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7 Things to Do Before Smashing Through That Wall

A popular way to save so money during a remodel is to do your own demolition, and prepare the space for contractors as much as possible. But before you start tearing down walls, you need to know what's behind them and what they might be holding up—or else you'll create more problems.

Is the Wall Load Bearing?

Load bearing walls run perpendicular to floor joists and are typically situated towards the center of a home. Floor joists can be viewed from a basement or crawlspace. Keep in mind that a load bearing wall on the first floor will extend up to the top floor.

Exterior walls are always load bearing. If an addition has been added, an exterior wall may not be as evident, but it still bears the weight of what is above it.

Consult with an engineer or contractor to determine which walls are OK to remove.

Score the Ceiling

Create less mess and work later by scoring the area between the wall that you are tearing down and the ceiling. This will prevent the sheetrock that you are removing from the wall taking down pieces of the ceiling with it.

Watch for Plumbing, Electrical, and HVAC

Walls that contain any plumbing, electrical outlets, or HVAC vents, should be taken down with caution. Always check both sides of the wall for these issues. Shut off the main power if there is live electricity running through the wall and take care when removing walls with existing plumbing. Put down the sledgehammer and use a saw to cut out the drywall to reveal the pipes behind it. Turn off the water main and consult with a plumber before removing any pipes.

Cover Up

Place a drop cloth or cardboard on both sides of the wall you are tearing down and cover the furniture in each room with sheets or plastic. Wood and drywall particles will get everywhere so prepare for that. If your home was built before 1978, make sure you have it tested for asbestos. Asbestos insulation should be removed by a professional.

Safety Gear

After covering your furniture, protect yourself by wearing safety goggles, gloves, and a respirator mask.

Use a Reciprocating Saw

A sledgehammer is fun to swing a few times and can bust wall studs with ease, but a more efficient way of removing a wall is by using a reciprocating saw with a bi-metal/demolition blade. These will do all the hard work for you, and can cut through wood and nails without breaking a sweat.

Double Bag

Broken wood and exposed nails can quickly tear through a trash bag. Double bag the wall pieces of wood and plaster to prevent breakage as you are carrying the trash through your house. Clean up as you go, so you've got more room to move and less trash to pickup when you're done.

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