Come On Over And Eat Dinner In My Laundry Room!
Your best friend invites you over to dinner. They’ve hired the latest Italian designer for an epic dream remodel.
She’s squealing with excitement on the phone. “You’re going to LOVE it.” she says- “The way our designer used every bit of space makes living here so efficient…so functional. You won’t believe your eyes!”
Awesome, right? You do love efficiency- and you’re always looking for ways to comfortably entertain guests, keep your home tidy, and clean up fast.
“With any luck-” you think, “I can steal some inspiration for our remodel!”
At her front door, dessert in hand, you feel excitement in the air as she welcomes you inside. “Brownies!” she says, “I love your brownies! Go ahead and put them over there in our new multi-function entertainment room!!”
She walks you to the big reveal.
Is she asking you to put your brownies…on top of the washing machine?
Sure enough, your friend is pulling up stools and you realize she’s hosting dinner in her new laundry room?
The Way We Use Our Homes Has Changed.
No one has ever invited me over to have BBQ in their laundry room (yet) and I’m guessing you haven’t been to a laundry room dinner party either.
But here’s a crazy thought: Your great grandmother? She would be just as shocked to see you hosting friends for dinner around your kitchen island.
The way we use our homes has changed.
The functionality of our kitchen, dining, and living rooms has morphed into one flowing function since the 1950s. And with this shift? Came the rise of a big problem:
The Open Concept Home.
What Happens When A Traditional Room Changes Function:
Before we dive into the logistics, let me make something clear: I’m a friendly person! I promise!
I enjoy having friends and family over. Having a home that’s flexible enough to host everything from a small prayer group to a large Thanksgiving dinner is a great asset.
At first glance, open floor plans seem like the perfect solution for a modern host.
They’re so beautiful. Full of light, space, and plenty of room to set up “zones” for groups to break out and gather all while still being immersed in the celebration overall.
No one feels ‘left out’ in an open concept room. The host putting the finishing touches on dinner, grandpa sitting comfortably in the easy chair, the kids in a play area off to the side, the adults catching up around the island….isn’t that a great feeling?
However, most homes weren’t built with this style of entertainment in mind.
Not too long ago, the living room and dining room were the spot in the home for hosting. You’d welcome guests into the living room- then move to dining when dinner was ready. Go further back and homes had parlors for pre-welcoming before the real pre-dinner mingle!
That’s stuffy. I really do love the way we do it today: where guests can come in, relax without the formalities, and really feel at home.
So what I’m about to say next might shock you:
I hope open floor plans fall out of style. And fast.
They’re dangerous, unstable, and a fire trap for your family.
In this article, I’m going to show you why- as a homeowner- you’d be better off investing in anything but an open concept house.
But don’t feel discouraged! This is only part one. Next week, I’ll follow up and show you how to get everything you want from an open concept house using a floor plan that’s equally safe as it is spacious.
Ready? Read on.
Open Floor Plans Are A Fire Trap
Did you know the typical family spends 175 hours in the kitchen each month? Crazy, right?
There’s nothing worse than having a kitchen that’s too small or walled-off from everyone else. It makes you feel like pre-royalty Cinderella: chopping away at veggies while simultaneously trying to keep the kids from eating legos in the next room.
Having a kitchen large enough to host family breakfast, not to mention larger entertaining, shifts your role completely. All of the sudden, you’re transformed from BBQ-covered short-order cook to a celebrity chef in the center of the action.
That’s probably why every makeover on HGTV starts with a sledgehammer to a wall. Fans love imagining the transformation for themselves.
But you know who isn’t a fan of knocking out those walls?
First Responders. Fire Fighters. EMTs.
Without barriers, house fires burn fast and hot- leaving them less time to save your family.
It keeps me up at night knowing so many people in new developments are completely unaware of the danger they’re putting their family in.
How Fires Spread in Open Concept Homes
Why do homes with open floor plans pose such a fire risk?
Here’s how it works:
In a traditional home, rooms are divided by walls.
Walls don’t just give a space definition, they
- Support your ceiling/upper floor/roof
- And minimize air flow
Did you ever have a room in your house as a kid that your parents kept the door closed to- so they didn’t spend money on heat/cooling?
Shutting off a room doesn’t just reduce utility costs- it makes it more difficult for a fire to spread.
Fire departments around the country recommend shutting the door to your bedroom at night for this very reason. The extra 30 minutes it takes for a fire to spread from your hallway and burn through your door means precious time for the fire department to respond to your call, get your family out safe, and reduce the spread.
An open door does the opposite. Fire- like water- searches for the path of least resistance.
An open floor plan, even if it’s just the first level of your home, leaves your home wide-open for fast-spreading flame. With all of that oxygen and nothing standing in it’s way, fire spreads up to the next level instead of burning through walls to get from room to room.
44% of home fires start in the kitchen. Without walls between spaces, you’re not protecting your family and first responders at risk, too.
But that’s not all. It’s bad enough if your home was designed and built with an open concept. Retrofitting an older home to be open concept by tearing out walls creates another big problem…
Load Bearing Or Not? Walls Create Strong, Lasting Houses
Homeowners, taking their inspiration from HGTV, are eager for contractors to start removing barriers between living spaces for their open floor plans.
Most of the time, it doesn’t take a structural engineer to safely get the job done. Your exterior walls support your roof and most of the weight of your home.
Most. But not all.
But they’re not the only walls who offer this load bearing support.
Tearing down the structural support can create big problems. Too often, we’ve seen homeowners DIY interior wall tear down- or inexperienced contractors take out walls at their customer’s requests, only to create stability issues down the road.
Your home is your biggest asset. You want it to last year after year so that, someday, you can sell or pass it down, right?
Well, if that asset is falling in…you aren’t protecting it!
How To Know If You Can Tear Out A Wall
Still want to remove a wall?
The best way to check if a wall is load bearing or not is to look at the joists.
Grab your stud finder and check the floor joists.
If the wall runs parallel to the floor joists, it’s usually not a load bearing wall. Good news! Opening up areas between rooms to expand your space or create a better layout is possible!
But tearing out ANY wall is not a DIY job. Not only are their permits involved, but you’ll want an expert to make sure you aren’t compromising your home’s structural integrity.
Plus, you never know what you’ll get into. Essential home systems, like plumbing, electrical, or HVAC, might need to be rerouted to accommodate the new space.
Before you start tearing something out a la HGTV- call us first!
Let’s Say ‘Goodbye’ To The Open Floor Plan
I’m hoping by the time my kids are moving out we can all laugh about how dated open concept homes are. After all, I want their first home (and every home after) to be engineered to keep them (and my future grandkids!) safe.
Still, there are so many benefits to an open floor plan, especially considering how we use our home post-pandemic.
Never fear! Next week, in my follow up article, I’ll show you how you can retrofit your current home to have the
- Open feel and natural light
- Easy traffic flow
- And comfortable hosting space
That attracted you to an open floor plan in the first place.
Can’t wait and want to get started on planning your dream remodel? Give my husband Vern a call at 570-345-0406 or book a call here. We love designing beautiful AND safe remodels to keep your home’s value high for the next generation.
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