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Old 04-25-2012, 11:36 PM   #1
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what size beam do i need


I am opening up a wall between the kitchen and dining room and trying to figure out what size beam, if any, I need. Currently there is a 32" opening with no header and I am going to open it up to 8'. The dining room has a vaulted ceiling and the kitchen has an 8' ceiling (see picture). The wall in question runs parallel to the trusses above the kitchen ceiling. There appears to be a 4x6 beam right at the intersection of the kitchen ceiling and the wall in the dining room holding up the portion of the wall going up to vaulted ceiling. As far as I can tell, all that is held up by the wall I want to cut into is the vaulted portion of the wall and no real roof load since that is carried by rafters in the vaulted portion and trusses above the kitchen. Do I even need to add a beam in this case, and if so what size?
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Last edited by naulleau; 04-25-2012 at 11:42 PM.
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Old 04-26-2012, 07:45 AM   #2
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what size beam do i need


Always be careful about taking out a wall which 'appears' to be carrying no load. Even if there is no obvious load above, it could still be structural as it may be a 'shear wall'. These are intended to stiffen an adjoining wall against lateral loads such as wind- and seismic forces.

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Old 04-26-2012, 08:48 AM   #3
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what size beam do i need


there are a couple of ways to find out where load spots are. 1- go under house and see how beams, girders are built and where the heaviest biggest girders are. 2- go into attic space and follow out to the end point of ceiling joists and rafters to see where the loads sit.

the room through the doorway could have a ceiling joist system that bears onto that door opening, with an appropriate sized header of course.

opening up 8' is a long way, lots of chance of problems if not done right...
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Old 04-26-2012, 10:10 AM   #4
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what size beam do i need


I assumed that it was not shear wall since it is direct drywall on studs. Is this incorrect? Could it be a shear wall without plywood?

I have checked in the attic and there are no ceiling joists or rafters sitting on the wall. The only thing on bearing top of the wall is the upper portion of the wall.

In the crawl space, all beams run perpendicular to the wall in question and no obvious increased support under the wall in terms of the joists. Should I check to see exactly where the posts supporting the beams are sitting to see if they line up exactly with the wall and would that be an indication of load bearing?

If this were to be load bearing, how large of a header would I need?

If this was a shear wall, is seems to me that adding header would not do much and that I would need to do something else to bring the shear strength back up. It would be possible for me to add plywood to the kitchen side of the wall both in the kitchen and in the attic. Would that be enough?
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Old 04-26-2012, 10:57 PM   #5
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what size beam do i need


I do not feel comfortable giving structural advice. I see a tall vaulted ceiling in the room the pic was taken from, there could be a double 24" x 42' LVL bearing and point loaded to the left of the pic where the opening will be...


something also to consider, if there are no ceiling joists sitting on or tying to the wall it could be a somewhat freestanding wall and cutting into a tall wall like that will lead to possible wall floppiness. in order to build a tall wall there are most likely metal wall to wall tie straps that tie two walls built atop of one another together. the metal tie straps would be right where the header will go. Or, the wall is built with tall 16' studs, which it probably isn't

my best advice if you are serious about doing the opening is- in the room where the pic was taken from make and cut a horizontal straight line along the face of the drywall above where the wall header for the opening will go then, find a stud to the left of the ( proposed opening ) and vertically cut a straight line from floor height up along the center of the wall stud.

next, from the horizontal cut line down and over to the vertical cut line take drywall off of wall studs.. Look at wall studs. if you see single studs most likely just a normal tall wall but ganged up wall studs that are built ups for point loads are obvious.

you can determine a bunch of what is going on in the wall with a simple stud finder or a hammer and finish nail.

hope this helps

added, it could be easier to explore the wall and start opening from the other side of wall in other room, not pictured. though you would find more out about the wall on the tall open section, imo
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Old 04-26-2012, 11:28 PM   #6
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what size beam do i need


Thanks hand drive. I know the wall is not single studs all the way up to the vaulted ceiling since I have been up in the attic on the back side of the upper portion of the wall. In fact on the top side of the wall, the studs are set rotated compared to to a normal wall, which I found odd. The 4" side of the 2x4 is up against the drywall instead of the 2". From the living room side, I have poked around a lot with stud finder and it is pretty clear that there is a 4x6 beam sitting on top of the lower portion of the wall. I also went back into the crawl space tonight and confirmed that there is no additional support under this wall and it is not tied into anything special. The next step will be to do as you suggest and cut into the wall since I will need to anyway.

I also talked to the inspector today, and he said to just put in a 4x8 header on the new opening, but the discussion on this board now has me thinking about shear implications as well since I am in CA.

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