5 Ways to Tear Down an Interior Wall

By: Jessika Toothman

Here's how to make that annoying wall go away in a weekend's time. See more home construction pictures.
George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Buying a house is a heady, complicated and, above all, expensive experience, especially for first-timers. And there are about a million factors to consider, apart from the actual condition and characteristics of the house itself. How safe is the neighborhood? What will your commute be like? Is the school district of quality caliber? How close are grocery stores and other shopping conveniences? What's the millage rate? Does the yard look manageable? Do the neighbors seem decent? And on and on it goes.

With so much to think about, many homebuyers might not pay attention to little things like whether they're a huge fan of the knee wall leading in from the garage, or the dividing wall that separates the kitchen from the family room.


But after a time, what seemed like a minor matter might become a major inconvenience. What to do? Follow these five steps to open up your floor plan, reshape your living space or create that dream closet.

5: Choose Wisely

One of the first questions you need to answer: Is this a load-bearing wall? You certainly don't want to demolish a wall only to have your attic and roof come crashing down along with it. We hear that can cause grievous injuries -- and we firmly believe it. Not to mention, you know, the fact that you'll have a roofless domicile at that point, which pretty thoroughly defeats the purpose of having a house in the first place.

If you're still fairly new to interior wall deconstruction, it's a good idea to consult a contractor or structural engineer. He or she will be able to give you an expert opinion regarding which walls can go, and which are integral to keeping a roof over one's head.


Once you know if a wall can be torn, it's time to get started.

4: Get a Game Plan Going

We're going to assume if you're reading this, you are not a contractor, an electrician or an engineer. (Or at least we're going to hope that, because you probably already know your stuff.) Anyway, if you're still interested in tearing down your wall yourself, and you've gotten the go-ahead from engineers, electricians, etc., you next you need to do some investigating before diving in. Put the sledgehammer down and back away slowly.

It's critical to know what lurks inside the wall you want to take down, and again, it's important to have an expert on hand to determine this. There are obvious signs that a wall it is not just a wall -- like a light switch, a vent or a thermostat -- but even lacking features like that, you never know what's tucked inside.


There are some tools of the trade that can be used to give you a clue, though. An A/C voltage detector or a voltmeter, for example, can be used to test whether any electrical juices are flowing. Walls need to be scanned thoroughly to ensure conditions are safe to start the job. If you do find an electrical signal, much more care must be given to the task.

Once everything is squared away and you have a good read on the situation, it's time for the real work to commence.

3: Settle the Score

Release you inner child! (But probably don't let your kids help.)
Release you inner child! (But probably don't let your kids help.)

To kick things off, you'll want to remove any embellishments from the wall in question. For the sake of minimizing a ridiculous mess, lay down a sheet of plastic first. Put on your safety goggles, then meet you new best friend, Mr. Crowbar. Pry bars are great at pulling off trim, paneling, and any other accoutrements your wall could feature.

The next thing you want to do is get a utility knife and score the outline of where you want to cut. Using a level to make sure your line is straight is a smart move. Otherwise your project could end up as crooked and bent as an M. C. Escher drawing. Take several passes with the utility knife to make the line nicely defined.


2: Time to Finally Vent That Rage

Now you can finally reach for your hammer and go to town on the drywall. Yank it away from the studs (the slats of wood, typically 2x4s, that form the skeleton of the wall) until you've removed it up to a point relatively close to your scored line. Slow down, and stick to following the line so you're left with a nice clean edge.

Then you'll want to take a saw to remove the studs themselves. Be careful when encountering nails -- tetanus is not cool. You don't need to Google that, just trust us. Oh, and be careful with, you know, with that saw, too. Because it's sharp and all that. A reciprocating saw works good for both creating a straight line at the edge of the drywall and for removing the studs, along with the framing.


1: Hooray! Wait, What? Clean Up?

Painting is often a necessary step after this process.
Painting is often a necessary step after this process.
George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

You've got that wretched wall out of the way, but not so fast! Hold off on the celebration -- your work is not quite done. It's time to pretty up the floor, ceiling and adjacent walls surrounding the newly freed up space. This typically involves patching up any spots that need replacement drywall (admit it, you didn't quite manage to perfectly stick to that line you scored) as well as painting and finishing the surrounding area to make sure it jives with the rest of the place.

You'll also want to dispose of the debris from your project sooner rather than later, especially if you have children or pets. Pink insulation looks a little too much like cotton candy to leave it lying about. Get all that stuff in the trash, fast. And enjoy your new, more open floor plan.


Lots More Information

Author's Note: 5 Ways to Tear Down an Interior Wall

This article was interesting to write because it was something I had zero prior experience with. My family has never overly concerned itself with walls -- except for the fact that they're real estate to hang pictures and artwork on.

That being said, I was intrigued with how much prep work needs to go into this process. I had never really considered what needs to happen before someone takes down a wall. Once I researched the topic, it made sense, but it's one of those things that I'd never given much thought to before. I'm glad I know now, in case at some point I get the urge to go sledgehammer happy!

Related Articles

  • Burnett, Bill and Burnett, Kevin." Tear down the walls, here's how." Aug. 23, 2008. (April 18, 2012.) http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/22/HO4Q12E77G.DTL
  • Fauth, Fred. "How to Remove Stud Walls to Create an Open Floor Plan." OneProjectCloser.com. Jan. 12, 2012. (April 18, 2012.) http://www.oneprojectcloser.com/how-to-remove-stud-walls-to-create-an-open-floor-plan/
  • "How To: Basic Wall Demolition. DIY Network. (April 18, 2012.) http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/how-to-basic-wall-demolition/index.html
  • "How to Demolish a Knee Wall and Patch the Area." DIY Network. (April 18, 2012.) http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/how-to-demolish-a-knee-wall/index.html
  • "How to Knock Down a Wall." DIY Network. (April 18, 2012.) http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/how-to-demolish-a-knee-wall/index.html
  • "Types of Insulation." U.S. Department of Energy. (April 18, 2012.) http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11510