Renovating a home to create an open floor plan or let in additional light sometimes involves removing a load-bearing wall. Every house has at least two of these walls, and they are a vital part of your home’s structure. If modifying a load-bearing wall is part of your renovation plan, you need a professional to help you achieve the design you want without losing structural strength.
What is a load-bearing wall?
Load-bearing walls support the weight of the roof or upper story of a house as well as its contents and the people who live there. Every house has at least two load-bearing exterior walls, located where the roofline reaches its lowest point.
Inside the house, most walls simply separate rooms and don’t bear much weight. But some interior walls are load-bearing. Typically, load-bearing walls continue from room to room. In the attic, the ceiling joists beneath your feet rest on and run perpendicular to the load-bearing walls. In the basement, load-bearing walls rest on the joists and are perpendicular to them.
Removing load-bearing walls
Homeowners who want to update an older home with a more open, modern floor plan must often tear out all or part of a load-bearing wall. Load-bearing walls can be modified only with careful expert planning, so it’s vital to have an experienced builder, contractor or structural engineer examine and plan the renovation. To remove load-bearing walls, you must submit plans to your local government’s building authority to get a permit.
There are two ways to provide replacement support if you remove a load-bearing wall. The first is to install a large header beam over the open space. The beam, which could be as much as a foot wide, rests on the studs on either end of the space. The studs will need to be triple- or quadruple-layered for added strength. The second method is to install support columns evenly across the expanse of the open space.
Incorporating the new support into your décor
If you replace a load-bearing wall with a wooden support beam, you can stain it to provide an attractive contrast to surrounding Sheetrocked or plaster walls. If the beam is steel, it can be encased in Sheetrock and painted to blend with the surrounding walls.
Replacing a load-bearing wall with support columns provides even more decor possibilities. The support itself may be made of lumber or metal. Whatever the material, it can be wrapped in Sheetrock and painted. You can even use wood molding to provide decorative accents to the column.
Related – The ABCs of Wall Construction