Break down the barriers

    Open-plan living is hugely popular but its best to think before you grab the hammer

    Open Plan

    If you want to demolish a wall, start by establishing 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 usually straightforward to remove, while main supporting walls, which are made of bricks, blocks or stone, are not.

    Stud-partition walls are very rarely load-bearing, although they can occasionally become so over time, while partition walls may or may not be. Main supporting walls are load-bearing and tend to be expensive to remove.

    Load-bearing walls should never be taken down without using adequate supports and inserting a permanent steel beam (or steel frame) to take the weight the wall was supporting – not a job for DIY.

    This type of work must be checked and signed off by a Building Control officer from the local council, or an approved inspector (who does the same job for a private company), to ensure 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 to look at, including the joists and what’s sitting on the wall, if anything, in the loft. For advice visit www.wikihow.com/Tell-if-a-Wall-is-Load-Bearing

    Sometimes it’s obvious, but if it’s not then consult a structural engineer. Don’t take a chance, because getting it wrong could make your home liable to collapse. A structural engineer will also be able to calculate what type of steel is needed to replace the wall.

    In most cases, removing a wall won’t require planning permission. However, if you’re combining wall removal with an extension, as is often the case with kitchen/diners, you may need consent from the local council for that.

    All the layout changes will need to be drawn on plans for the application.

    With listed buildings, it’s important to get listed building consent from the local council before removing a wall. Of course, permission may not be granted, which could make creating an open-plan layout impossible.

    With leasehold properties, you usually require the permission of the freeholder for any alternations – knocking down a wall could potentially affect the whole building.

    If the work affects a shared or party wall or other shared structure, you may need to serve a party wall notice on adjoining neighbours. For more information see www.gov.uk/party-wall-etc-act-1996-guidance