Tom Silva explains what load bearing walls are, how to identify them, and what needs to be done in order to safely remove them.
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Tom Silva explains how to identify load bearing walls and how to remove them. Load bearing walls are an issue for many renovators today, as more homeowners are opting for an open concept layout instead of individual rooms. Unfortunately, these walls can’t be ripped out haphazardly as load bearing walls play a vital role to the structure of a house. They distribute weight from the roof, through the floors, and down to the foundation. Tom shares tips on how to determine if a wall is load bearing or not. He suggests going down to the basement or attic to see which way the joists run. If the wall is parallel to the joists, it’s probably not load bearing. If the wall is perpendicular, it’s most likely load bearing. Tom then demonstrates two ways of removing these walls, the above-ceiling technique and the below-ceiling technique. These methods will prevent the floor above from sagging and can give you the open layout you desire.
Cost: $1,000 – $10,000
Skill Level: Expert
1. Determine whether a wall is load bearing or not. Check an unfinished basement or attic to see which way the joists run.
a. If the wall runs parallel to the joists, it’s probably not load bearing.
b. If it’s perpendicular, it most likely is a load bearing wall
2. Start by adding temporary walls to either side of the wall being removed to hold up the weight while work is being done. Place the temporary walls close enough to the structural wall but far enough away to work on the structural wall.
3. Remove the load bearing wall.
4. Add posts to either side of the wall to accept a beam to redistribute the weight above. Place them over the weight bearing beam in the floor below.
5. Use one of the techniques Tom demonstrated in the segment: the below-ceiling technique and the above-ceiling technique. Both methods rely on redistributing the weight from the load bearing wall to the walls beside it by creating point loads.
6. In the above-ceiling technique, cut into the joists to allow a beam to be installed in between. The joists will be attached to the new beam and the beam will rest directly on the point loads, but be flush with the ceiling.
7. In the below-ceiling technique, cut the posts slightly shorter and have the joists above rest directly on top of the beam across. The beam will be exposed, but it will keep the floor flush above.
8. Removing a load bearing wall by yourself can result in a lot of costly mistakes. It is best to consult a licensed engineer prior to beginning work on the project.
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How to Identify and Remove a Load Bearing Wall | Ask This Old House