Load bearing wall pass-through?

korney19February 21, 2010

Has anybody done it themselves, or anybody in Western NY who can? I have a small kitchen and redesigning everything, most new appliances and stuff, still didn't finalize cabinets yet but won't have room for the table and am thinking of making a pass-thru big enough for 2-3 people to sit/eat at.

The approx 10ft long wall has a 30 inch doorway about 44 inches from the end which means I can't even get my new fridge in without removing the doors from it. The wall also has a furnace register/vent about a foot above the floor for heat and the end of the wall I believe in the last 2 feet the upstairs furnace duct passes to the next floor. I'm hoping the low furnace vent near the center of the wall ends right there (hope its for the 1st floor only and doesn't extend to the 2nd floor, otherwise no place for a pass-thru.) The wall runs down the center of the house, north to south.

My goal would be to open the doorway all the way to the right to the upstairs furnace ducting or nearest stud, install a lam beam from there north to the end of the wall, (maybe 8ft long including the current door opening) and leave the lower portion of the wall with the furnace vent intact and make at least a counter at about 42"H. In effect, I'd be removing a couple studs to the right of the current door opening, and about 4ft of half the wall to the left of the door opening.

Do I really need a lam beam or can I use a ~4ft header to the left and ~2ft header to the right? I understand temorary walls would need to be constructed to support everything until the beam/headers are installed.

Again, has anybody done it themselves, or anybody in Western NY who can?

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There are plenty of professionals to assist you available. Ask your friends and family that may have renovated for recommendations for a licensed contractor. Or hire a structural engineer to come and take a look at it. Or both. WIth a load bearing wall, especially one that seems to be as involved as you have, it's difficult to be too safe! This isn't a situation that you need to DIY. If you were confident in your abilities to deal with it, and had the construction background to deal with it, you wouldn't have posted here. Do it right, and get the pros involved.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 7:31AM
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Thanks for replying. I'm near Buffalo and the house was built in 1920. I don't have any friends, family or neighbors that have done anything like this, nor had it done, nor anybody to recommend contractors. I'm a DIY type of guy & I've seen the job done numerous times on remodeling shows, TV, DVD, etc. I've also read how to do the pass-thru using 2-by's with the inch rule (6ft long = 2x6 header, 8ft = 2x8, 10ft = 2x10, etc.)

I'd love nothing more than having a pro chime in or stop by for a free estimate or doing the job at a good price! I just don't know where to start with a pro, especially when many claim to be one!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 10:30AM
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If you insist on DIY, and have a technical background that extrapolates to mechanical things, get a copy of the iLevel TJ-9000 Trus Joist, beams, headers, and columns solutions booklet from your lumber dealer. Study it in its entirety. Research what you don't understand.

Use the booklet's design information to choose a pair or more of Microlam(R) beams to support the entire opening. You probably should go a size taller or wider on the minimum specified to be ultra cautious. You will need to be able to estimate the worst-case loading on the beams from everything above them up to the roof, depending on how the house is assembled. Don't forget to ensure that the ends are retained so that the Microlam doesn't twist.

At a minimum, the beams need to be supported by a number of columns that replace the entirety of studs that would have filled the doorway below the beam. Use a group of studs at each end, or e.g., Parallam(R) columns.

Professional help, if only to confirm safety, should still be sought, even if you have determined a solution you believe in. An experienced architect could look at your drawings (that you will need anyway for the local building inspector) and quickly confirm adequacy.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 10:52AM
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Thanks kas. I located a pdf on the TJ-9000's at http://www.ilevel.com/literature/TJ-9000.pdf. On page 14, the diagram shows the beam in the center of the house, but just one floor. This house has 2 floors plus an attic tall enough to stand up in the center, plus a basement; does that chart still apply?

The center of the 2nd floor also has a wall down the middle too, like doubling the pic on p14, and the roof of the house is all open framing, most 2x's look 2" thick, no modern prefabbed type roof trusses. The house is about 22ft wide. I think the center walls are sightly offset from each other between floors--that is, drilling a hole between 2nd floor studs comes thru the ceiling below where it's visible.

Funny thing is, this house already has a huge door opening (5-6ft?) in the same center/spinal wall, just not between the kitchen & dining room--it's between the living room and front hall/foyer. I assume that that's original, as my next 4 or 5 neighbors have the same 1920's houses with the big doorway too. I'm curious why/how that was done way back then that we need different ways, procedures, lam-beams, permits, etc, now.

