Removing Bearing Walls

By Robert Robillard on Home Repairs And Remodeling

Before Picture: Wall to left of door to be opened

Removing Load Bearing Walls

Many people these days are opting to remove walls between rooms and create a more open floor plan.  In a similar fashion we are also seeing a lot of people ask for doorways to be enlarged as much larger trimmed openings,  sometimes two or three times the size of the original opening.

Many times this work is as simple as removing a non-bearing wall partition.  It only gets tricky when the wall is a load-bearing wall.  Then the work involves structural support and beam installation.

What’s the Difference Load and Non-Load Bearing?

During Picture:  LVL header installed

During Picture: LVL header installed

After Picture: Wall opened up and trimmed

 

 

The difference between the two is a load-bearing wall is a structural element that is needed to support the house structure above it and a non load bearing wall is not structural or needed to support the house.

After Picture: door in top picture and interior partition removed

With load-bearing the weight of the ceiling transfers downward from one wall or post to the one beneath, and then to the basement foundation or column footings.

Temporary Supporting Wall

Temporary Supporting Wall

Removing Bearing Walls

Tips to Determine A Bearing Wall

When removing bearing walls there are several things to consider.   Often times this determination requires an experienced contractor or structural engineer to make the call.

Here Are A Few Tips to determine a load-bearing wall:LVL header beam

 

 

1.  Load-bearing walls typically run in the same direction as the roof ridge.

2.  Look inside the attic and identify the direction in which the joists travel.  Many bearing walls will run perpendicular to the joists and often be in the center where the joists overlap.

3.   Look at and establish the direction of the joists above the wall you want removed.   If the joists run parallel to the wall you want to remove you are most likely dealing with a non-bearing wall partition.

Even if a wall is parallel to the joists, it might still bear weight,  the next step would be to see if there is a double ceiling joist sitting on the wall which might indicate load bearing.

4.  Inspect the basement joists, note placement of beams, columns and any  walls.  Any joist or wall with a wall directly above, running parallel, might be a load-bearing wall.

Note – a wall parallel to and within 2 or 3 feet of the joist may still be load-bearing.Removing a bearing wall

5.  Homes on cement slabs may use load-bearing walls throughout.

6.  Walls sitting on top of walls are typically load bearing as well as walls sitting on top of basement beams.

There are exceptions and sometimes there is no wall below but a flush beam instead.   You won’t see this beam unless you open the ceiling below.

Removing or Replacing a Load Bearing Wall, Header or Beam 

Whether you are enlarging a doorway, cutting a new opening in a wall or removing a wall the principles are the same.  If the wall you are working on is load-bearing you need to install a header, or beam.

Most contractors today use LVL (laminated veneer lumber) or steel beams.  I recommend using a structural engineer or specialized lumberyard service to size your new beam, the building inspector will need to review and approve your final plan.

Note – Sometimes you may need to add or enlarge footings beneath support columns to accommodate  additional point load created by your new work.

Will the New  Beam Be Flush or Protrude Down?

Depending on the situation, application, size of beam and budget the beam can be placed under existing ceiling joists and protrude lower than the ceiling below or recessed up into the ceiling [flush] and hidden.

When removing a large section of wall the replacement beam often is larger than the ceiling joists above and can not be hidden.   Many times we deal with this situation by creating large trim cased openings as opposed to opening the walls and creating one single room.

In some circumstances we recess the larger beam into the ceiling space and leave a portion of the beam protruding lower than the ceiling.

Preparing To Remove A Wall

Demolition:

Before cutting away any framing members  I like to remove all of the wall board to expose the framing for inspection and identify any wires, pipes or duct-work that need to be relocated.

If the wall is non-bearing we simply remove it.  If it is a load-bearing wall then it’s time to build temporary supporting walls.

Note – Many times you also will need to open up 1 – 2 feet of ceiling on either side of the wall to be removed to access the ceiling framing and relocate wires, pipes, etc.

This is especially true if you are cutting the ceiling joists and installing them in joist hangers onto the new beam.

Temporary Support Wall:

Using 2x4s build a temporary supporting wall 2 -3 feet back from the wall to be removed or opened to leave room to work and get the new beam in place.

If the ceiling joists above are single and continuous then only one temporary wall is needed.

If the ceiling joists are overlapped over the wall to be removed you will need a second temporary supporting wall on the other side.

Removing the Wall Studs:

Remove the old wall studs by hitting the bottom of the studs with a sledgehammer or cutting them in half with a reciprocating saw and pulling them out.

Pry out the top and bottom plates and pocket studs if necessary.  Relocate any wires or plumbing as needed.

Installing the Beam:

At a minimum and in perfect circumstances I like to have 3 inches or more of the new beam supported on both sides by “‘jack stud or trimmer stud” vertical supports.

The beams we install are typically are made up 2 or 3 LVL boards.   Determine the length of beam, cut to size and install one at a time – its easier to lift and maneuver in place.

To set and hold the beam boards in place we cut two 2×4 cradles 1/4 – inch shorter than the bottom of the new beams location.  these 2x4s are used to temporarily hold the beam in place while we are fitting it and fastening it to the framing.

We install all of the LVL beam boards and fasten them to the framing and to each other with Structural screws.   when possible we try to fasten the beam to the framing with direct nailing or “face nailing.”    For fasteners  use at least six evenly spaced 16d nails or structural screws designed for that purpose.

Beam Vertical Support

After the beam is in place install a minimum of two “jack studs or trimmer studs” which will be the beams permanent vertical supports at both ends of the beam.

We cut these studs exact to size or slightly longer and then gently drive them in place with a hammer or small sledge.  To do this tip the bottom of the stud in place and then drive the the top into place.  It should not tale a lot of force to drive them in place.  Toenail or face-nail each one into place with at least six evenly spaced 16d nails.

NOTE – You may have to add two solid  blocks directly below each pair of  the new vertical supports to carry the weight load to the foundation.

Remove the support walls once complete.

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About the author

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor

Rob Robillard is “The Concord Carpenter” Rob is a builder, general contractor, carpenter, woodworker, and editor of Concord Carpenter and ToolBoxBuzz As a General Contractor and carpenter, Rob owns and operates Concord Carpenter LLC. A full-service remodeling and construction company. Rob is a recognized leader in home building best practices and a source for how-to information for building professionals. On this website, Rob covers all aspects of home construction, building science, home improvement, woodworking, remodeling, and some of the best product and tool reviews. Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review series - Concord Carpenter Videos where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob approaches remodeling and building construction with a pragmatic and problem-solving approach. He enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the construction and remodeling industry. He's a strong advocate for "raising the bar" in the construction trades and promoting the trades to youth. #BeAMentor #Green2Great Craftsmanship, quality, and pride guide his journey on this channel The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob If you have a building or remodeling question you can have rob respond to your answer via video. Click here for more information. https://jointruly.com/robillard Invite code: x22r2

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