Load Bearing Wall Remodels - POST pics & thoughts

midnightgirlMarch 25, 2011

I would really love to hear what experiences any of you have had with replacing a load bearing wall with columns and also would love to see your before/after pics.


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We removed a load bearing wall in order to open up the kitchen. We had a structural engineer check things out and specify the correct size beam and supports. It wasn't as expensive as I had imagined (check the hourly rate for structural engineers in your part of the world!), and it was less than a days work for the carpenter and 2 helpers. Removing the wall made a HUGE, wonderful difference in our space! Good luck -- wish I could post pictures, but I haven't figured out how to do it yet

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 11:16AM
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In my old house we removed two and they imbedded a header in the ceiling. It was a company that had a structural engineer who did the work. it did not take long but we removed the entire ceiling as well.

Here is where the walls were diving the kitchen and dining and also the short wall make a sort of hallway space... I know impossible to imagine the before... but here is the after...

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 11:43AM
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We also had a structural engineer come out to the house and tell us what could be done and how to do it. Only cost $250 for the engineer. He was referred to us by the building code office in our town. My husband did the work and it required reinforcing that was done in the attic since we have a one story ranch. It was not exopensive since he did the work himself.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 11:59AM
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Like the others said you can install a beam (header) to transfer the weight to either side of the wall. We did this with two walls in our kitchen renovation.

This is a pic of one of the walls we removed and the beam that we installed to transfer the weight. I wanted to leave the beam exposed but it was not a pretty beam so DH convinced me to cover it with drywall.

From Kitchen

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 1:08PM
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We removed 2 walls in our remodel, one of which was a load bearing wall. We had a glue lam beam put up and also a post.

before: this was the load bearing wall (where refrigerator is)

this was the other wall we removed:

After: where load bearing wall was (taken from dining area-former dining room)

post (obviously)

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 1:14PM
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Here is one looking the opposite direction, you can see we didn't open it up entirely, there was an existing sewer pipe in the wall (left side) and we didn't want to deal with moving it. Good luck!

From [Kitchen](https://picasaweb.google.com/HollyCinkutis/Kitchen?authkey=Gv1sRgCNqEpLbgw_DX9AE&feat=embedwebsite)
    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 1:17PM
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I agree that it was not as expensive as I feared, and the 3 visits from the engineer were very inexpensive.

I will also offer the advice that some people looking into remodeling may have a kind of "chicken/egg" fear: Do I need an architect? Do I need a designer? I can't start the project until I figure out whether I want to knock out that wall, but I can't figure that out until I see what one/the other can do with the space I have.

Don't worry. A kitchen designer can (and REALLY should!) call in a structural engineer (or architect) to consult on a PORTION of the project if you decide you want to knock down the wall. You may also need to call one in just to figure out IF the wall is load bearing -- it's not always straightforward.

(Of course a very extensive redesign with moving walls you may want to consult an architect for a cohesive plan.)

Removing a small wall in my house made a huge difference. Sorry, I don't own a camera!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 1:23PM
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We removed a section of a load-bearing wall in order to open up our kitchen to the adjacent living area. It involved replacing a beam and redoing part of the ceiling. When we learned that the wall was load bearing, it seemed like it was going to involve the investment of a lot of extra work and money for a small change. We only were opening up about two feet. We questioned whether it would be worth it, and considered changing our plans at one point.

But in the end, the difference created by the removal of just a small section of wall was dramatic. As it turned out, it wasn't as expensive as we feared either. We're glad we did it.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 5:34PM
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I'm thinking of knocking out a load bearing sink wall for an addition.

Here's what I envision:



    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 6:01PM
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Actually, after we (the royal we as we are NOT DIY'rs) demoed (is that a word?) and saw what was sort of NOT holding up the ceiling, it's amazing our photo didn't look like yours.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 6:11PM
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LOL, Marcolo!!

