One of the questions we frequently get asked during our remodeling and renovation projects is this: “Can a load-bearing wall be removed during my remodel?”
Customers posing this question typically ask because they want to add more square footage to an existing room. Or, in the case of a kitchen remodel, they want to create more of an open-concept floor plan.
To answer this question, it’s helpful to understand the purpose of load-bearing walls and how they integrate with different types of roofs.
Roof Construction Types
There are two main methods for constructing roofs or, more specifically, how they’re put together beneath the shingles or exterior materials you see.
The Cut and Stack Roof
This type of roof construction is typically found in homes built before the 1980s. This conventional roofing style involves having each rafter and ceiling joist specifically cut for its location within the roof. In our experience, it’s easier to remove walls and install beams with this type of roofing construction versus the next one we’ll talk about.
Pre-manufactured and Engineered Roof Truss System
Newer homes typically utilize this method of roof construction. The trusses have been designed by an engineer to carry the weight of the roof. They also span the required distance under their own construction without multiple walls underneath to help carry the load.
Most pre-manufactured trusses are designed to carry the weight on the exterior walls. This would allow us to remove an interior wall without re-supporting that area. However, if the removal of an interior load-bearing wall is needed, an engineer must be involved. They will determine whether it’s possible to cut those trusses to install a beam above the ceiling line or if a beam can be installed below the ceiling line, leaving it exposed from below.
Types of Load-Bearing Walls
Now, let’s move on to the different types of load-bearing walls you’ll see in modern construction today.
The first type is a wall that is responsible for holding up the roof and bearing the roof’s weight. A perfect example of this is an exterior wall.
The second type of load-bearing wall is one that’s not necessarily holding up the weight of the roof, but is carrying the weight of the drywall on the ceiling or the insulation above. An example of this would be an interior wall.
How to Tell if a Load-Bearing Wall Can be Removed
The question you always have to ask and answer is: “If I remove this wall, will my ceiling or roof sag or fall down?” If the answer is ‘yes’, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the wall can’t be removed. Rather, it means that this wall is a load-bearing wall to some degree. If the wall is removed, the ceiling or roof will need to be supported with a beam.
The newly installed beam can go underneath to carry the weight and will be exposed below the ceiling line. Or, that beam can go above the ceiling in the attic and will be hidden from the view down below. Which option is chosen is typically based on the client’s preference.
Either way, both applications require a similar installation process. First, the length of the load-bearing wall being removed must be measured. Then, a properly sized beam that can span that length without being overloaded or sagging over time needs to be selected.
The size of beam required will depend on the amount of weight the beam is responsible for carrying. We always defer to an engineer to specify the beam size for the length and weight that is being supported.
Safe Installation of Beams After Load-Bearing Wall Removal
All beams require some sort of foundation underneath them. If it’s an exterior wall being removed to expand square footage, then the original footing that is there is typically sufficient. If an interior wall without a footing underneath it is being removed and it’s merely sitting on a slab or raised foundation floor, the process is different. In this case, a footing must be dug and a concrete pier poured underneath to transfer the load point from the foundation up to the beam.
Professional Renovation and Remodeling Services in Lodi, CA
Removing a load-bearing wall can create more square footage or make an existing space feel larger. The process requires planning and knowledge, however, to ensure that your home’s structural integrity isn’t compromised. You can rely on the designers and master craftsmen at Schatz Construction & Restoration to design and build a space you truly love while following best building practices and current building codes.
Contact us today to start planning your own remodel or to learn more about the remodeling and restoration services we offer.