Do you think this wall is load bearing?

rchickeringMarch 13, 2011

Our house is a ranch and this is the wall between the garage and the living room and runs along the vaulted ceiling.

The end of it has a 2x4 in 'normal' position (parallel to normal stud) and then it has two 2x4's turned sideways and then another 'normal' 2x4.

We are going to leave the bottom part of the wall, just want to take out the top part to open the area.

Here are pictures:

Here is a general layout of the area - the orange colored walls are the ones we are taking out:

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Architect, architect, architect. Don't guess. BTW - can't see the pics

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 11:17PM
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sorry - moved the pictures to their own album...

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 11:22PM
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Always best to ask a structural engineer. But it looks load-bearing to me, based on the beefy corner-post and what I can deduce from your floor plan. If it's load-bearing, you can re-do the two walls so that you can remove some of the structure and make it more open. However, when you say that you "just want to take out the top part to open the area," it's not clear exactly what you would want to take out and what you would plan to leave. Starting to cut out studs without having some re-design calculations done would be a bad idea.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 11:24PM
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Thank you for the input so far.

To clarify what we are looking to take out:
Only the area where the drywall has been removed, and the original doorway to the basement, is where we would be cutting out the studs and header. This would leave a 44" high L shaped wall.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 11:54PM
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It looks like you have a truss roof system and I would assume that they extend from front of garage to back of house. If the trusses needed extra support I would think the wall between garage and kitchen would do that. Why they beefed up that corner I'm not sure. Pictures don't tell the whole story but from what I can see from NC it is not load bearing. Take some ceiling out and make darn certain!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 7:45AM
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No, I do not.

As I interpret your pictures and plan, even if there was a load bearing wall 'twixt the garage and kitchen (which I suspect is actually a firewall), that little L-shaped bit has negligible contribution.

Not the first overbuilt corner post I've seen.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 9:54AM
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I agree that those two walls may not contribute a lot to the structure, but it's also not clear how everything ties together without a physical inspection. I'm still going to suggest having an engineer look at it.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 3:30PM
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I was able to find a structural engineer via a referral from an architect company.

He is going to come out this week and take a look at the wall.

Please continue to post your thoughts and I will post his answer on Thursday night!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 7:57PM
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Good luck...I'll be interested to hear what the end result is.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 8:02PM
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The framing on the corner there is nothing special. It is mainly built this was to have wood to attach your drywall on the inside of the corner and have a solid corner on the outside corner. From the looks of the trusses though I see a gable truss with vertical studs instead of w pattern. This truss is meant to sit on a wall and will have a much reduced span capacity.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 8:35PM
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I believe that there's no problem with what you want to do. However, I'd like to see the framing immediately above where you plan to remove the wall.

I suspect the framing over the island in the kitchen is the same as where you want to remove the wall and after the wall is removed you'd end up with the same "support" condition.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 1:56PM
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I was up in the attic today to try and learn more about this situation so when the engineer is here Thursday I can share what I can.

Here are some new pics and I discovered something new...

I tried to do a few different views to help lay it out:

So... as far as I can see the gable truss has no support directly underneath it (ie. it does NOT sit on top of the wall) It is attached to the 2x4's that sit on top of the wall that are there to secure the drywall to.

Any more feedback/ideas with this new information?!!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 10:55PM
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I'm not sure why the builder used a Vierendeel ("gable") truss there, probably convenience of attachment for the framing & drywall that comprise the vaulted ceiling.
Not being a house truss designer, I can't verify the claim "This truss is meant to sit on a wall and will have a much reduced span capacity."

In engineering there is no such requirement. Properly sized for the load, a truss is a truss.

I am going to back-pedal on my original response...unless the walls float (no attachment) under the trusses, of course they share some portion of loading.
IMO, your desired removal doesn't affect their integrity.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 6:27AM
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I made an error in my diagram. The double header of the wall actually runs under the 2x4.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 8:03AM
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You need an on site inspection by a PE who can approve and stamp the modification.

Trying to guess from afar based on drawings that have been in error once already, and less than complete pictures all made by a person who does not understand how to determine if a wall is load bearing is asking for a problem.