Here is a slideshow of our remodel. I cannot BELIEVE we lived through this! Anyway, pay attention to the captions because it will hopefully give you perspective of the whole area.

Here is a link that might be useful: Remodel

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 8:27PM
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We are investigating the same thing in the Chicagoland area.

The plan is to remove the wall between the kitchen/dining room and the wall between the dining room/living room.

We brought in a structural engineer who gave us a cost of $1200.00 to draw up the plans ...but... his contract capped his liability to $10,000. As a result, we are in a bit of a holding pattern. You should see the rest of his contract. eek.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 8:38PM
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Omigod, a $10k cap? That would be something to run by your homeowner's insurance. In fact, major remodels in general are something to run by them because of all the havoc bad contractors can wreak (fires, plumbing disasters). And especially if you're removing a load-bearing wall, you probably want to call your insurer, let them know, and ask for their guidance re: ridiculous $10k caps from structural engineers, and so on. Here's a link about insurance and remodeling issues...

The purpose of this is only partly to get actual help or suggestions from the insurer. The main purpose is pure CYA (you should follow up your phone call to them with a letter saying something like "I'm just sending this to confirm that I spoke with your representative So-and-so today to let him know we were remodeling and ask his advice. I told him we were [insert details here]. He said we didn't need to change our insurance but should avoid signing contracts with contractors who impose low liability caps. Please let me know if there's anything else I should do. Sincerely...")

That way if something goes wrong, they can't say you didn't tell them about the remodeling.

Here is a link that might be useful: Homeowner's insurance and remodeling

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 9:30PM
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Thanks for the info ideagirl2.

We thought the 10k cap was ridiculous too. Our thought was that in the event that the worst possible situation would occur, that it would not hold up in court. Only to find, that as of late, Illinois courts had actually upheld a similar contract situation.

So we regroup and investigate hiring another engineer or architect. Don't even get me started on the flaky architects we have encountered.

Sorry about hijacking the thread. I too, am very interested in seeing photos and reading about the experiences of others.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 10:08PM
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Sorry - have to make a plug for a structural engineer. My hubby is one - a PE, and he has done sidework for incredibly good rates. An architect, no matter how good, is not qualified to "size the beam" or make other recommendations on structural issues.

He actually stopped doing private sidework about two years ago because to become insured was way too expensive, and not to be insured is too risky.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 11:01PM
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Not an exact answer to your request, but here are some pics of the archway where we just removed a wall. It's not quite done yet, still needs crown molding, door molding. . ., and some decisions on paint color. . . It wasn't load bearing, but we could have hidden a beam in there if we needed to. The goofy little stub wall *is load bearing. No good way to take it out, unfortunately. It's to the other wide opening in the living room. DH made the arch with repurposed paneling. It was super easy to bend, spackles up great, and will be indistinguishable from drywall once painted. I'm all for opening up spaces! : )

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 11:05PM
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Sorry Colorado Mom. I wasn't slamming the engineering profession. Just his contract. There is no way we would ever consider removing structural walls without one.

If an architect is hired, an engineer would still need to design the new support structures. This is definitely one of our requirements.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 12:50AM
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We removed a load bearing wall when we had a roof leak. We had planned to do this when bought the house 9 years ago but the leak just sped things along. The kitchen side of the wall had cabinets before. We love it. The kitchen is now awaiting full remodel...new everything!! Can't wait.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 8:07AM
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When we added on and opened up the kitchen, we had to have a beam put in both the kitchen and in our now den. Here's a picture of the kitchen standing in the new part looking into the old. The beam actually looks like it goes into the hood. DH did a great job trimming it out (he trimmed the one in the den out the same way--looks great, sorry don't have a picture of it). I painted the beam the same as the ceiling and the trim piece coming down the wall the same as the wall (hope that makes sense).

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 8:26AM
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We removed sections of two walls in our remodel. The contractor installed a header for support. We love the new open layout.

