One of the most sought-after services that people call us about is load bearing wall removal. Removing a load bearing wall and replacing it with a beam is significantly different from removing non load bearing walls. Load bearing walls are structural, and if you take out the wall, you compromise the structural integrity of your house. If you remove a non load bearing wall, only minor factors come into play; like how to dispose of the debris and how to fix the ceiling and floor, but it will not cause your house to fall down.
Before calling a contractor to remove a wall, here are some things you should know:
Permits Are Involved
Even non load-bearing wall removals, such as the removal of closets, need to be permitted.
It should come as no surprise that your permit agency wants to know if you are taking down a wall that affects the structural integrity of your home. A detailed plan regarding an alternative support system may also need to be provided.
The Wall Will Be Replaced With A Beam
When your contractor removes a load bearing wall, it must be replaced with either:
A Beam: A horizontal beam of sufficient size. Other than the two ends, the beam has no vertical resting points.
A Beam & Post: A horizontal beam whose strength is supported with one or more vertical posts between the two end resting points.
Install An LVL Beam For Support
You can't get a 4 x 4' from Home Depot and use this as your sole carrying beam.
Instead, a laminated veneer lumber beam would be installed.
You may be surprised to find out that these beams don't have to be expensive. Architectural LVLs are expensive, because the wood is meant to be viewed, not covered up with drywall. Non-architectural LVL's are dramatically cheaper.
The Beam Might Protrude
The replacement beam may protrude lower then the height of the ceiling. It is difficult to completely hide the replacement beam because of space issues. Many homeowners opt for an exposed beam in order to achieve the best end result in opening up their space.
Vertical Posts Might Make the Project Cleaner
Placing vertical posts under a carrying beam can take away from that flawless open floor plan look. However, any kind of vertical support you can add under a horizontal beam will give the beam far greater strength.
Additionally, if you are having issues with the beam protruding too far below ceiling level, posts can allow you to reduce beam depth and get it back up to ceiling level!
With No Beam, Your House Will Slowly Fall Down
Well-built structures are constructed with redundancy in mind.
Even when a major structural element such as an internal load bearing wall is removed, the rest of the house may stay more or less intact. You see this often after a tornado or earthquake, where two-story houses have entire exterior walls ripped off yet the building remains standing.
The reason: redundancy.
Even with the wall removed, a host of other interwoven elements pull together to keep the overall structure intact. When the wall comes out, flooring, sub-floor, underlayment, neighboring walls, joists, rafters, and many other elements, come into play to hold the structure intact. However, over time, the house will slowly begin to sag.
Gravity will always win. It is just a matter of how long it takes.