Just smashing – we break down the challenges and costs of removing an internal wall

Don’t let the TV programmes fool you. There’s more to taking down an internal wall than a smile and a sledgehammer…

If you like the idea of meandering around your home with as few barriers as possible, or you just want a more modern open-plan feel, then there’s a good chance that removing an internal wall is on your mind.

But, as with all things bricks and mortar, you’ve got some big considerations. And one major all-encompassing one is money. When it comes to building works, having a good idea how much you’ll need to shell out (and being confident that you aren’t overpaying) will reassure you in terms of budget.

ShutterstockCredit: Shutterstock / Paul Maguire

It’s all about getting to grips with the internal wall removal process – from the mess to the main players involved, including the fact you’ll likely need a structural engineer. 

Arm yourself with expert advice from knowledgeable construction consultants, and you’ll be empowered for conversations with builders and building regulations bureaucrats. Leaving you to get that internal wall taken down while standing on a solid financial footing.


Before you start, identify your wall type

Seek the advice of a structural engineer

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If you are taking down an internal wall, the biggest impact on your wall-bashing bill comes down to whether your wall is load bearing or non-load bearing. 

If you’ve seen enough home renovation shows, you’ll know load-bearing internal walls are the open-plan dream bogeyman. Why? The role of an internal load-bearing wall is to support the roof, flooring or the walls above, making them integral to the safety of your home.

A non-load-bearing wall is better news financially as it’s little more than a room dividers and can be relatively easily altered or removed. Although a word of caution is necessary if your house is timber framed, as the timber partitions can also be load bearing.

The main takeaway is that unless you are an expert construction consultant, you do not have the qualifications and experience needed to identify which type of wall you are dealing with. To make a wall-type diagnosis you have two choices: ask a builder (they might tell you for free) or contact a chartered structural engineer and pay a fee. 

We spoke to Zilvinas Rubinas, principal chartered structural engineer at Hii Guru, who says: “You can usually trust a builder to identify if a wall is load bearing or not since they would have learnt from their experience. However, as they do not have the necessary qualifications, their advice cannot be legally binding or admissible in court.

“Building control will not accept a builder’s advice and will always require a written note from a chartered structural engineer.”

Speaking as an interior designer who has come across a stonkingly thick wall in a period property that turned out to be nothing more than a dividing wall on steroids, what’s clear is that you simply can’t guess a wall’s function based on size alone.

Don’t expect to get it right unless you have an intimate understanding of structural design (and ideally the original plans to hand).

The cost of a wall assessment

You have options

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When it comes to getting the scoop on your wall via a structural engineer, you can opt to go the virtual route or have a face-to-face site visit with an on-line expert via a service such as the one offered by Hii Guru.

Rubinas says: “With a virtual assessment, the client does a WhatsApp video call and follows the structural engineer’s guidance to walk through the property, and they are told what they’re dealing with.”

This service can cost as little as £60.

If an in-person site survey is desired or required, the cost of a structural engineer coming to your home will be around £250.

In either case, it shouldn’t involve any physical work or damage being done to your home.

Congratulations, you’ve got a non-load-bearing wall

What’s next?

Rubinas explains that once the wall is accessed by the structural engineer and judged to be non-load-bearing, then the engineer can issue a Certificate of Structural Adequacy (CSA). This will confirm that you have a non-load-bearing wall and no structural support or design is required for you to remove the wall.

This certificate will cost around £250 because it is a legally binding document that goes on the structural engineer’s insurance.

Should anything go wrong, if you’ve hired a chartered structural engineer, you have recourse to legal action.

Oh no, the wall is load bearing

Now what?

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To answer this question, we’ll use the example of an internal wall that is five metres wide and two and a half metres high. 

Rubinas explains that once the structural engineer assesses your wall to be load bearing, they will need to undertake structural calculations to work out the required size of a supporting lintel or a steel beam and padstones.

These will support the floors, walls and roof above so that the property does not collapse.

Using our example, according to Rubinas the steel beam would cost around £1,000 including delivery. It would also need a pair of padstones costing around £140.

As you may also need drawings for your local building control department, you can expect to pay around £600 for the structural engineer’s package of calculations and drawings.

The information created by the structural engineer is then handed over to the builder, who will use it to give an accurate price for your work, based on the drawings. The builder will also factor in costs depending on the type of finish you want. For example , some people like their beams exposed, ; others prefer a plastered finish.. 

We spoke to Giedrius Vasiliauskas from Goldberg Buildings Ltd who estimated that for a job of this size you can expect to pay anything from £3,800 up to £4,500. This should include making the opening in the load bearing wall, supply of all materials (including steel or lintel and padstones), labour and waste disposal.


