Reality show remodeling? Don’t try this at home

Design TV shows make it look so easy: Just remove a wall or two, and you have the open floor plan you’ve always wanted.

But not so fast. Tearing down a wall could open up a host of other problems – some structural – if not done properly. It could also be unexpectedly costly.

Hiring a professional contractor to remove a wall could cost anywhere from $500 to $4,000, according to In addition to that cost, owners should also add the cost of a structural engineer to design a customized plan that includes removing a wall.

“You’ll then get the peace of mind of knowing that you’re not going to do serious damage to your home,” says Jesse Fowler, president of Tellus Design + Build in Southern California.

Too often, homeowners who want to save money grab a sledge hammer and start swinging for do-it-yourself wall teardown. However, that’s risky, and a number of problems can surface if done incorrectly and without proper preparation. The home’s ceiling could cave in, for example, or it could cause electrical problems or even plumbing issues.

If the homeowner removes a load-bearing wall, “in most cases, the plaster will crack and the ceiling will sag,” says Brian Kelsey, a licensed contractor and host of “Kelsey on the House,” a series of online videos. “The ceiling could cave in right away.” A structural engineer can determine for sure whether the wall is a load-bearing one.

A wall set for a tear-down could also contain electrical wiring. “You might not see electrical outlets on the exterior of the wall, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential electrical issues beneath the surface,” says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a national home improvement company based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

And that same wall may contain plumbing pipes that, if damaged during the teardown, could cause a home to flood. “I’ve seen sledgehammers cut right through water pipes,” Kelsey says.

Again, a structural engineer, he says, will be able to advise of any potential plumbing problems before knocking down a wall and whether a plumber should be hired to investigate further before proceeding.

“If you need to relocate a waste line, it’s going to be expensive,” Fowler adds.

Source: “4 Terrible Tragedies That May Befall You if You Tear Down That Wall,”® (April 18, 2017)

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