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Old 03-22-2009, 12:16 AM   #1
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Load bearing wall removal


Hi there. I could use some advice. I will be as detailed as possible. I am looking to combine two bedrooms that are divided by a load bearing wall. Above the space is my attic where I can see that some of the ceiling joists don't run more than 6" past the wall which told me that its loadbearing. Below the wall is my kitchen but there is not a wall directly below the wall I am removing. The wall is 12' long. I am hoping that its just a matter of inserting a beam consisting of plywood sandwiched between 2x10's or 2x12's. PLEASE HELP. Thank you.

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Old 03-22-2009, 02:16 AM   #2
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Hi there. .......... I am hoping that its just a matter of inserting a beam consisting of plywood sandwiched between 2x10's or 2x12's........
I am hoping that you get a civil engineer to make the plans, so that the job can be permitted.

A modification like this entails a huge legal liability that will hang over your head forever if not done by following all the rules.
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Old 03-22-2009, 08:28 AM   #3
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What Bob said. If you are asking these questions about a major project of this nature, consider some professional help.
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Old 03-22-2009, 09:45 AM   #4
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Contact an Architect, and apply for a building permit. In addition making a beam out of sandwiched plywood, tell me that you have no clue what you are doing, so get professional help before someone gets seriously hurt or worst.
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Old 03-22-2009, 11:14 AM   #5
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I agree with the posts above. I am a professional engineer (no, I don't design projects for people on this board). I recently did a similar project, where I removed a load bearing wall between my kitchen and my dining room, and replaced the wall with a steel beam. Selecting the required size of beam requires calculation of the forces from the floor above, and the roof. It isn't rocket science, but it isn't as simple as you might like. That is why you usually hire a structural engineer to do the computations.

Actually installing the beam is not so simple either, because you need to temporarily support the floor above while you remove the wall, then install vertical supports on either end for the beam, and adequately attach the beam to the supports. There is real potential for serious structural damage to the home, accompanied by the potential for injury or death to people working on the project, if the beam is inadequately sized, the temporary supports are inadequate, the final vertical supports are inadequate, or the beam is improperly connected to the supports. Not to mention that the load must be properly carried down to a main support beam at the lowest level of the house.

This is kind of a long winded way of saying get some professional help on this job, it is not a good DIY project for an inexperienced person.
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Old 03-22-2009, 11:50 AM   #6
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I had a friend, who is a contractor help me remove a 13' load bearing wall between kitchen & dinning room this year. Its not incredibly complicated but if you've never done it before & are not sure what to use I would get some professional help. Its not going to cost that much money to pay someone to do it. IMO it would be worth the peace of mind that it was done safely & correctly. If you want to save some money have contractor set up temp walls and then you demo the existing wall. You need to know if there is wiring, plumbing, duct work in the wall. If not done correctly it could sag, eventually fail, crack plaster, drywall around it etc.
He used a steel "I" beam and fastened it to each of the floor joists above to prevent twisting. Supported it on ends with multiple 2X4's for posts then wrapped it with maple. The posts were also supported underneath in basement between floor joists. The labor & materials, finishing time I paid him were definitely under $1000. Steel "I" beams are not expensive.
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Old 03-22-2009, 01:37 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by dbldee20 View Post
I had a friend, who is a contractor help me remove a 13' load bearing wall between kitchen & dinning room this year. Its not incredibly complicated but if you've never done it before & are not sure what to use I would get some professional help. Its not going to cost that much money to pay someone to do it. IMO it would be worth the peace of mind that it was done safely & correctly. If you want to save some money have contractor set up temp walls and then you demo the existing wall. You need to know if there is wiring, plumbing, duct work in the wall. If not done correctly it could sag, eventually fail, crack plaster, drywall around it etc.
He used a steel "I" beam and fastened it to each of the floor joists above to prevent twisting. Supported it on ends with multiple 2X4's for posts then wrapped it with maple. The posts were also supported underneath in basement between floor joists. The labor & materials, finishing time I paid him were definitely under $1000. Steel "I" beams are not expensive.
If he pulled a permit for you and had a signed and sealed print from an engineer, then that's great. If you didn't, that's going to come around and bite you in the behind.
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Old 03-22-2009, 02:02 PM   #8
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I went to a lumber store (not HD or Lowes!) & they sized the beam for me & had it sent out for an engineer stamp = for free
I actually went a size LVL above what was recommended

Every load is different but mine ended up being (2) 14" LVL's
Depending upon your load you may be able to do (2) 2x12's
But you need to have it sized, you can't guess
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Old 03-22-2009, 03:31 PM   #9
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I had an architect friend figure out the correct I beam size. One year later I have no cracked plaster anywhere around it. Or any cracked or separated caulking on either side where I put up crown moulding overtop of maple product that wraps beam. My house is 70yrs old & i was afraid i may get some cracked plaster afterwards, but had absolutely none.