Does your planning department need to be involved?

In most cases, no

Once you know what type of wall you are dealing with and have your drawings, the next hurdle is to ensure your local council is on board with your plans

You’ll be happy to hear that in most cases, under the rules of “permitted development” you can remove an internal wall without seeking planning permission. 

But there are exceptions.

Living in a listed building? Your local authority might have a thing or two to say about your desire to take a sledgehammer to one of your internal walls. 

Simon Rix, planning consultant at Planix.uk, advises that: “Removing an internal wall wouldn’t require planning consent, but it would require listed building consent if it’s in a listed building, or if it’s in a building within the curtilage of a listed building. But that’s not always clear, so it’s best to talk to a planning consultant if you’re not sure. The good news is there’s no need to do either if your home is only in a conservation area.”

Rix also advises there is no need for an architect for the removal of an internal wall.

And there’s more good news. A listed building consent application to your local council shouldn’t cost you a penny, according to building experts Checkatrade.

Do I need building regulations approval?

In some cases yes, so make sure you liaise with your local council first

If you discover that your wall is load bearing, you will absolutely need to reach out to your local building control department. This is the department in your local council that ensures compliance with building regulations and structural safety. It will expect to see your structural engineer’s package of drawings and calculations.

Each building control department – accessed through your local council – has different fees and charges. For example, Bath and North East Somerset Council charges £186 if you are inserting one beam and £336 for an application to insert three.

It’s when the wall is pronounced non-load -bearing that homeowners can be tempted to sidestep building control involvement, and it isn’t surprising as this can be a confusing part of the process, riddled with mixed messages.

For example, we spoke to Kieran O’Neill, an advisor in the planning department of Bath and North East Somerset Council, and he said: “If your wall is non-load-bearing and you aren’t putting in a beam, there is no need to make an application.”

However, he also advised that if you are making the ground floor open plan you can submit a simple sketch plan free of charge and they will advise if you need to make an application or not.

A structural engineer’s view

Rubinas, however, recommends that if you are removing a wall regardless of whether it’s load-bearing or not, you should serve your building control department formal notice. 

“Nowadays, building control requires confirmation from a structural engineer that a wall being removed is or is not a load bearing wall,” says Rubinas. “Typically, when you are trying to sell the house and the building surveyor sees that you have made an open -plan space – for example a kitchen or diner – they will ask whether you have received consent and if you can produce a building control certificate to confirm the work carried out does not affect the structural integrity of the property.”

As an interior designer, I am aware that when some homeowners learn from their builder that a wall is not load bearing, they do occasionally decide to take it down without serving a building notice to their building control department. If a building control certificate has to be issued retrospectively, walls will almost certainly have to be opened to permit inspection of the work.

Rubinas advises against this approach. “It’s better to spend £500 on a structural engineer upfront and issue a building control notice to save £5,000 having to re-do the work after construction has started.”

Here’s a tip that might serve you well based on my personal experience of renovating properties. If you call up your local building control department to issue a building notice on a non-load bearing wall and it says it doesn’t need to be involved, always record the name and email address of the person you speak to. Get them to confirm in writing (via email) their guidance that you don’t require building control permission to knock down the internal wall. 

This will come in handy if you ever need to sell your property and are asked to produce a building control certificate for the demolished wall.

The cost of taking down a non-load bearing wall

Bringing in a builder versus DIY

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If you’ve discovered your wall is non-load -bearing, have a certificate to confirm this from your structural engineer and have jumped through any basic building regulation hoops, there’s a good chance you will be left to take down the non-load -bearing wall as you see fit.

Some people will involve a builder, but there’s no rule stating that you have to.

If you are extremely confident in your DIY skills and understand how to unpick a wall with surgical precision (and not with brute sledgehammer force, as TV shows would lead the uninitiated to believe), then you can certainly make a good savings by not having to call in a professional.

But this DIY task is all about knowing your limits, as taking down an internal wall can be both extremely messy and potentially dangerous. 

If you are confident you can do the job you’ll need to invest in the right tools. These include:

  • Circular saw
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Cordless drill
  • Six-foot step ladder
  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Voltage tester
  • Safety gear (thick gloves, thick-soled boots, long-sleeved shirt and trousers, safety glasses, hearing protection, and breathing protection)

You will also be responsible for your own waste disposal. 

Prefer to call in a professional to remove your non-load -bearing wall? Based on our five metre (16ft 4in) wide by 2.5 metre (8ft 2in) wall, Vasiliauskas estimates that for a supply and install job including materials and waste disposal, you would pay around £2,200. Again, your final cost may vary depending on your preferred finish.


Written by Joy Archer she/her