So you want to be an advocate of open-plan home living? Sounds like a fantastic idea!
But remember to be cautious and prudent when it comes to removing any walls or making new openings for windows and doors.
To prefer homes with large spaces where the walls or barriers have been removed is as understandable as aesthetically pleasing. But to jeopardise the structural strength of your home in the process is unacceptable.
Unsupported structures could collapse. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that the modifications you make to your home are safe.
Find out the best way to proceed with your open floor home project.
First, before removing any wall, find out whether it is a load bearing wall or a non-load bearing wall.
It is worth noting that most walls are load-bearing.
And load bearing walls should not be removed unless correctly specified beams are installed.
Do not attempt to do this yourself as this is a job best left to the professionals.
Load bearing walls
Load bearing walls support the building. If you’re thinking of removing any wall, it’s best to seek the advice of a designer or a structural engineer. They will know whether the wall you choose to remove is an essential load-bearing wall or not.
With a load bearing wall, the structural engineer will then proceed to calculate the load bearing capacity required and design the appropriate beam to support the structure.
Again, installing this type of beam is best left to a licenced builder.
If you are planning to simply remove a non-load bearing internal wall, then the process should be fairly straightforward.
Creating a new window or door opening
If you choose to create an opening for a new window or door in a load bearing wall, consider how to support the structure above the new opening.
A lintel made from steel, timber, concrete, or stone can support the wall above the new opening. This, again, will require the calculation of the weight-bearing capacity required. Then, you can select the specified lintel.
Technically, you could install a new lintel yourself. But it can prove to be quite difficult, which is why it’s best to leave the installation to a licenced builder.
Obtain necessary Council or State approval
Alterations to your home of this nature will require an approval.
You can submit an application yourself or obtain the services of a Designer.
Your designer will be able to draw up the current house, the structures to demolish, and the new plan for the structure.
He will submit all the necessary reports and ensure the plans meet the government and building code requirements. He will also obtain a structural engineer’s report and, if load bearing beams or lintels are needed, he will obtain the design and specifications.
Your local home designer will have a structural engineer he works with, so you wouldn’t need to hire a structural engineer separately.
It is only when you are preparing the application yourself will you need to search for a structural engineer.
After you get DA approval, you will need to submit an application for a Construction Certificate. This includes drawings for construction required to meet the Building Code of Australia and any other codes specific to your property.
Once approved, these drawings become the instructions for the builder. What this means is that your licenced builder can now start construction of the building project.
If applying for a Complying Development instead of a DA, the construction drawings etc. are included in the CDC submission.
Find out about the presence of electric cables and plumbing
Electrical cables and plumbing typically run in most walls of your home. Expect them before demolishing.
Engage a licenced electrician and plumber before you commence the demolition work. Also, schedule their return at the appropriate time during the building phase.
If you engage a builder, he will coordinate his electrician and plumber.
In fact, in NSW it is illegal to meddle with electrical wiring or plumbing unless you have the licence to do so.
DIY is not a great idea
Many people are good at making cosmetic renovations to their homes like painting the walls and replacing bathroom tiles.
However, there is a higher risk to your safety when dealing with your home’s structure, electrical work, and plumbing. It’s best to be safe and leave it to the licenced professionals.
If you’re planning to sell your house, you will need to prove that you secured approval and certification for all modifications to your home. These include structural, electrical and plumbing changes.
This can only be completed at the time, and not retrospectively.
Your certifier will also give you an occupation certificate once you’ve met the standards, drawings, and conditions.
Stay safe and engage professionals for serious home modifications.