(sorry about the poor quality photos - I wanted to put 4 photos on one slide so you could see how the work progressed and the impact of the space from the wall removal, but the photos turned blurry when I tried to enlarge the new combined photo of 4 shots.)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 4:59PM
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I rarely do work for others that I need to stamp off (PE).

The insurance just became to expensive and it is VERY hard as a PE to hide behind incorporation if something does go wrong.

The longer you practice the more exposure accumulates.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 5:53PM
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Oh nothingclever, I knew you weren't slamming anyone :) I totally agree with you and your dilemma. I wouldn't want to sign a contract limiting liability either! It is such a catch for both parties. I just don't want to offend any architects, but oh the stories to be told when they act as structural experts!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 7:01PM
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This sequence may be helpful to someone taking out a wall.
Addition is 12 x 26. We knocked out 26 feet of bearing wall at front of house. Girder trusses now bear the load. We had a construction company design consultant help us do the plan. Worth the money. DH and his squad of helpers worked from the outside in, but at a difficult day about a year ago, the wall had to come down.

Wish I could show you the early work, but Flickr account has put the early photos into storage. The story picks up 5 months into the DIY project...

Here is destruction day photo (red painted area is new area)

Here is #2 after demo of the wall (note ceiling and floor)

It was at this point that we moved the cooking into a camper trailer for 5 months.

Here you can see new ceiling (upper right) meeting the old ceiling segments in former kitchen, stairwell, and front stoop. (Don't try to understand geography, just absorb the general concept that ceiling segs are merging.)
Here we have removed former ceiling fixtures in original kitchen ceiling and installed wiring for a new light in our new kitchen hall. I've skipped the photos dealing with messing with insulation.

This is where we were finishing new ceiling over new lobby. Rented jack scaffold for wallboard. Seam between old and new ceilings is red.

Here is the beginning of trying to reconcile ceilings. DH used lots and lots of mud on this seam.

This is the ceiling scar which persisted for many many days. Once we began painting, this area developed bubbles. (It's finally done bubbling, we hope.)

The diagonal floor was made in 1954. The rest is new, including redone old front hall which now incorporates part of previous garage.

Here is the eventual floor--can you find the merged section? You sorta can if you physically walk to the door opening at upper left because the floor had dipped 1.5 inches about a foot from the threshold, but we're generally proud of how things went.

By the Install Day for countertops, the ceiling seems to look pretty good. I wish I had more appropriate photos that show the merged ceiling and floor, but I don't.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 10:14PM
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Here's pics of the pillar - did have a full wall (load bearing) beforehand. Sorry can't find BEFORE photo right now. Sure looks so much better!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 5:23PM
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Not mine, but I thought this looked nicely done. HTH

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 11:04PM
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The hardest thing about this renovation by far has been the removal of the load bearing wallS. We took down two walls and I have now vowed to never do something like that again. For months the contractors worked on the exterior space so as to not disturb our living space for as long as possible. Once they had rebuilt the exterior appropriately, they came inside to knock down the walls. Well first of all, the headers felt much lower than I had ever expected. What can you say though - you don't want the house falling down. The real pain came when they started tearing drywall down from the second wall and found that SIX air ducts went up and down through it. Did I say SIX??? Yep. After building foundations, ripping off a roof, completely moving the plumbing - the contractor asks me "Do you want me to put the drywall back up?" Seriously - that's what the man said. There was a lot of pain involved, and I now have a much larger column than I had ever anticipated. If you even sort of consider taking out a supporting wall - make sure you know exactly what is inside that wall. Moving vents meant opening up the ceiling on another level of the house, and tearing up old wood flooring. Ask yourself how much you know about what is in those walls, and how much you love the house your in. I won't do it again - ever. I would remodel a kitchen again though :o)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 11:22PM
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sorry - I guess I was cranky last night. I do want you to be careful though, and really know what you are getting into.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 9:52PM
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