Things to remember when knocking through walls to go open plan

When it comes to going open plan, there’s more to consider than first meets the eye – particularly when knocking through walls to go open plan. That’s whether they need to be knocked through either fully, or partially, removed. If you’re tempted to take a sledgehammer to open the space up, you may want to do your research first and get advice from a professional about your specific project. By which we mean: wait! Put that sledgehammer down!

Most people looking to knock through want to make a room look larger, add an extension, or create a more seamless flow. And many want to knock through to make their kitchen bigger. In fact, turning your downstairs kitchen, dining room, and living areas into one open-plan space is one of the most popular projects today. So with some excellent things to remember before knocking through walls to go open plan, @kbbmagazine journo Yvette Filer is here to help…

Check for load-bearing walls

Unless you have a listed building, you don’t usually need planning permission for an internal reconfiguration, but there may be other stumbling blocks that could prevent your plans from going ahead, such as where your property’s load-bearing walls are. This is when the wall is fundamental to the property’s structural safety so cannot be removed without being replaced with an additional support like extra steels.

If you’re unsure of whether a wall is load bearing, check with your local builder or seek the advice of a structural engineer who can offer guidance on steels and how much any additional supports may cost.

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In short: if a wall is load bearing, do not knock it down without proper consideration and expert advise.

“You can still remove a load-bearing wall; however, you will need the help of a structural engineer to install a rolled steel joist (RSJ) for support,” explains Gregory Smith, Priceyourjob’s construction expert. “Another option is installing an archway. But again, this will need to be done using proper construction methods but can be a simpler way to join spaces together than removing an entire wall.”

Make sure you’re on the right side of building regs

Although you might not need planning permission when knocking through walls to go open plan, you will still need to adhere to building regulations. As with any major home improvement, it is always best to contact your local council to double check if there are any restrictions in your area or to your property.

Think about having an archway for zoned open-plan living

Archway designs have both practical and stylistic elements to consider, such as how much wall to leave in place and what the end result will look like.

“Having an arch allows you to break materials, colour and light and can help in denoting different zones,” explains James Owen Webster, director at AO Architecture.

“They work well when creating small wall sections and installing sliding or folding doors for separation – ideal for when you want to shut off noise between a kitchen-diner and a snug, for example.”

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However, an archway may not be to everyone’s taste, and those looking for a contemporary finish may prefer a slicker design where a column or joist is on display if needed for a load-bearing wall. The choice comes down to what you want in terms of layout and functionality. “Ask yourself, what is important – flow, light, views, social communication, or control of noise,” James adds.

Weigh up the cost of knocking though

Cost is the final factor to think about when deciding whether to tackle a knock through.

The labour associated with knocking through to go open plan when it’s a load-bearing wall will be more than others, plus you’ll need to account for the cost of any RSJs. The final look can make a difference, too. “An archway will cost anywhere from £1000 to £5000, depending on the size and whether it is solely decorative or load bearing,” says Ana Delgado at Structural Repairs.

Think about where you’ll put sockets

You are losing a wall or walls after all, so if said wall(s) had things on them, you’ll need to factor moving these into your plans.

“Remember, the cost of relocating light switches, electrical sockets, and extra radiators as well. And, of course, the price of making good, redecorating, including replastering, says Ana.” Great tip.

Reckon a knock through is the project for you? Read more advice here.

Featured image: A contemporary knock-through design with retaining elements in a listed townhouse by Trellik Design Studio.

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