In the old days, residential architecture generally included several small rooms rather than one big one, mainly for ease of heating and cooling. These days the trend in floor plans is the open concept, in which one large space (i.e., a "great room") connects to smaller areas of a home. Having an open floor plan can add natural light, make a space feel bigger, and be great for entertaining. Each of these effects can also increase a home's resale value.
According to Tom Kavanagh, a realtor with the Capitol Realty Team, a lot of buyers prefer open concept floor plans, and homeowners who turn several smaller rooms into one large great room generally do well in terms of resale value, particularly if you can maintain the architectural character of the original home design.
"Having an open concept is great, but it may be valuable to retain some definition to your functional spaces," says Kavanagh. "It helps to work with a builder who will at least try to maintain original features of the home from a design perspective."
A general contractor is qualified to work with load bearing walls, installing beams to support upper floors where necessary. But some jobs require a structural engineer, especially when creating a very large great room from several smaller ones [source: Garcia]. In some cases, a structural engineer is needed in order to define what the structure needs in terms of support as well as the size and strength of each beam that will be bearing weight. You also need to consider the loss of walls for mechanical systems and making sure your heating and cooling systems can accommodate the new layout.