One of the most popular questions we get in our Facebook group, Mobile Home Living: Remodels and Repairs are about removing walls in mobile homes.
Many manufactured homes have half pony walls, weirdly designed built-ins, and oddly angled walls that separate living areas.
Removing walls in mobile homes depend on several variables like what type of construction your home has and your layout. Another important variable is how much money you want to spend, or how bad do you want the wall removed? In reality, anything is possible if you want it bad enough but sometimes the cost and potential long term side effects are just too much.
Knowing which walls are load bearing is vital to know whether you can remove it. In this article, we will cover how walls are built, construction lingo, mobile home construction, and how to remove a wall.
Before we begin, please check out our article, How Manufactured Homes are Constructed, to learn more about the construction and anatomy of interior and exterior walls, ceilings, and flooring.
Removing Walls in a Mobile Home – Single Wide
Before removing a wall in a mobile home you’ll need to understand what you are working with and how they are constructed.
In a single wide mobile home, there are typically very few load-bearing interior walls. In site-built construction, a wall that runs perpendicular to the roof joists may be carrying weight but that isn’t always the case with mobile homes because of their construction. It’s still a very good rule to go by.
A manufactured home’s stability and integrity are typically derived from the roof and the weight is carried on the exterior walls, down to the outriggers on the chassis. This is a concept called integrated engineering.
A manufactured home steel chassis being welded:
Some builders describe their integrated engineering as roof-down construction, meaning the mobile home’s structural integrity is derived from the roof. It makes sense because the home’s weight sits on a steel chassis and that chassis is what they use to pull the home so to create the strongest ‘box’ they need to focus on the roof first.
Imagine a spiderweb. Alone, one single thread does nothing for the spider but a bunch of threads together makes a strong home. The roof joists and side walls create the threads for a mobile home.
There are many ways for manufactured home builders to design their ‘web’ and each builder does it a bit differently. That’s why finding information on your exact home model’s construction is nearly impossible.
Researching Your Model’s Construction
Understanding how your manufactured home was constructed is tricky because builders rarely, if ever, release engineering or construction information for their homes.
The manufactured housing industry isn’t known for its customer service. We can barely get ahold of an owner’s manual for a recent manufactured home model so finding actual load-bearing information is next to impossible.
We’ve been collecting mobile home manuals from various builders and models. If you are looking for a mobile home manual click here to see our list and download what you need.
Only the manufacturer that you purchased the home from can give you the schematics and load-bearing information. Don’t be afraid to call them and ask questions. If your home builder is no longer in business you are probably out of luck, unfortunately.
Single Wide Construction
In this next photo you can see a few interesting things:
- The laminate floor is under the interior walls and tub in the bathroom.
- This manufacturer utilizes top and bottom horizontal studs in the interior walls.
All that is useful information and if you can learn that same kind of information about your own home you’ll be well prepared to tackle removing a wall in a mobile home.
The roof and the perimeter of the home are not added until the very end because none of the interior walls typically hold any of the roof’s weight.
Once all exterior walls are placed the roof is laid and it creates a perfectly strong and structurally sound home that can be pulled on the highway going 55mph!
Exterior Wall Framing
Here’s what a typical single wide mobile home looks like when you remove the interior wallboard from a kitchen:
Removing Walls in a Mobile Home
A double wide is essentially just two single wides joined together on site. The center line is called the marriage line.
As long as you’re not modifying the marriage line, load-bearing interior walls, or the exterior walls and corners you shouldn’t have any issues when removing walls.
In other words, remove all the partition walls you want but leave the structural walls alone.
Watch Out For Random Load-Bearing Walls
One example that you need to look for is if your ceiling changes the height or goes from one height to another on the same wall. That could signify that a shear or load bearing wall is being utilized. Each company did things just a little different and I’m painting with a broad stroke here.
Leave the Marriage Line Alone!
We always advise that mobile homeowners leave their marriage lines alone. Incorrectly modifying the marriage line of a double wide can create roof leaks, weakened structural integrity, and several other very expensive issues.
Using a beam and span support system to replace a load-bearing wall is possible but this is when things start getting serious and you need to have a professional contractor and a licensed engineer involved.
