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Old 06-20-2011, 10:45 PM   #1
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How do we prove this wall is non-loading bearing?


There is a little alcove in our galley kitchen. We'd like to take the alcove out. If I strip everything else out, the framing of the kitchen essentially looks like this.


Note that the spacing between ceiling joist is not even. There is a very low attic above (a frame ceiling). There is only one ceiling joist that crosses this narrow wall. How do I know for sure the colored section (that we are taking out) is not load bearing? More importantly, what do we need to show to the county building department to convey that the wall we are taking out is not load bearing?

In real life, this is what this wall looks like when I look up at the ceiling:



Since we are DIY'ing and trying to keep the cost down, we'd like to avoid involving a professional structural engineer if possible. Any inputs will be appreciated.

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Old 06-20-2011, 11:08 PM   #2
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How do we prove this wall is non-loading bearing?


i doubt its bearing much load if any for its size... look at the joists above, one big tell is if there are two joists that come together side by side, if this happens its more then likely holding up that joist, else its probably not holding up much for its size..

and update that knob and tube wiring!

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Old 06-20-2011, 11:48 PM   #3
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How do we prove this wall is non-loading bearing?


Where are you located? You can update this info by selecting User CP in the toolbar above (or posting in thread!).

For example, where I am, with that wiring, you wouldn't get home insurance approval to remove that wall unless you get ESA "permit" approval on the removal of the knob and tube first.

Last edited by G-Mo; 06-20-2011 at 11:52 PM.
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Old 06-21-2011, 12:15 AM   #4
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How do we prove this wall is non-loading bearing?


ESA? Will it apply to us?

I'm located in the SF Bay Area and will go through San Mateo County for our permits. We will get electric permit for our new circuits and upgrades (from knobs and tubes).
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Old 06-21-2011, 01:23 AM   #5
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How do we prove this wall is non-loading bearing?


it looks like a double top plate and from your sketch it is clearly bearing a joist. thats probably why they care.

you need to get the dimensions and the span of that joist so that you can show them that it can support its load for the given span.
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Old 06-21-2011, 02:39 AM   #6
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How do we prove this wall is non-loading bearing?


This is just an opinion of course but if your Sketchup sketch is accurate it looks to be non-bearing.

That said I don't know nor have you provided any information about what is above the area in question.

A second floor? Attic space? Other walls parallel or perpendicular?

What?

Andy.
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Old 06-21-2011, 08:32 AM   #7
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How do we prove this wall is non-loading bearing?


This is likely going to sound picky, but I think you have probably framed the question differently than the county cares about. The definition of a "load bearing wall" is a wall that holds more than its own dead weight. If the joist above touches the top of the wall, then by definition your wall is "load bearing".

What you really care about is whether removal of the wall will result in unacceptable settlement or structural failure of the joist above. This is a very different question. Assuming the joist touches the wall, as soon as you remove the wall, the joist will have a longer effective span than it currently does, hence the maximum bending moment in the joist will increase. Whether the joist can handle the stress depends on the amount of load (i.e. what is above the joist), the effective length of the joist, and the size and wood properties of the joist.

Normally you can check all of this from standard span tables, but in San Francisco there may be additional seismic issues that are reflected in local building codes. Best to check with the building inspector, you may need to hire an engineer.
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Old 06-21-2011, 11:38 AM   #8
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How do we prove this wall is non-loading bearing?


Based on what you've provided, this doesn't seem like a difficult issue to address. There is nothing wrong with consulting an engineer but it may be an overkill at this point, especially if you haven't exhausted all of your options yet.

Daniel is right when he says that there is probably some load being transferred through the small partition wall. Your job though, is to prove that the ceiling joist is adequate for the span without that wall.

You should measure the size of your existing joists and then measure the distance between your joists (the odd, irregular distance is critical too). Use the span tables in the California Building Code to determine if the joist is sized correctly to span the width of your kitchen without that partition wall. However, to err on the side of caution, use the wider joist spacing (the irregular distance shown on your drawing) when using the span tables.

If the joist can span that distance with the existing joist spacing, your plan checker should be happy. If it can't, use the span table to figure out what joist size you should have. Or, you can add an extra joist to reduce the spacing.

If none of that works, or you are confused, you may want to hire an engineer
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Old 06-21-2011, 12:50 PM   #9
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How do we prove this wall is non-loading bearing?


Quote:
Originally Posted by G-Mo View Post
For example, where I am, with that wiring, you wouldn't get home insurance approval to remove that wall unless you get ESA "permit" approval on the removal of the knob and tube first.
Location matters. So does insurance company.

My insurance company doesn't care about my K&T. But they keep asking me if I've replaced it all because it would really really lower my rates.
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Old 06-21-2011, 01:35 PM   #10
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How do we prove this wall is non-loading bearing?


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Originally Posted by Leah Frances View Post
Location matters. So does insurance company.

My insurance company doesn't care about my K&T. But they keep asking me if I've replaced it all because it would really really lower my rates.
In Ontario if your home is over 95 years and has K&T no insurance company will insure you. With a few companies you can get coverage with a 90 day grace period to remove the K&T which you can extend by a second 90 days. After 6 months if you don't present an ESA signoff on your notification your coverage will lapse.

I know everywhere is different, that's why I asked where they were!
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Old 06-21-2011, 09:25 PM   #11
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How do we prove this wall is non-loading bearing?


Quote:
Originally Posted by G-Mo View Post
In Ontario if your home is over 95 years and has K&T no insurance company will insure you. With a few companies you can get coverage with a 90 day grace period to remove the K&T which you can extend by a second 90 days. After 6 months if you don't present an ESA signoff on your notification your coverage will lapse.

I know everywhere is different, that's why I asked where they were!
Wow! harsh rules. We couldn't have afforded to buy our 200 year old house if that was the rule around here.

Yet another reason I've always been happy with State Farm.
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Old 06-22-2011, 01:08 AM   #12
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How do we prove this wall is non-loading bearing?


I apologize for not having been able to come back to the thread sooner and say thank you to everyone who took your time to respond. I took the picture to the building department this morning. One inspector there looked at it and said he didn't think it was load bearing, but mentioned that we should note it in our permit application, which I'm in the process of preparing, so the field inspector can take a look. Suppose we shouldn't take the wall down until the inspector looked at it.

At least, the didn't tell me to go hire a civil engineer to draw up a plan. Whew!

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