How To Remove a Load Bearing Wall
This how-to guide is a compilation of several articles from 2010 when we were going through the process of removing a load bearing wall. It was a big project that took place over the course of several days and required the help of professional contractors and engineers. This article will walk you through the process, step-by-step so you can see how the pros completed the job.
For any of you who weren’t with us in January 2010, this was the last wall to be removed in the conversion to an open floor plan in our home, as indicated by the blue box in the floor plan below. We removed the non-load bearing walls identified in red at the very end of 2009.
In addition to the removal of the wall (blue box), we also removed the pantry (green box below), faux-paneling in the family room, and took care of a couple of other small items to make this job big enough to dignify a bid from each of our general contractors.
Here’s a picture of how the family room looked before work began (which you can identify on the floor plan above).
This is a picture of the other side of the same wall, in the living room. (Actually, this became the dining room after the conversion).
The drywall work shown in the picture is from the non-load bearing wall removal project in December 2009. We never got around to patching the drywall so this was one of the small projects we added to the contractor’s scope in 2010.
The first step in this job was for our carpenter to open up the wall for the engineer to inspect the job, and then give his stamp of approval on the plans and materials (including which kind of lumber to buy for the header).
What we also learned:
- That the location of our ductwork was going to mean that our opening needed to be smaller than our original 8′ plan and also will be a little right-of-center on the wall. We could have shrunk it further to keep it totally centered on the wall, but we’re talking inches. I’d rather have the space, so I asked our contractor to frame it from the far left stud to the far right in the above picture (you can see where he drew the original opening lines there too).
- We have 14′ joists supporting the 2nd floor of the house, so temporary walls were built on BOTH sides of the wall before the removal happened. If we’d had 16′ joists, they would’ve built the temporary wall on one side only because there would’ve been a greater overlap area under which to support the whole weight of both sides of the house.
Removing Part of a Load Bearing Wall
In a single day, the contractors removed the drywall section, framed out the doorway, and also partially removed our pantry. Here’s the step-by-step on the load bearing wall removal.
Step 1: Remove Drywall and Molding
The contractor removed the baseboard on both sides of the wall, the sections of paneling in the family room that overlapped the opening, and the remainder of the drywall on the Dining Room side (where they’d cut the exploratory hole).
Step 2: Construct Temporary Walls
They constructed temporary walls on both sides of the area to be opened, in order to support the joists holding up the the second floor of the house. Like I mentioned, we needed two temporary walls because we have 14′ joists. Had we had 16′ joists, we would have only needed one temporary wall on one side of the opening.
Step 3: Replace Framing with LVL Header
Next, the contractor removed the original studs and added a new laminated veneer lumber (LVL) header and jack studs supports. One of the guys mentioned that their 3-stud-width support structure is actually more than required, but we support over-engineering when it’s this inexpensive! The studs are sitting on blocks which sit on the steel I-beam down in the basement.
Step 4: Nail Jack Studs
With the new header in place, they cut away the drywall from the other room and nailed the jack studs together.
Step 5: Deconstruct Temporary Walls
At this point, the guys took down the temporary support walls. The drywall people came later, since we also had lighting we decided to install at the last minute in the Family Room, and we were mid-project on the pantry removal.
Before they closed up the walls, there were a few electrical details that needed finishing up. We mentioned that we decided to add recessed lighting in the Family Room ceiling while the walls were opened up. We had that done, added a junction box for our chandelier in the Dining Room, and the electrician even mounted our thermostat in its new location. The latter had been sitting on the floor ever since we removed the wall on which it had been hanging in December.
If you’d like to learn more about recessed lighting, check out our walk-through for wiring recessed lighting.
Step 6: Add Support Strapping
To keep our tripled-up support studs on the right side of the new opening from twisting in the future, our carpenter fastened a strap between them and the header. Had there been a longer “king” stud there, as there is on the left, strapping would not be necessary.
Step 7: Hang and Finish New Drywall
This picture shows the drywall progress before they started finishing. If you’d like to learn more, check out our complete guide for finishing drywall.
After our wall was finished, it took several more projects to get this room into it’s finished shape. But it was all worth it, because in the end, it looks like this.
Here’s a link to more pictures of this space after we finished the hardwood flooring.
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