Knocking down internal walls: What you need to know

Abbie Laughton-Coles
Abbie Laughton-Coles
Updated 21 October 2022  | 3 mins read

Rearranging the layout of your home can give you a lot more space to play with, making your rooms more functional and even boosting the price of your property.

A popular way of doing this is by knocking down interior walls, but there are a few things you need to do first.

Key points

  • It’s unlikely you’ll need planning permission, but you may need to apply for building regulations
  • If the wall is load-bearing, you’ll need to put a different support structure in place when it’s knocked down
  • Make sure you receive a completion certificate from the building inspector when the works are finished

What you need to know about internal wall removal

Before you grab a hammer and start swinging, you need to be clued up on the following:

You may need planning permission/building regulation sign off

Typically, knocking down an internal wall doesn’t require planning permission unless you live in a listed building. It’s classed as permitted development, but you may still need to apply for building regulations.

The building inspector will then periodically check that the work is compliant with building regulations, as well as your structural engineer’s plans and calculations. They’ll want to see that standards for fire safety and structural stability have been met.

Find out if your wall is load-bearing

It’s vital you find out whether the wall you’re looking to remove is load-bearing because if it is and you remove it, you could compromise the structural integrity of your house. This could cause major problems in the future.

Interior walls can support the roof, floor, and walls on either side, so ripping them down without investigating the effect it could have would be a very costly mistake.

To see whether an interior wall is load-bearing, you can:

  • Check whether the floor joists in your attic or basement are running perpendicular to the wall. If they are, chances are it’s a load-bearing wall
  • If there’s a wall directly above the wall you want to knock down, it could be load bearing
  • Take a look at the original blueprints of your home (if available). Walls marked with an ‘S’ (structural) are load bearing
  • Any walls beneath load-bearing beams on your ceiling will be structural

If you’re still struggling to determine whether a wall is load-bearing, it’s best to leave it to the professionals. A builder, structural engineer, or architect should be able to tell you.

Can you remove load-bearing walls?

Yes, it’s possible to remove a load-bearing wall, but you’ll need to make sure there’s replacement structural support in place. This will typically be a steel beam, but the ceiling will be supported temporarily with acrow props until this can go in.

You’ll need a structural engineer to draw detailed plans and complete calculations for the steel beam, which will be inspected by the building inspector.

Finding a structural engineer

It’s possible that a structural engineer may be recommended by your builder or through friends and family. Alternatively, you can find one local to you on the Institution of Structural Engineers’ website.

It’s important to verify the engineer you choose has the correct qualifications and it’s worth getting quotes from a couple of different professionals to see if there’s a large discrepancy in pricing.

Get a completion certificate

If the work complies with regulations and passes all checks by the building inspector, you’ll be given a completion certificate. Keep this somewhere safe because you’ll need it if you’re planning to sell your house in the future.

Anything else

As well as checking whether a wall is load-bearing, it’s also essential you find out whether any plumping, gas pipes, or electricity wires run through it. If so, these will need to be redirected.

Is wall removal covered by my home insurance?

Typically, any work you undertake on your home that changes its structure won’t be automatically covered by your home insurance. It could even invalidate your policy, so you wouldn’t be able to claim.

In fact, 251 of 309 home insurance policies offer no cover for minor building works according to Defaqto.[1]

It’s important to let your insurer know if you’re planning to remove any internal walls. They’ll usually offer you the option to extend your cover, but of course, you should always check for exclusions.

Do I need to tell my insurer before I start building work?

Yes, you should let your insurer know if you’re making any structural changes to your home or completing improvements that are more than just redecorating and maintenance. This should be done at least three weeks in advance.

Although your builders should have their own insurance, it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re protected for any accidental damage that could occur while having them in your house.

Your insurer will also want to know whether your home improvements will add value to your home (hopefully they will), as this could raise your rebuild cost. You may find your premiums will rise to reflect this.

Can I knock down a wall adjacent to a neighbour's property?

If you live in a semi-detached or terraced house, it’s possible to knock down an interior wall without telling your neighbours, as long as it’s entirely on your property. However, if you need to knock down and rebuild a party wall (a wall you share with a neighbouring property), you’ll need to inform them.

Initially, you must let them know between two months and a year before building work starts. This can be done verbally first and then more formally in writing.

It’s then up to your neighbour to give or refuse consent in writing. Alternatively, they might serve a counter-notice stating that additional works must be done at the same time. If they benefit from these, they’ll need to pay for them. If not, you’re responsible for all costs as you initiated the works. If there are disputes over costs, an appointed surveyor can settle the disagreement.

Your neighbour must reply to your notice of work within 14 days, and a counter notice must be served within a month.

If an agreement on the works can’t be reached, an appointed surveyor will agree on a party wall award, which is a legal document stating the work to be carried out, when and how it will be done, and who will pay for it. It’s possible to appeal against this within 14 days if you disagree.

You must give your neighbour at least 14 days’ notice if you need to access their property for building purposes and of course, you should keep all disruption to a minimum.

[1]Checked 02/09/22