How to identify and remove/replace a load bearing wall

Often times when brainstorming ways to really make a room pop or increase it’s appeal and functionality is to remove a wall.

The biggest challenge with removing walls in your home is knowing if it’s load bearing and how to replace a wall if it is load bearing. This week, we wanted to tackle the issue while you plan your next DIY project.

Load bearing walls do just that, they hold the weight of the home and the space above it. For this reason, it removing one properly can be detrimental.

How to know if a wall in your home is load bearing:

The first thing you can do is contact a professional like Carlson Projects to come and take a look at your home. In addition to helping you determine if the wall is load bearing, we can help brainstorm how to make the most of any space – no matter how challenging or awkward.

Sometimes even the professionals have to contact the architect to know for sure.

If you’re dead-set on doing it on your own, we respect that; kudos to you and we hope this helps.

Especially in older homes, we tend to see an excess of walls and open-concept homes are not only more in-style, but they’re typically a lot more functional than the maze-like houses we’ve encountered.

If you’re lucky, you might have blueprints. Load bearing walls will be annotated with an ‘S,’ meaning “structural.” In that case, you won’t have to do much seeking and searching in the walls or attic because you’ll have the original plans.

One thing to keep in mind, all exterior walls are load bearing. The first thing you if you don’t have blueprints is to  start at the foundation. If you can see the floor joists, you’ll get a good idea of how the weight of the home is being distributed.

Next you should look to see if you can find any major beams in the ceiling. This can look like a framed-in beam, or if you can access the space above the ceiling, you’ll be able to see the actual beams that indicate a load-bearing wall.

How to replace a wall that’s load bearing:

Once you’ve determined the wall you want to get rid of is load-bearing, you’re not out of luck, but getting rid of it will include a few more steps than pulling out the sledge and starting demo.

The first step is to build a temporary wall by either using lumber or by using lumber and an adjustable jack post. This will allow the home to rest on the temporary wall and jack so you can start removing the wall.

While you work, keep in mind that the temporary wall and jack stud will be holding the weight of the home, so make sure they’re secure and not in jeopardy of being knocked out.

Typically replacing the jack stud is a good idea, especially in older homes, since you don’t always know the condition of the previous framing. The jack stud is then nailed to the king stud.

Next, you’ll get the wall ready for the new header beam. The header beam will hold the weight the wall previously held. Depending on the size of the wall being removed and how much weight is above it, you might need anywhere from a 2×8 to a 2×12 for the header beam.

Once the beam is cut to size, you’ll attach the beam to the jack stud and frame out the new beam – or leave exposed for a more organic look.

Have you replaced a load bearing wall before? Drop some helpful tips in the comments below!




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