Opening Up the Space

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Remodeling    by: ITC

Rather than wanting more rooms in your house, you may find that you would prefer fewer larger rooms. Some rooms may be too small for their intended use, while others may be too large.

Kitchens are commonly too small for comfort, particularly in older houses, which were not designed for all the equipment we take for granted today. Bathrooms too can often be cramped. Or the rooms generally may feel claustrophobic, and can often be gloomy if they have small windows or are on the shady side of the house.

Many problems of this kind can be overcome by removing part or even the entire wall between two rooms. For example, a kitchen and dining room or a dining room and living room could be combined. Removing the wall between a bedroom and small room, or even making an opening in it will provide more closet space or room for a shower.

Of course, the problem might not be one of having insufficient space in any one room, but rather poor access between rooms. It is not unusual for there to be no direct access between a kitchen and dining room, the route between them being via a hall. Making a doorway in the dividing wall, or even a pass-through, will make life much more bearable and will prevent such things as cooking smells from drifting through the house.

Whether you are making a simple pass-through or taking out an entire wall, the method is basically the same. Before making the opening, a steel, concrete or wooden beam is inserted in the wall to span the opening and support any load on it from above. Then the opening is cut out below this beam and the floor, walls and ceiling are refinished.

The most important aspect of this type of job is planning, since the wall you intend breaking through may contribute to the overall strength of the house and without it, the building may come crashing about your ears. Walls fall into two categories — load-bearing bearing and non-load-bearing — and you must identify which it is before starting work.

If you are in any doubt about this stage of the job, consult a structural engineer or architect. You may have to submit plans of the job to your local building department. They will be concerned that you don’t breach the Building Code and will pay particular attention as to how you intend supporting the wall above the opening and also — in the case of enlarged rooms — to the amount of light and ventilation the new room will have. If you intend making an opening in one of the exterior walls, you generally must apply for a building permit. Always check your local code before beginning any job.

Other points to bear in mind when considering this kind of work are that you will need to completely redecorate the new large room and you will also have to do something about heating. Previously you could heat two small rooms separately, now you will have to heat one large one and so you may need to upgrade any heating appliances.

Pipe and cable runs in the wall you are to work on should also be dealt with by rerouting them before work begins. If you are only making a doorway or hatch, moving its position slightly may avoid the need to reroute the services.

The job involves a lot of dust and debris, even if you are only making a small opening, so if at all possible remove all of the furnishings from the rooms affected. Cover anything else with dust sheets and lay a thick plastic sheet on the floor on which the debris and rubbish can be collected.

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