The devil is in the details.
Is there any additional support under the wall section?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 10:19AM
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A structural engineer will be out tomorrow to take a look at everything.

Are you saying you don't like my pictures?!

Our basement is finished below and the layout is very similar to the main floor: at the bottom of the stairs it opens to a rec room that is L shaped and extends underneath the kitchen.

In regards to the SE who will be out tomorrow - is it protocol to request a written evaluation of the overall findings/determination?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 9:57PM
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If you have confidence in the engineer, then a written report may not be necessary. A written report could add a fair amount to the cost. On the other hand, if you are getting a permit, the local building department may find a written report reassuring or necessary.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2011 at 3:47AM
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Sorry, but you have no idea what to look for, so pictures are of very limited value.

The engineer may not even be able to tell without looking above the basement ceiling.

The presence of double (and even larger, 3x, 4x) joists is common under a weight bearing wall, and is part of determining if a wall IS weight bearing (the load has to go somewhere).

    Bookmark   March 17, 2011 at 9:36AM
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Based on what we can see, I'd put money on it being load bearing.

That gable "truss" (i.e., non-structural gable end frame) is a red flag. They're almost always designed for continuous bearing. The stubby little L-braces on the web members (and maybe bottom chord?) appear to be fastened according to an engineered schedule; and though it looks weird to me, the gable end frame seems to be transmitting vertical load through the bracing (fasteners in shear) to the top plate of your wall.

I'd be interested in seeing how the gable end frame spans your dining area.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2011 at 11:40AM
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If I follow your drawings/photos correctly. You peeled back the pink insulation in top photo #4 to exposed the drywall in the newest photos. The profile of the pink insulation in photo #4 is the profile of your vaulted ceiling relative to the kichen ceiling. Your attic photos are from the kitchen attic space looking towards the vaulted space. There is a pretty good cavity between the roof deck and the vaulted ceiling. (i.e. not a cathedral style where the ceiling follows the roof pitch).

All trusses are typical truss geometry with a single gable truss at the ceiling transition. The dry wall closes the gap between the flat ceiling over the kitchen and the vaulted ceiling.

The only "support" your looking to remove parallel to the gable truss is the ~3 ft at the end wall of the stair case.

The wall parallel to the staircase runs perpendicular to and under the other standard trusses.

Based on the above, it still does not seem like an issue to me. I'm interested in what your engineer has to say.

Lastly, I would expect at least a brief letter summarizing his work and findings, so there is a record of his visit, observations, and opinion.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 1:46PM
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sdello - your are correct in describing the layout.

The SE was out on Thursday night and after a thorough examination of the exposed studs, the basement and the attic, he determined the wall NOT to be load bearing.

This led to a good days work today of taking out the wall, scraping off the popcorn ceiling over the stairwell, and repairing the drywall where the wall came out.

My wife was great helping out and keeping our kids busy while I was working. Her birthday is tomorrow so now I need to pay her back!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 12:16AM
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Congrats. It's always good to hear when a DIY job turns out to be less work than it might have been!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 1:38PM
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thanks for the update. Your pictures and sketches were pretty good. It's always good to get conformation if you're unsure. Glad it turned out to be a non-issue. If I can be nosy, what did the SE charge you and is he going to provide anything in writing?

My only other comment would be the end of the L-shaped wall where the doorway is going to be removed. That wall will now be a free standing wall with no lateral support at that end. You might want to leave a little return on the wall (the piece that would turn the corner to the door frame) to provide some support in that direction. Without it I'd expect the wall to be easily moved sideways which will crack the wallboard and ruin the finishes, not to mention making the wall seem flimsy. Just my 0.02.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 6:56PM
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We paid the SE $50 for his 'inspection'. He told me to call him if anyone needs verification that he was out - will definitely keep his name and number :-)

sdello - you are correct that the wall isn't as sturdy. We are planning on leaving the return and looking for ways to possibly secure it a little more... If anyone has some ideas, please let me know!!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 11:53PM
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One suggestion is to leave a slight return and put a steel angle vertically in the inside corner, extend it down below the floor level, and bolt it to the floor framing below.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 1:05PM
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