Think before you swing that sledgehammer. That wall might be holding up the roof.

It is commonly the first thing a prospective buyer thinks of when inspecting a property. If we just knock down that wall this place would be great.

The trend for more open plan, flexible living has led to many people wanting to open up their homes more, and for owners of older homes this invariably means removing a few internal walls.

It sounds all too easy, but before you get too excited make sure you’re not going to lose the roof over your heads. In apartments it can be even more drastic. Even your internal walls may be part of the support system for all the apartments above you.

In any instance you will need to consult a structural engineer before you attempt any demolition. Your engineer will tell you whether the wall in question is load-bearing and tell you what you need to do if it is.

Even making a small opening in a wall, whether internal or external, may drastically affect the structure of your home, and you must therefore approach any demolition with caution.

Generally you will need to span the new opening with a structural element known as a lintel. This might be steel or one of the new masonry lintels. The latter has the advantage of being easily concealed with render and paint.

In some cases, if the wall you’re bashing a hole in isn’t structurally adequate, you might also need columns at either side to support the lintel. Your engineer will design the structure, working out what size these elements need to be and how they will fit together.

Lightweight walls might seem insignificant as far as structure is concerned, but even they may be playing an important role in the structure of a building.

They may contain steel columns or bracing elements crucial to the structure of the building. It may be possible to deal with this in other ways, but you’ll need an expert to tell you how.

Other structural features such as columns, posts and struts are all there for a reason, even if this is not obvious, so they too cannot simply be removed.

It goes without saying that failure to consult an expert can have disastrous, even fatal, consequences so resist the temptation to just get in there and start bashing, cathartic as it may be.

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