In our experience, modifications to marriage lines simply aren’t worth the potential problems that may occur in the future.
How to Remove a Wall in a Mobile Home
If you are removing an interior wall there is an order in which you should do it. This ensures you don’t start busting through a wall and find out that it is load/shear bearing or full of juicy wires.
Turn Off Electricity and Water
Turn off the electricity in both the room you are in and the neighboring rooms. If possible, turn the breaker off on the entire side of the home you’re working on.
If you’re near a bathroom or kitchen or there’s a slight possibility that there could be a pipe anywhere close to where your working, turn the water off as well. Don’t forget about the ventilation pipes to your home’s plumbing system!
Remove Trim and Battens from the Wallboards
Next, remove the battens or strips that cover the seams where your wallboards meet. You can read how to do that here. Also, remove the base, chair rail, or crown molding from the wall you are removing.
Peel Back or Remove Flooring
Peel back the flooring away from the wall if possible. If your home has the walls on top of the floor covering you will need to cut it away.
Test for Wiring and Plumbing
This step sounds odd but it shouldn’t be skipped. Use the side of your fist and knock around the wall. Start at the end and work your way inward. You’re doing this for 2 reasons: to help you locate the studs and to help loosen the glue that is holding the wallboard to the studs.
Cut Out a Small Section of the Wallboard at the Edge of the Wall
Once you know there are no wires or pipes you can use a new blade to cut through the wallboard.
No studs or framing should be touched yet.
Cut the wallboard into a small rectangle starting at the top corner of the wall first will allow you to check for signs that the wall is load-bearing without damage.
If you think you have a load-bearing wall you should stop and consult an engineer before continuing the project.
If there are no signs of a load-bearing wall cut the wallboard across the middle. Use your hand or a crowbar or hammer to gently pull the rest of the paneling away from the framing.
Do not alter or harm the framing within the wall. Go a little bit at a time to ensure there are no wires or pipes.
If all is clear go to the other side of the wall and remove the paneling/wallboard from that side.
Loosen the Bottom Plate from the Subfloor
Now that the wallboard has been removed from both sides of the wall you will need to get the glue loosened and the staples and nails out of the bottom plate and the top plate of the wall frame.
Cut the Studs and Prepare to Remove the Top and Bottom Plates from the Ceiling and Floor
At this point, you can take a Sawzall and cut the studs midway between the floor and ceiling. You could also cut the vertical stud from the top plate and bottom plate – it’s really up to you. I think by leaving the vertical studs on the top and bottom plates you allow yourself a little more leverage to loosen them from the ceiling and floor.
Of course, you could just kick them out but a more delicate touch may be less damaging.
You have to figure out how to get those studs away from the ceiling and/or floor without causing too much damage. You don’t want to scar the ceiling. Ceiling panels are a pain to replace in manufactured homes!
Having a sound plan will eliminate surprises.
Consider the following before you remove the studs from the ceiling and floor:
- How are you going to handle the ceiling? There will likely be evidence that a wall was once there. You can paint or spackle it over or use trim of some sort. Patching the ceiling will be difficult if it isn’t sheetrock. The ceiling panels used in manufactured homes are hard to find and transport.
- How are you going to handle the flooring? If you are installing new floor covering you’re fine but patching is difficult with many types of covering. Read about mobile home flooring options here.
Of course, by removing a wall you’re probably going to be remodeling the room so you already have a good idea of how you’re going to handle these issues.
Conclusion: Removing Walls in a Mobile Home
That’s it! You have successfully removed a wall in your mobile home!
Remember, every manufactured home is built differently, therefore, removing a wall in your home may not be possible. This article should not be considered professional advice. Please consult a professional before attempting a major modification.
HGTV had a good warning on one of their shows about removing walls:
If you can’t identify it by its proper name you shouldn’t remove it.HGTV
If you’ve removed a wall in your mobile home please comment about your experience below. Every little bit we can share can help someone out there get one step closer to their dream home and that’s a pretty awesome thing to help someone do.
As always, thank you for reading Mobile Home Living!
Updated April 13, 2019. Originally Published in 2014.
Image Sources: Clayton Homes, Laurie Beadle