Last week we toyed with the subject of tearing down walls to create beautiful open plan living spaces. It’s a common way of improving on old layouts and reflecting our modern way of living. 
We touched on a few of the considerations needed for different types of dwellings before even contemplating reaching for the sledgehammer.  So let’s dig a little deeper and get into a bit of the nitty gritty about the major considerations and steps to get you to a realistic position about what it’s going to take to open up your home, and whether it’s something even possible.  
The very first step would be working out for yourself exactly what your optimum outcome would be.  It’s best to be clear on what you want before engaging any outside parties, so spend time drawing it up and reviewing you desired plan until you are clear.  The clearer you are on your intent, the easier it will be to share this with the least confusion.  The more time it takes to clarify your intent with the professionals, the more it will cost.  
We aren’t getting into DIY wall removal here as we figure if you’re confident enough to take that on, you are already across the steps were about to fire off, but just incase…this is not a job for the amateur!
With an idea of what you want to achieve, find out what approvals you will need by contacting your local council or local planning authority as it will vary greatly from council to council. If you’re in some type of strata development, likewise, seek out they’re renovation approval process. Most strata have guidelines, by-laws and precedents about renovating. We would expect the experts you engage will be across the necessary approval processes and regulation,  but it’s is a good idea for you to be armed with this info for your own clarity.
With your rough plans drawn up and a bit clarity on what your optimum open plan desires look like, and an understanding of any approval processes required, it’s time to look into the professionals you will need on your ‘team’. 



Without a doubt the easiest route from this point is to work with a reputable builder or renovation company.  The right organisation can take over the entire job and the project management.  Builders like ours from The Block, Jason from Charles Bros Building Contractors, are set up to manage the entire job from start to finish.  If this is your preferred option our recommendation would be to look for companies that work in your local area as they will be familiar with the regulations and requirements of local authorities. We also suggest you do research in your community for recommendations or otherwise. There’s nothing quite like a ‘word of mouth’ recommendation!

If you’re managing the project yourself, let’s put together a list of the steps you will need to tick off at a minimum. This is like having your own road-map for the journey.

Sorting out who’s approval you need – Whether it is your local council, local authority or a strata management situation, first step is to determine the approval process before you start to get your ducks in a row.

Plans – you will need to formalise you rough sketches so need to engage either a building designer, draughts-person or an architect to ensure the plan is clearly legible for all parties involved going forward. They will also help you take into consideration light, airflow and traffic flow in our home, so that the changes will be functional as well as beautiful. 

Structural security – We need to make sure the wall or walls coming out will not have impact the remaining structure.  This is the point where you will need a structural engineer to inspect and produce a structural engineers report which will outline what exists and what needs to be done in order to ensure the integrity of the building being changed by the opened up space. 

At this point with your plans complete you will need to submit them to the appropriate authority (you will have already worked out who this is through you prior research) to seek approval for the works. 

Lining up your trades – Hiring a builder for the structural works is the obvious. If you are not leaving the hiring of all the trades to your builder you will a need line up an electrician, plasterer etc. Regardless of any aspects of the job you are taking on, the electrical component must be left for the professionals. Depending on the structure, you are going to require a combination of carpentry, brick laying and/or steel works.  Further down the track you are going to need plasterers, painters, and flooring – carpet, floorboards or tiles – but best you have this all lined up in advance as the biggest impact on timelines will be the availability of trades at the time you need them. 

You will also need to be prepared to compromise if it turns out that you can’t create the exact space you wished for, but make sure whoever is giving you this feedback can clarify why.  The more you understand about your property and the process the better.  

Be clear on why you are doing this home improvement. If you are creating your forever home, do it to suit your wildest home desires to make it perfect for you.  If it is about improving the value of your home with the intent to capitalise when you sell, be very clear about the cost versus return – we know from experience, it is very easy to blow the budget and it can sometime work out better to sell and buy a home with all the work already done.

Although the concept of open plan living is all about creating a large open cohesive space, each section within the space still needs to function with the intended purpose of its individual zone.  Next week we will talk about how to go about creating zones within an open plan live space.

Good luck with your opening up experience.    

November 01, 2022 — Mark McKie

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