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Gutting a House: What Exactly Is Involved?

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Gutting a House: What Exactly Is Involved?

Gutting a house involves completely stripping back all the internal fixtures, fittings and decorations, leaving you with a blank canvas. The structure and layout of the walls remain unchanged, but you begin a remodel from plain brickwork or plasterboard and make your own stamp on the property!

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A Checklist of Tools for Gutting a House

You can hire a contractor to manage your house gutting, but many homeowners choose to gut a house themselves and save their budget for the renovation work.

Having the right equipment is essential since fully stripping a property will involve ripping up carpets, removing pipes, knocking through plasterboard partition walls, and dismantling tiling and other fixtures.

A lot depends on whether you are truly gutting the property (i.e. getting rid of everything, including non-load bearing walls) or simply removing all traces of decoration and fittings.

Here's what you will need:

Equipment Required For
Protective gear - goggles, hard hat, gloves, overalls, dust mask and possibly ear protection. Safety when gutting a house; there will be a lot of dust involved!
Flooring covering sheets Preserving the floor or floorboards if you wish to keep these.
Power drill and stud finder Removing plasterboard sheets.
Saw Chopping down boards or countertops into a manageable size.
Hammer, sledgehammer and crowbar Stripping away tiles, flooring and carpets.

Gutting a property isn't quick or easy, so it's wise to plan as much time as possible and hire a contractor to help with the trickiest tasks or ensure you have plenty of pairs of hands to help.

This video shows the before and after of gutting process:

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Planning Required Before Gutting a Property

If you've bought a structure that needs to be completely stripped back so you can start again, there are some preparatory and legal tasks we'd suggest you address before you get stuck in.

Most building insurance providers won't cover a property for this type of work, so it's wise to contact your insurer and verify what your policy applies to.

Home renovation insurance is a good way to ensure you won't be stuck if you accidentally smash through a water pipe or mistake a supporting wall for a plasterboard panel.

Note that knocking down load-bearing walls is never a job you should undertake by yourself because a mistake could undermine the entire structural stability of the property!

You will rarely need planning permission (unless you intend to change the use of the building), but it's worth checking with your local authority first. Listed buildings or those in protected Conservation Areas are different and will normally require formal approval.

Fire regulations are also important since some walls may have been erected to create an escape route - be sure to review the plans and floor layout and double-check whether any non-supporting walls are safe to remove.

Any changes you make while gutting a property that impact fire regulations will be subject to building regulations sign-off. Hence, it's worth consulting an experienced contractor if you have any doubts.

How to Gut a House

Before house gutting, you will need a few things - such as a skip, permission to store it on the road (where applicable) and confirmation that the power is turned off or disconnected if the building isn't in use.

Electricity, gas, drainage and water pipes must all be shut off to ensure that you won't risk flooding your property or giving yourself a serious shock if you accidentally damage something.

When you're ready to begin and have your PPE on, here's the best approach:

  1. Make a plan of attack, and decide what stays and goes. Tap walls to check if they are hollow, or look at the floor plan to know exactly what to gut in every room.
  2. Work carefully and slowly. Broken windows or damaged staircases can be very costly to replace, so take your time.
  3. Have your skip emptied and replaced periodically. Leaving a skip outside a property for several weeks may attract unwanted fly-tipping, so it's best to have this cleared as often as required.
  4. Detach taps and appliances such as dishwashers by unscrewing the attachments and moving them out with at least two people. You can use a retractable knife to peel away adhesive strips, caulking and silicone.
  5. Tiles require a chisel to pry the tiling away from the wall or floor, and you can cut vinyl into strips to make it an easier task.
  6. Plasterboard walls have vertical studs behind them, so once you have crowbarred the skirting boards off, use a stud finder to locate the studs, and use a sledgehammer to knock through the gaps in between. Sawing the boards down means you won't carry huge, heavy panels.

Most older properties have lots of high-value materials you may wish to keep, repurpose or recycle, so don't throw anything into the skip that may be worth holding onto during the house gutting. You can sell things like radiators, copper pipes, and kitchen and bathroom fittings to salvage yards or reclamation companies rather than being disposed of.

If time of the essence and you need a house cleared quickly, there are professional services you can hire who will provide house clearance services efficiently. For houses with pre existing extensions you may want to hire a demolition company to demolish the extension efficiently.  After gutting a house, any left over waste can be removed using a waste disposal service.

Frequently Asked Questions

Next, we'll answer some commonly asked questions about gutting a house.

Can I Gut a House Myself?

It depends on your strength, time, access to tools, budget and physical ability to carry heavy fixtures and fittings outside to a skip!

While you can gut a house yourself, you'll normally need at least an electrician, plumber and gas engineer to disconnect the utilities and cap them off.

Are Brick Walls Removed When Gutting a House?

Normally, brick or supporting walls are left in situ - gutting means you strip everything in the property back to the bare walls.

If you want to knock through a brick wall, we'd strongly suggest you consult a professional since if the wall is load-bearing, you will require an RSJ to bear the weight of the property above.