Knocking down a wall

Removing a wall in a flat can have an enormous effect on the feel of your property. Knocking down (lerombolni) a wall can make a more useful, flexible space which adds value to your property and is more comfortable to live in.

Can the wall be removed?

Some interior walls are load-bearing (főfal or tartó fal). This means that they support the weight of the building above, and they cannot be removed without redirecting this weight elsewhere through the building.

The good news is that many small flats in Budapest have no load bearing walls, and larger flats often have only a single load-bearing wall running through the property.

It is vital to correctly determine if a wall is load-bearing before doing any remodelling that affects it - either creating openings or removing the wall entirely.

How to identify a load-bearing wall in Budapest

You should rely on the advice of an experienced builder, and - if in doubt - you should consult an engineer.

  • If the wall is more than around 40cm thick, then it is almost certainly load-bearing. You'll commonly find walls up to around a meter thick in apartments here - these are all load-bearing. These very thick walls require extensive engineering to remove, and even creating openings or widening doorways will require an engineer's advice.
  • If the wall is made from plasterboard on either a metal or timber frame then it will very rarely be load-bearing.
  • If the wall is made of lightweight construction bricks like breeze blocks, Ytong (ytong tégla) then it won't be loadbearing.
  • If the wall is a single brick thick (less than around 15cm) then it is unlikely to be load-bearing.

This leaves walls which are made of brick, and are between 15cm and 40cm thick. These walls may or may not be load bearing. There are a few further things to look at, but none of these are conclusive and when faced with a wall like this you should definitely seek advice from a professional.

  • You can ask the advice of the building manager, and possibly consult the building plans.
  • Take a look at other flats directly above and below yours - if the same wall has been removed then there is a good chance that it is not load-bearing but you should not rely on this.
  • If you are on the top floor and there is nothing resting on the wall then you may be able to remove it but there is a chance that it provides lateral strength between two other walls. You should speak to an engineer.

How to remove a wall

First it's essential to find all all the services running inside the wall - pipes and wires. The good news is that in Hungary gas pipes are never hidden inside the wall. There may be gas pipes which pass through the wall but these should be obvious. We tend to mark on both sides of the wall where any pipes or wires are located.

Then we'll protect the floor, cardboard and sheets will protect from dust and small bits of plasterwork, but 9mm thick boards should be used to absorb the impact of falling bricks.

Knocking down a wall makes a lot of dust. There really isn't a way to prevent this - you should wear a dust mask.

Each wall is different but we tend to use a combination of a demolition hammer, a sledgehammer and a hand chisel and hammer.

You should start from the top of the wall and work down. Never start at the bottom of a wall. As bricks are removed from the wall, they should be stacked around the edges of the room, or ideally removed straight away. It is not good to redistribute large amounts of weight in any building, and particularly not an old one - it can cause the ceiling below to crack.

Disposing of the waste

There is not really a market for old bricks in Hungary. The bricks can be stacked and wheelbarrowed or carried to a skip (container) in the street. Dust and rubble should be put into rubble sacks and put in a container. Containers are slightly cheaper in Hungary if you empty the rubble sacks into the container and don't put the actual bag in. But this creates significantly more dust and takes a little more time.

Cleaning up

The places where the old wall joined to other walls and ceilings will need to be plastered, and any old wires removing or safely disconnecting.

Enjoy your new space!