Would the opening I desire be the same as the column spacing? I'd assume the "floor framing length" would be 22 so use 24ft. It looks like 3 1/2 x 9 1/4", to span 8ft, no? Even in the side wall window header example on p12 I think it's the same, even with snow load areas, I just don't understand the different sizes listed for 24ft and if they are just options (1.75 x 14 vs 3.5 x 9.25?)

Any help is appreciated. Thanks.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2010 at 3:45PM
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The subject can be very complex if the structure is complex. iLevel gives some simple cases. More complex cases require calculating the loads onto the beam and comparing the resulting tension to the beam limits. Loads are typically half a loaded floor on each side, plus whatever is carried down from above and imposed on the beam. This topic cannot be addressed competently in this forum, much less analyzed in this forum.

The iLevel choices are options providing the same strength. The tensile strength of a beam is proportional to its rotational moment of inertia, so deeper beams can be thinner for the same strength.

Please obtain the services of a structural engineer or architect to advise you on your project.

Centuries of house building led to architectural rules of thumb that allowed safe house construction without modern methods. Existing houses from that period would be those which survived; the others might have failed, been removed and forgotten.

More rules come from more rule givers. More rule givers exist either due to needs for the rules, or the need to buy votes with jobs that allow busybodies to make rules to justify their jobs. The more taxes you pay, the more votes that can be bought. Unless you are well informed on a topic subject to rules, you may not be able to evaluate whether a rule is needed or nice to have or a total waste of human resources.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 11:43AM
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Thanks kas, I just didn't see in that pdf a first floor interior load bearing wall with a 2nd floor plus attic over it and not sure which chart to use.

I also am not sure if there was a better forum to post this question than kitchbath! Maybe remodeling? I thought I'd have GCs pounding down my door here!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2010 at 6:02PM
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I'm unsure of the other forums as I don't have time to check them out, but "remodeling" seems a likely prospect.

Maybe I was unclear on the iLevel charts: If your application is not covered by one of the chart examples, you have to compute all the loads and find the beam or beam assembly that can handle them. This is a mechanical engineering/ structural engineering project best done by someone who knows how to do it. If you have engineering instinct or training in another field, then it _may_ be possible for you to research the subject until you understand it and then calculate a valid solution. In that case I would still argue that an architect should overlook your result.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 12:23PM
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My advice: listen to kaseki. And this comes from a guy who will DIY almost anything.

The cost of failure here is really high. Do your research, then talk to an architect or structural engineer.

Although most people ignore this inside the four walls (i.e., not changing the exterior footprint), you are also violating codes in most areas by tearing out and changing structural aspects of your house without a construction permit and sign-offs.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2010 at 1:57PM
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Tom Pultz

I did a DIY removal of three walls (2 load bearing) between the kitchen and dining room after consulting with an engineering firm. I recommend you do the same consulting. In our case the upper 2x10 floor joists were sistered with 1-3/4" LVL beams about 19 feet long to span the kitchen outside wall-to-living room distance. A bedroom is above this space. The center of the roof is along the living room wall interface.

The dining room/living room "wall" where these LVLs rest was already open to the living room and that span was originally about 13 ft... spanned by a 3-1/2 x 15 dimensional beam. This beam carries load from the upper wall and roof center in a similar fashion to what you have. In order to meet code I had to add a short wall at one end of the beam so the opening was reduced to about 10 ft. Each end has 3 trimmers.

Since you live in NY where you could get heavy snow I would not assume the "2x width of opening method" would be adequate because in our case, with the lower snow load of Seattle, it wasn't, at least for a dimensional DF beam.

You could probably use double 1-3/4" LVLs, nailed and glued, or a PSL of similar or slightly smaller size.

Like others have said, you should get it analyzed and permitted. Our analysis, which included a set of pencil and paper drawings to scale and load calculations cost about $1200, which included the engineer's time to come out to the house and take all the measurements. Not cheap, but worth it to me since I would not have known the large beam was not adequate without the shorter opening.

The engineer also checked the header above the bay window in the kitchen, window in the family room and one in the hallway I had upgraded to LVLs.

Good luck, and let us know what you decide. In the future it would make things easier to visualize if you could post a picture. A lot may also depend on what's BELOW this wall and whether there is a direct path to ground via footings, etc. I had to add blocking under the 3 trimmers on each side so there's a continuous load path down to the foundation wall.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 7:03PM
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Thanks vate, and thanks Tom.

Here's a diagram, the blue is overlapping or common, the green is the first floor, the red is the 2nd floor. The kitchen is grayed out and the wall in question is THE 5FT SECTION of the green wall running N-S. The small square in the kitchen is the chimney running from the basement.

