Removing Load Bearing Walls: Facts you can’t ignore
Removing load bearing walls and removing non-load bearing walls are two completely different tasks. The level of structural importance a load bearing wall offers is way more than that of a non-load bearing interior wall.
Removing a load bearing wall is a very delicate task. It can lead to severe structural damage, therefore, removing a load bearing wall should be with the consent of a professional and qualified structural engineer. There are always facts you can’t afford to ignore regardless of the task. For removing load bearing walls, below are facts you can’t ignore.
A Permit Is Required
Generally, every home remodeling requires a permit. Removing a load bearing wall is no exception. However, if your load bearing wall embeds your plumbing or electrical wires, you will require a separate permit for that
Notably, permits requirements and regulations differ for different locations. So, it is advisable that you contact your city’s building and planning department to ascertain what permits you should apply for.
This is one of the reasons for consulting the right structural engineering firm is crucial to successfully remove a load bearing wall. An experienced structural engineer would know what permits you require in your city. A permit application may include the following, depending on your city;
- Architectural plans
- Structural plans
- Structural evaluations
Removed Walls Must Be Replaced In Some Way
Load bearing walls bear the name “load bearing” for a reason. Therefore if you are removing a load-bearing wall, there has to be a replacement of some sort in place. Consider your windows and doors. Holes in the walls of your home would compromise its stability, however, replacing these portions with doors and window beams make up for its stability.
The same is the case for a load bearing wall, albeit, on a larger scale. You must replace a load bearing wall. Below are load bearing replacement options.
- Beam only: in case that the removal wall is only for vertical load and there are sufficient piers at the end of the beam
- Beam and post (goal post): in case that the removal wall is only for vertical load or small lateral load
- Box frame: in case that the removal wall is for the vertical and lateral load (say shear wall). Box frame should be able to provide the same lateral resistance for this part of the building
The Beam Will Be Below the Ceiling
The beam replacing the load bearing wall bears the load of the floor structure above. Therefore, more often than not, the beams are not as high as the ceiling. In order for the beam to flush with the ceiling, the beam must be in the plane of the floor above, this is achieved by cutting back the joist of the floor, then with a metal joist hanger, and from the sides of the beam, hang the ends of the joists.
Clearly, this is more tedious than a simple beam replacement below the ceiling. In any case, consulting the right structural engineering firm is imperative.
Intermediate Posts Might Make the Project Cleaner
Using a beam and post replacement can eliminate the open floor plan look. However, adding an intermediate vertical post will no doubt, ensure greater beam strength. Asides beam strength, intermediate posts would allow the usage of smaller beams, hence, eliminating the problem of protruding beams.
You Must Use Temporary Supports
This is a common practice in most structural remodeling. You can’t ignore temporary supports when engaging to remove a load bearing wall. Removing a load bearing wall’s framing without assembling temporary support could be very dangerous. Therefore, building temporary supports on both sides of the wall is imperative.
Note that the load bearing wall is bearing the load of the floor joist above, and the ends of the floor may be resting directly on the wall. Hence the need for temporary support on both sides.
With No Beam, Your House Will Fall Down Slowly, Not Right Away
In most cases, when the walls of a structure are removed, the structure still remains standing. For instance, in the event of an earthquake, you may find structures with their external walls ripped off but still standing. This is because of redundancy.
Most structures are built with high reliability by considering redundancy. The functions of elements like external walls and load bearing walls are duplicated in other elements like flooring, subflooring, underlayment, joist, rafters, etc. these elements act like the displaced elements to keep the structure standing.
However, redundancy alone, can’t keep a structure intact for long. Gravity will continuously act on the structure causing it to fail. The same applies for the load bearing walls, without beam replacement, your structure might appear to still be intact, however, after a while, it will fail and collapse.