DIY skills – level up – Removing a wall


Last weekend I levelled up my DIY ability.

I’ve done a fair number of DIY tasks over the years, from the relatively mundane painting walls up to things a little more interesting such as building decking, and even once I built a raised pond, which involved digging foundations, pouring concrete and brick laying. However, last weekend was the first time I have removed a wall in my home.

Ok, so it was just a partition wall, and it was not load bearing. But still. it was a wall, and now it is gone 😉

Getting permission

By far the longest part of the process was getting building regulations approval to do so. If you’re thinking of removing a wall in your home, even if you know it is not load bearing, you need to talk to your local building authority. In my case it wasn’t the structural issue of removing he wall, but the impact on the fire escape regulations that I needed to be aware of.

After a certain amount of back and forth, which included an initial suggestion that I install a sprinkler system(!), I asked them nicely to come visit me in my house and discuss my options, and they were able to agree that I just needed to have some additional mains wired smoke and heat detectors in order to be on the right side of the regulations.

Part of the deal is that I had to pay a 200GBP fee for the privilege of removing the wall my self. I then have to pay a registered electrician to move the light switch (that was in the wall) and to install the detectors. This is about another 400GBP for supply and install. Then I can call the building regulations department and they will send someone to look at what I’ve done, and what the electrician has done, and they can nod sagely and give me a certificate to show I wasn’t just a lunatic removing walls at random and that I did actually do it properly. This piece of paper would be pretty important should I ever wish to sell the house, but also if I did have a fire, I’m pretty sure my insurance company would need to see that I had followed the rules.

Remember – just because you *could* remove a wall without seeking approval does not make that a good idea. If you had a fire, you can bet that any insurance company would notice the alteration and use it to invalidate some or all of your claim.

Starting work With permission to proceed I set to work.

tools: Bosch oscillating multi-toolJCB Solid forged 300mm steel Utility bar hand saw

With just those three tools I was able to deconstruct the wall over a period of one weekend. The oscillating mutli-tool (OMT) was incredibly useful, I could slice through plasterboard pretty easily and control the depth of cut to know I was really only just barely cutting through. With the first few cuts this was very important as whilst I was pretty sure the wall was empty, I didn’t really *know* it was empty. Once I’d cut out a few panels I was able to increase my confidence in what I was cutting into. I cut the plasterboard away in fairly largish chunks initially, and eventually I started using the OMT to help score where I wanted things to break and using the utility bar to pry the board away from the wooden frame. The wood frame was upright pieces ever 400mm ish, with horizontal pieces nailed between. Normally only one horizontal section, but more around where things needed to be more stiff, eg next to the door frame, and where the kitchen radiator was supported. Mostly I cut out the horizontal pieces with a hand saw, then I could cut the vertical piece near where it connected to the long horizontal of the top of the frame. at this point I could usually just lever the vertical section out of its nails at the base. But sometimes I also cut it near the bottom to just pull out the section. I was actually trying to retain the wooden frame pieces in the longest lengths I could. I plan to reclaim all of that good quality construction timber to build a work bench along one wall of my garage.

I had one mini-emegency when I was removing hte kitchen radiator. I had closed off the thermostatic valve, and drained the radiator down as usual. Then when I was prying the radiator off the valve connection, and generally exerting a fair amount of force to get things off, suddenly the valve went full open. This meant a fairly high pressure spray of water into the kitchen. I was briefly afraid that I’d managed to crack a pipe connection or something. I hurriedly reconnected the radiator, and sealed it up again. Satisfied there was no other leak, it was just the valve having mysteriously failed. I switched the thermostatic controller out for just a shut off cap  and went back to taking the wall down, except the bit supporting the radiator. The next day I went and bought myself a blanking cap to go on where the radiator connected. I figured if I could get back to a similar point to previously, eg the radiator empty and the valve shut, I could quickly pop the radiator off and the blanking cap on, so even if the valve was bust/unreliable I could be confident not to get water everywhere. That plan seemed to work out just fine. And so the final deconstruction of the wall was possible.

Here is short timelapse of the whole process..