Q&A / 

Modifying a Load Bearing Wall

load bearing wall

This is a load bearing wall with a large opening and a door.

Modifying a Load Bearing Wall TIPS

  • Watch my Bearing Wall Removal VIDEO below
  • Consult with a structural engineer 
  • Concentrated loads hidden on walls with giant existing openings
  • Nail temporary supports together
  • CLICK HERE to subscribe to Tim's FREE Newsletter

I remember the first load bearing wall I modified. I was in my early twenties and had never done it before. It was in a massive old home in Clifton, an inner city suburb in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I was working as a sub-contractor for a remodeling company and knew just enough to be extremely dangerous. Fast forward . . . The house didn't collapse and in fact the enlarged opening I created has not sagged to this day. But I must tell you I had lots of luck that day. All sorts of things could have gone wrong.

CLICK HERE to get FREE & FAST BIDS from structural engineers in your city or town.

Knowing the Loads

Creating archways or openings in bearing walls can almost always be accomplished. It simply becomes a matter of where the loads are going to be concentrated. A typical bearing wall tends to transmit a fairly equal amount of load down to the floor below via the wall studs.

If you decide to create a large opening in the wall, then the loads above the opening must be shifted to the sides of the opening using a properly sized beam. Will a double 2 x 6 be enough? How about a single 2 x 12?

IMPORTANT TIP: The truth is, only experienced carpenters who have successfully installed beams, or structural engineers who are trained to size and specify beams, should make the call. Do not try to conjure up your mystic powers and guess.

They can only do this by visiting your home. During this visit the expert will perform an inspection to look for hidden CONCENTRATED loads above the wall.

Do NOT trust advice from other home improvement websites that have little, or no, information at their About Page as to who's giving the advice.

The cost to hire a registered residential structural engineer is well worth it. Often this person will even draw a small plan showing you how to build the temporary supporting wall.

Free & Fast Bids

CLICK HERE to get FREE & FAST BIDS from structural engineers in your city or town who can size the correct beam and tell you how to support it.

Bearing Wall Removal Video

Temporary Support

If you want to install a beam in an existing bearing wall, there are all sorts of tricks and methods. If it is an interior wall, there is a cool way to install a beam without building any temporary support walls.

You need to have access to both sides of the wall into which the beam is going to be placed. All that you do is simply install half of the beam at a time. You make 1.5 inch deep notches at the top of one side of the wall and slide the beam into this recess. Add the king studs at each end of the beam that run from top plate to bottom plate. You then add the jack studs next to the king studs.

These framing members actually support the load from the beam. If the rough opening of the new beam is 72 inches or less, you generally only need one jack stud at each end. Once all of this is in place and the jack studs are solidly supported from beneath, you can take out the remaining old notched wall studs as the weight of the wall will be carried by the one half of the beam that is secure and in place.

Be sure to have the second half of the beam already cut and ready to slide in place!

Hiding a Beam

Let's say you want to remove a wall in between two rooms but you want the ceiling to be smooth just like in the two rooms. You don't want a beam hanging down a foot where the wall used to be.

You can install the beam up in the same space as the floor joists and just use joist hangers to connect the floor joists to the new beam.

This will only work if the beam height is sufficient to support the weight that's being transferred to it.

CLICK HERE to get FREE & FAST BIDS from structural engineers in your city or town.

When You Need One

Often you can't do the cool trick I described. Perhaps you are working on an outside wall and want to salvage the wall finish on the exterior side of the new beam. You need to build a temporary wall 3 feet back from the existing bearing wall.

But stop! Before you start to build the wall, you must build the beam and lay it on the floor next to the existing wall. Why? Many a rookie carpenter has built the temporary wall, created the hole in the existing wall only to find out they can't get the beam threaded into the narrow space between the old and temporary walls!

The temporary support wall needs to have a top and bottom plate, and the studs of this wall need to fall as closely as possible under and above the floor and ceiling joists. The studs are cut tight so they have to be tapped in place. I simply add a few toe nails that just penetrate partially into the top and bottom plates. Be careful about ruining finished floors and ceilings!

Masonry Walls

Don't even think about creating an opening in a masonry wall without help from a professional. Masonry walls are very heavy. The weight from steel roof members and floor loads can be enormous.

Often you need to install needles in a masonry block wall to carry the load while you work to install the beam. A structural engineer may also design a temporary beam that bolts to the course(s) of masonry that are just above where the new beam will be installed. You install this temporary beam first, support it well making sure the supports are on solid bearing, then you create your opening.

Remember, always make sure the new beam is in place, it's the correct size and you can easily lift and thread it into place BEFORE you create the opening in the wall. You want to be able to place the new beam with no, or minimal, delay.

CLICK HERE to get FREE & FAST BIDS from structural engineers in your city or town.

Column B397


53 Responses to Modifying a Load Bearing Wall

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.