked and signed off by a building control officer from your local council, or an approved inspector from a private company, to ensure that it complies with building regulations.

Even removing non-load-bearing walls can be of concern to building control, if, for example, it would create a layout that breaks fire regulations.

To determine if a wall is holding something up, there are various things you can look at, including the floor and ceiling joists and if there’s anything above - go to www.wikihow.com/Tell-if-a-Wall-is-Load-Bearing for more information.

If you’re still not sure which sort of wall it is, always consult a structural engineer - it’s not worth taking a risk and guessing because removing a load-bearing wall without supporting it properly could make your home liable to collapse. A structural engineer will also be able to calculate what type of beam is needed to replace the wall.

You shouldn’t require planning permission to remove an internal wall, although if your home’s listed, you will probably need listed building consent from the local council. With leasehold properties, you usually need the permission of the freeholder, because knocking down a wall could potentially affect the whole building. You may also need to consult adjoining neighbours if the work affects a shared (party) wall or other shared structure - see www.gov.uk/party-wall-etc-act-1996-guidance.

As well as taking down the wall, there is other work involved in going open-plan which can be easy to overlook. You may have to replace or repair the flooring in between the two rooms, and perhaps move radiators, pipework, sockets and switches to complement the new room lay-out. In some cases, you may even need to replaster and repaint.

All this can be a lot of work and expense, but if open-plan is your dream, then there’s no reason you can’t make it come true.