Is that a Structural Wall?



Chartered Surveyors and Structural Walls

This article on Structural walls has been written by Independent Chartered Surveyors. We pride ourselves on our high standards of work. We can offer Independent Valuations, Home Buyers Reports and Specific Defects Reports as well as Structural Surveys and Building Surveys which will help to identify a structural wall.

If you are looking to carry out design work or alterations we are more than happy to comment upon it as long as we know prior to the actual survey. Once we have been to the property we can also do 3D design drawings.

For serious structural problems we can do a Specific Defects Report also known as an Engineer's Report. This is useful if you have cracks to try and solve the problem or even better before you remove a wall or a potential structural wall.

This article won't make you into a Chartered Surveyor or a Structural Engineer but it will give you a basic insight. We have a wealth of knowledge on structural walls and just about anything property related. Please do not hesitate to call us on our free phone number 0800 298 5424.

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Why is it important to know if it's a structural wall?

Walls come in many shapes and sizes; probably the most dangerous are what are known as structural walls as you can't just remove them from a property as in simplest terms they are holding things up or in place. This can typically be the roof or the floors. Also adjoining buildings may rely upon the wall as well which we find that people never think about.


Cracks to walls

Put this into perspective, the removal of a structural wall would at a minimum cause cracking within your property, possibly your next door neighbour's property as well! At worst it could cause a collapse in part of the property. Whilst today whole buildings don't generally fall down because people have learnt over the years not to remove structural walls, with construction becoming more complex it can be very difficult to identify what is a structural wall.


How do I make sure I am not taking down a structural wall?

The easy answer is to get a property professional in such as a Chartered Building Surveyor or Structural Engineer who is used to dealing with this type of problem. Alternatively you could risk it with a builder who says that he has carried out this type of work before! Remember anyone can call themselves a builder, a surveyor or an engineer. It is important to insure that they are Chartered Building Surveyors, Chartered Engineers or Chartered Builders and we can take a calculated risk of removing a structural wall � but it is your calculated risk and it is you that will have to pay the price to sort things out.



You can take a calculated risk of removing a structural wall

You can take a calculated risk by going to a builder or similar person who has taken down many walls over the years, but who may not understand always where a structural wall is. We generally find that with most builders they come from a trade background such as a carpenter or a bricklayer and whilst they have had practical experience of carrying out work to structural walls they often have been under instruction by a Chartered Building Surveyor or a Chartered Structural Engineer. We recently took down a wall in a house and were quite surprised that the joiner that we have a lot of respect for who has been in the trade many years and in fact we have had to talk him out of retirement to do the work we wanted was still never sure whether it was a structural wall or not.


We have been advised that it is not a structural wall, what do we do?


In theory you can just take it down but in practise you do need to explore first. We will put a caveat after this that we are assuming you have been advised it's a structural wall by either a Chartered Building Surveyor or Chartered Structural Engineer. They know what they are doing and have insurance to cover it if it all goes wrong. This is certainly not a situation where verbal advice is satisfactory. We mentioned above that you need to explore first. You can do this by tapping the walls to establish where the supports are or drill holes in it.
Holes drilled into a wall to establish where the structural frame is


Make an opening to see what is inside the wall


Walls can be constructed in many ways. Some of them are partially structural and some of them are just dividing walls. What we did next with this wall was to open up a section where the electric cables and plumbing was likely to be.

Take care as you may have electrics and pipework in the wall

Opening up a small section to identify where the pipes and the electric wires are as you don't wish to electrocute yourself by drilling into live electrics (always turn the electrical supply off) or cause a flood by drilling through the pipes. If you are in any doubt whatsoever then you do need to call in somewhat who has had experience of dealing with this type of work before.

Opening up the wall to identify more pipes. This time these are central heating microbore pipes. Don't forget that your central heating will have pipes going to it as well as the water supply to your taps




More pipes this time to and from radiators


There's not much to a modern stud wall

This literally is child's play and a child was having a go at sawing through the wall in this instance although we had obviously identified exactly where the electric power cables were and where the plumbing was.



Sawing through a partition


Looking inside a non-structural wall

We have left the back off this non-structural wall to show you how much can be in a non-structural wall. As you can see there is pipework everywhere. There has been no pride taken by the plumber that carried out this work. Equally there has been little pride by whoever put this studwork in as the metal studs are not even vertical. Don't be surprised what you find when you open up the wall.



A partly opened studwork wall


The big view of the wall

Our tip would be to literally take the plasterboard away first so you can see the wall and how it is made up. The plaster is not going to be structural. You can also see that there is no lintel above the studwork in this particular instance. You do need to be careful because non-structural walls can sometimes become semi structural walls if a property is altered.



A bigger view


The lost art of plumbing and structural walls

In years gone by the plumber was very skilled. We would argue that many plumbers now have little pride in their work. Here is an example of a microbore pipe to a central heating system. It has literally almost not been uncoiled and just dropped down through the wall.



A microbore pipe


Electrics, the hidden danger within walls

You can find almost anything in a wall. Don't be off guard just because it is a modern wall. In this studwork we actually found a live wire that had been tied around a copper pipe. This could in theory have been touching the plumbing system and made it live meaning you would get a shock off of it if you touched the radiator.



A live wire tied around a copper pipe


Remember Surveyors can see things that an untrained eye won't see

Whilst a Chartered Surveyor literally can't see through walls they certainly from their experience get an understanding of what a building is likely to be made up of. They do from the different finishes that they see to a property get an understanding of the quality of the work. As you can see in the photos this non-structural wall has been moved gradually ensuring that none of the electrics or plumbing was damaged.


Independent Chartered Surveyors

If you truly do want an independent expert opinion from a chartered surveyor, and many of us are also chartered builders, with regard to valuations, mortgages, mortgage companies, surveys, building surveys, structural reports/engineers reports/specific defects report, structural surveys, home buyers reports or any other property matters please contact 0800 298 5424 for a chartered surveyor to give you a call back.


Commercial Property

If you have a commercial property, whether it is freehold or leasehold then sooner or later you may get involved with dilapidation claims. You may wish to look at our Dilapidations Website at and for Disputes go to our Disputes Help site .


We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).

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