I didn't exactly measure the 2nd floor, just going by logic and ceiling tiles & past measurements, while it may be important to be accurate, I'm quite accurate on the bottom half of the pic. About 10 years ago I had an opening in the drywall and tried drilling a hole to fish a wire for phone lines down through the RED VERTICAL LINE near the bottom of the pic, just to the left of the wall in question, and drilling thru the sill plate the drill came out on the first floor in a ceiling tile, indicating the 2 walls are not above each other.

In the basement, I have to check the exact locations but I believe under the LB wall in question, there are posts to the basement floor, one in the back half of the house and one in the front half I think. I'd have to check again but think there are 3 or 4 2by's running the length of the house down the middle, not sure if 10's or 12's.

I originally thought the 1st floor wall was all in line but upon closer inspection yesterday, the wall shifts over about 16"-18" in the north half of the house--see the green sections near the center of the pic. I measured all the first floor walls & points of interest last night to make the drawing.

So the LB wall in question is the 5ft section of green above a 30'' doorway near the bottom of the pic.

Thanks again for any help.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2010 at 1:15PM
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Bumping this back up... any help appreciated.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2010 at 12:52PM
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Anybody? Bueller?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 3:43PM
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Let me look at it in detail tonight...I have a lot going on today b/w work and family, but I might have time tonight.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 5:09PM
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I was also thinking about enlarging the opening in a load bearing wall from 4 feet to 12 feet. I got a $4000 quote from a contracter for putting in two support columns and a beam. He suggested I get my own permit and drawings b/c my city gives contractors a lot of grief. I consulted an arch technologist to help me with the drawings. Like Tom in Seattle wrote, she suggested that it isn't simply a matter of putting in two columns and a properly sized support beam. She said I may need new concrete footings and support columns in the basement to carry the point load. The arch tech said it could be a $15000-25000 job. I think you need to have an engineer have a look to see what is necessary.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 10:31PM
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Buehl, when I said, "Anybody? Bueller?" that was actually a play on a line in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I wasn't calling for you, but any help by ANYBODY at this point would be appreciated. P.S. That lead you sent me was a dead end.

sandca, I take it you changed your mind about opening up that opening, no? Even your original quote is quite costly for me--that's 10% of the assessed value of houses around here! No wonder nobody does that thing in this area. Of course, if people live out west or down south in 200K-300K homes & made their fortune, perhaps they should head back East where they can live like kings on $4.99 prime rib roasts and $2.69 NY strip steaks and practically buy blocks & neighborhoods! What Tom's engineer/drawings costed, I could have bought half my new cabinets!

I think I'll look in the basement tomorrow and see exactly where those support posts line up. Maybe someone can then explain the relationship of the location better; in effect, I'm trying to open up a 5ft wall that when done still will be supported at the ends of the 5ft span but no longer on three studs between the end points. Those 3 studs only span 32'', yet without cutting another stud on each side, a 46'' opening should still fit between everything without cutting more than 3 studs--enough for 2 people to sit at.

Enlarging the door opening I'd probably just need to go to the next stud on the right, which should be another 12''. I just figured if I'm going through all this, then it may just be easier installing one laminated beam from the left corner of the wall to the stud at 32'' from the right corner. Total width from the left corner to the 2nd last stud would be ~8.5ft.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 12:31AM
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What happened with the lead? I'll ask my brother-in-law about it...he's the one who sent me the info. I no longer live in the WNY area...I've been in MD since '85...so I don't know anyone there.

I did think of that movie when I saw what you wrote! But then I thought maybe you meant me!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 12:41AM
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Have you checked with the "Building a Home" or "Remodeling" forums? Perhaps someone at one of those forums can help or will have other leads that aren't dead-end.

Building a Home Forum: http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/build/

Remodeling Forum: http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/remodel/

Here is a link that might be useful: GardenWeb Home Forums

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 12:54AM
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Buehl, the guy did call back but sounded like he didn't do that type of work and I explained how I got his # and he drew a blank/didn't know you...

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 9:00AM
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I have almost the same set up as you, but I'm trying to remove a load bearing wall upstairs on the 2nd floor at the front of the house. This wall is 12 feet long. If I go down to the basement everything looks fine because I have a post that lines up. My problem is that the load bearing wall below it on the first floor doesn't line up. Why would these walls not be made to line up if they are load bearing walls? My house is in Buffalo, NY and was also built in the 1920s.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 7:01PM
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