How to Open a Wall in a Split-Level

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A split-level home is a particular style of house where one floor level resides halfway between the floor and ceiling of the other part of the house. Spilt-level homes often contains two staircases in the front doorway, one leading up and the other leading down. Opening up a wall allows the homeowner to enlarge a room or open up the floor plan. Knocking down a wall is not a simple undertaking, and should only be completed by someone with the proper knowledge and experience. If you are unsure about how to proceed, be sure to consult a licensed contractor.

Things You'll Need

  • Hammer
  • Pry bar
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Painter’s tape
  • Large trash can
  • Gloves
  • Protective goggles
  • Screwdriver
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Refer to the home’s blueprints to determine if the wall you wish to open up is load-bearing. Load-bearing means the wall is an integral part of the structure. If the wall is load-bearing, you will need to make up for the lack of support. In such cases, it is best to let a professional open up the wall to avoid damaging the housing structure.

  • Remove all furniture from rooms. Remove all fragile items. Remove all light and wall fixtures from the walls. Cover the area is plastic sheeting to contain the mess.

  • Shut off power to any fixtures in the wall being removed, if applicable.

  • Cut along the corners and ceiling of the wall you wish to remove with the a reciprocating saw to avoid damaging the adjacent walls and ceiling. Use a metal cutting blade if the corners are reinforced with wire meshing.

  • Knock a small hole in the drywall or plaster with a hammer. From this starting point, remove the drywall in chunks. Use a pry bar for leverage to remove the drywall or plaster. Place the discarded dry wall in a large plastic trash can. Continue until all dry wall or plaster is removed. To remove lather and plaster, use a small sledge hammer to knock the plaster off. Remove all the plaster before the lathe -- be careful not to break the lathe when removing the plaster. Pull the lathe off the wall studs with the pry bar.

  • Have an electrician and plumber remove or reroute all electrical wiring and piping, if applicable.

  • Knock out the horizontal blocking in between studs with a hammer. Cut the along the joint between the wall stud and metal plate using a reciprocating saw. Knock the studs lose by hitting them at the base with a hammer parallel to the wall and wiggle them free of the nails at the top plate.

  • Pry up the bottom and top plate of the wall frame using a pry bar. Use a piece of scrap wood underneath the pry bar to avoid scratching the floor when removing the bottom plate.

Tips & Warnings

  • Properly clean up the area before performing new electrical work, floor work or installing new dry wall. Do not use a household vacuum for clean up, but an industrial strength shop-vac.
  • The process of removing a wall is not an easy one. If you are unqualified to do so, do not attempt on your own. It can cause serious damage not only the room, but to the structure of your home.

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