But like i said the original poster should probably pay someone to do the job. I was able to cut down on the cost of kitchen remodel/wall removal by doing demo myself, but I would never have installed the I beam without my contractor friend's insight & help.
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Old 03-22-2009, 03:42 PM   #10
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Contact an Architect, and apply for a building permit. In addition making a beam out of sandwiched plywood, tell me that you have no clue what you are doing, so get professional help before someone gets seriously hurt or worst.

I'm not as inexperienced as I may sound. I have done many DIY projects over the years. If you have never seen or heard of someone inserting a beam made up of dimensional lumber sandwiched around plywood then maybe you should do more research before calling someone inexperienced. They do it all of the time on shows like This Old House, Kitchen Renovations and bathroom Renovations. I have also helped a few people insert their own but I know the size is job specific which is why I was looking for some help.
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Old 03-26-2009, 06:23 AM   #11
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You cannot simply remove the load bearing wall. What you do is transfer the load to a beam which then transfers it to columns. The problem with the TV shows is they always cut stuff out so you never really see the entire process. If you've never heard of a laminate or built beam, that's the do-dad with the lumber and plywood, then you don't know as much as you think you do and this could get really messy and dangerous in a hurry. You need to take the time to get an architect or someone similar involved to give you a recommenation and size the beam/header and columns. There are a lot of options and given your set up you need a pro. At the moment the load is being supported across the width of the floor that the wall rests on. The moment you transfer that load to columns the physics change and all that load goes on the base of the columns. The load factor goes up expotentially plus you have the weight of the beam to support.

Don't take any of this peronally but when 10 or 12 people tell you to take this approach that's probably what you need to do. That is better than the building department coming in and condeming your home for being strcuturally unsound. Which has a very good chance of happening if you ever sell. Or better yet having a section of the home fail while someones in it.

My two cents...
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Old 03-26-2009, 07:33 PM   #12
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I didn't need a Pro
Just someone with the beam sizing software
As part of that they tell you the number of supporting studs on each side. You then need to make sure the load is carried down.

Since you don't have a wall below this you then run into a problem
The floor joists were not made or sized for the additional load
That is the main problem you will have
Will either side of this beam "land" on an outside wall?
Can you extend the beam in either direction so that the support will be on an outside wall or a wall below?

A diagram or pics would help
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Old 03-30-2009, 01:55 AM   #13
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One side of the beam will be on an exterior wall...will that make a big difference? I plan on going down to a nearby lumberyard who has the sizing software. I would like to show a diagram but I cant figure out how to add it to my post.
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Old 03-30-2009, 11:32 AM   #14
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The lumber yard will be able to assist you with the sizing & make sure this will work. The exterior wall will carry 1/2 the load. I had to add small support studs between the sill plate & floor above to carry the load down to the foundation. My addition project was more complicated & I actually met with them 3 times before sizes were finalized

You will need to be able to tell them the floor joist sizes, rafter sizes. Pics will help - especially of the attic where the ceiling joists overlap. Basically they plug the information in & floor load, ceiling load etc are all calculated

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Old 03-30-2009, 11:46 AM   #15
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That would be a remarkable lumber supply store that was brave (foolish?) enough to specify a beam for your house based on a diagram you supply them. That is what structural engineers and architects do for a living, but I suppose if a lumber supply place happens to have a licensed engineer or architect on staff who is willing to design your beam, go for it. I assume they would charge you appropriately.

By the way, it is not necessarily the case that an outside wall will support half the load. The amount the outside wall actually carries depends entirely on the geometry of the beam, and the loading of the beam. The only case where an outside wall carries half the load is symmetrical beam where there is exactly one additional support for the beam on the opposite end of the beam. Given your situation, it does not sound like you have a main beam to carry the load on the far (non-exterior wall) side of the new beam, so you will need framing to transfer the load either to a column or an offset beam in the house. This will make the load distribution computations more complex, so sizing the beam and the framing members is not necessarily a simple matter of plugging a few numbers into some software.

As for using a plywood sandwich around dimensional lumber, this is reasonably common, and is known as a flitch beam. There are actually web sites devoted to the design and installation of flitch beams. Whether or not it is better than a steel beam or an LVL is a function of the available depth, cost, and installation issues.

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