Do you love the idea of an open concept home, but you’re stuck navigating small rooms that aren’t very inspiring? It’s a scenario that lots of people come up against, but what do you do about it? Sure you could remove a wall and open things up, but what if it’s a load bearing wall?
It can be done effectively on a small budget and we’re going to show you how. We’ll walk you through step by step how to go about removing a load bearing wall, but first we’ll answer some common questions that might come up in the process.
If you’re not sure how to tell if a wall is load bearing, it's actually fairly straightforward. The first option is to head to the basement, if you have one, and examine the floor joists. If the wall in question is running parallel to the floor joists it's a partition wall, not a load bearing wall. A load bearing wall would be perpendicular to the floor joists and they would but up against it.
The answer to this one is it depends. If you remove a load bearing wall without replacing it with a different supporting structure your home will start to sag and the end result could be major structural damage. On the other hand, if you're replacing the wall with a beam with enough support you should be just fine.
All homes have load bearing walls. For example, those four exterior walls of your home are all load bearing walls. Depending on the design of your roof and the width of your home, you may also have interior load bearing walls. Every home is designed differently and that's why it's always best to seek the advice of a structural engineer before starting on any project like this.
No matter how handy you are or how many DIY projects you’ve taken on in the past, you don’t want to take on the removal of a load bearing wall without being prepared. If you have access to the original home blueprints that’s a great starting point. Any load bearing walls should be clearly indicated on this paperwork, saving you time and potentially helping you to prevent some serious damage to your home.
Whether you have access to the blueprints or not you should consult with a professional either way. If there’s an engineer in your family or circle of friends, you may be able to save yourself some money, but if not, don’t take any shortcuts here. The money you spend on consulting with an engineer could save you thousands in the long run. Even if it eats into most of your small budget, don’t skip this step.
Most jurisdictions require a building permit if you want to take on any major renovation work and removing a load bearing wall clearly fits in that category. Before you get started contact your city, county or region and request the permits you need. If there’s any electrical wiring, plumbing or heating duct work inside the wall you’ll likely need separate permits to make alterations in these areas as well. Don’t start tearing down your load bearing wall until you have these permits in place.
Now that you’re ready with permits in hand don’t forget to shut off any power to wiring inside the wall and shut off water that could run through pipes inside the wall. If there are heating ducts that you’ll be redirecting, be sure to shut off your HVAC system as well before you get started.
There’s one more thing you’ll need to consider before you start tearing into any drywall. There’s bound to be a fair bit of construction debris from your project, so it’s a good idea to think about renting a roll-off dumpster for your driveway. You’ll also want to make sure you have any tools and safety equipment required before you begin as well. After that go ahead and tear down that drywall and strip away everything inside that wall down to the framing.
The most affordable way to take down a load bearing wall once you have that professional advice from the engineer you consulted earlier, is to tackle the actual physical work yourself. If you have a friend or family member with a bit of construction knowledge willing to pitch in even better.
The first step is to strip away any drywall and paneling and then remove all wiring, piping and ductwork. For now leave the stripped down support structure of the wall in place. Before you move the load bearing wall completely you’ll need to set up temporary walls on either side of the existing one to take on the load bearing capacity while you work. One temporary wall is not enough as it may not fully hold the weight of your home due to the placement of the temporary structure. Having one on either side of the original wall helps to compensate for their less than ideal placement.
The last step in the construction phase of your project is to install a new load bearing beam. It should be positioned where the old wall was. If you can live with one or two poles in the new open area along the length of the beam it will give the load bearing beam added strength and help to protect the integrity of your home.
Now that you have your new load bearing beam in place you’ll want to make sure all of the debris from the load bearing wall you removed makes its way into the roll-off bin you rented. The last thing you want is some old rusty drywall screws left behind for a family member to step on.
After that, it’s just a matter of patching up any holes in the ceiling and floor and installing new flooring if necessary. With these steps you can effectively remove a load bearing wall on a small budget as long as you’re comfortable with DIY construction. The only major expense is the cost of consulting an engineer, but that step should definitely not be skipped!