Author Topic: Removing a load bearing wall?  (Read 11615 times)

pekklemafia

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Removing a load bearing wall?
« on: June 11, 2016, 09:21:13 PM »
Hi world,
We just bought a house (yikes), and are very excited about having our own digs and being able to make it our own. It's totally 60s style though with the layout. There is a wall that separates the kitchen and living room and we plan to blow it out. It doesn't seem too terribly difficult (according to my partner, the handy one), but it is a load bearing wall and we would need to put in a beam. Does anyone have any experience with this (esp DIY)? Any tips? Will our roof cave in on us?


chemistk

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2016, 05:02:50 AM »
I'm no expert, just one who likes to watch a lot of HGTV (on demand of course). Check out this article I found that shows a pretty comprehensive look into what's needed.

http://www.familyhandyman.com/walls/how-to-install-a-loadbearing-beam/view-all

Basically it takes a lot of planning and the help of a structural engineer to get it up properly.

Spork

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2016, 08:31:44 AM »
I am mostly posting to follow.

I've done a few repairs on load bearing walls that required temporary walls to hold it up.  I've pulled out non-load bearing walls.  And I've taken out load bearing walls in my workshop by just googling and best-guessing the beam size.  (I wouldn't do that in my house.)

I am told a good lumberyard will greatly help you size a beam.  Whether you need an engineer for code compliance in your municipality or not is left to your own research.

You'll minimally have to build some structure to hold the ceiling/roof/upper floors temporarily.  If you're inside the city limits you're likely to be required to get a permit.  (Whether you do or not is up to your own judgment.)

Uturn

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2016, 11:58:29 AM »
I extended an opening from 4' to 8', so all i really had to do was beef up the existing beam.  It took two of us about 3 hours.  It's more scary than hard work.  Make sure you know what is in the wall before you start.  I once had a non-load wall that I wanted gone, I knew there was electrical in there that would need a new home.  Tore off the drywall, stood back and admired the water and gas lines in there..... crap, this job just got more expensive. 

Goldielocks

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2016, 12:17:48 PM »
Hi world,
We just bought a house (yikes), and are very excited about having our own digs and being able to make it our own. It's totally 60s style though with the layout. There is a wall that separates the kitchen and living room and we plan to blow it out. It doesn't seem too terribly difficult (according to my partner, the handy one), but it is a load bearing wall and we would need to put in a beam. Does anyone have any experience with this (esp DIY)? Any tips? Will our roof cave in on us?

Get your beam properly sized.  You may need a steel beam to provide the level of support needed for the span, (if long and you have a second floor to carry) especially if you don't want something very "deep" that will drop down for the ceiling.

The surprise is that you often need to pour new footing to support the new beam.  The second surprise for us was that when we put in larger windows, simultaneously, that also put more load on the structure, and generated new footings for the extra wall studs, too.

Goldielocks

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2016, 12:19:37 PM »
I extended an opening from 4' to 8', so all i really had to do was beef up the existing beam.  It took two of us about 3 hours.  It's more scary than hard work.  Make sure you know what is in the wall before you start.  I once had a non-load wall that I wanted gone, I knew there was electrical in there that would need a new home.  Tore off the drywall, stood back and admired the water and gas lines in there..... crap, this job just got more expensive.

This!  Add in an HVAC Duct, and we re-enclosed a 4 ft section of the wall, as is,  and reworked our floor plans.

Exflyboy

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2016, 04:07:29 PM »
Woah there folks foks before we all get grand and scary!...:)

Load bearing walls absolutely do NOT need a structural engineer unless you are doing something way off the beaten path. Home Depot used to sell a a book called "House framing".. All beam sizes are shown in there. Your library should have lots of books on house framing.

I am regstered Mechanical engineer so you can bet I'd pull my own teeth out before I wentemploying any engineering help. When I looked into it it was all pretty simple to frame a built up beam... Of course you will need a tempprary stick wall to hold up the roof trusses or the floor upsairs while you remove the existing wall.

You will not need a steel beam either unless you are into very large spans.

Tou will also NOT need to pour a footing if the hole in the wall is over an existing foundation.. and of course the foundation wall is in good shape.

Now how do you know its a load bearing wall for a start?

Go educate yourselves, its not that big of a deal.

Oh and you'll need a permit. Our building department is very helpful with beam sizing etc.

Exflyboy

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2016, 05:32:15 PM »
Oh another thought.. Just checking my header sizing table which says a 12 foot opening can be made from a built up beam of 2, 2*12's nailed face to face to make 4*12 beam.

But even better than that, talk to your local lumber yard and as them for a wood composite beamof the span you are looking for, tell them the application and they will size it for you, probably chealer than a solid wood beam in any case. Either a Gluelam beam or a made up wood I beam.

But first off figure out if it really is load bearing.. Is there a foundation below that wall?.. If not its unlikely to be load bearing.

paddedhat

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2016, 07:35:33 PM »
Oh another thought.. Just checking my header sizing table which says a 12 foot opening can be made from a built up beam of 2, 2*12's nailed face to face to make 4*12 beam.

Too many unknowns to make a statement like that. Is it an outside wall, a center bearing wall, is it supporting a second floor, a roof, how is the roof framed, snow loads, uniform load or is there an unusual point load above, what are the floor joist spans????????????????????  And that is just off the top of my head.

But even better than that, talk to your local lumber yard and as them for a wood composite beamof the span you are looking for, tell them the application and they will size it for you, probably chealer than a solid wood beam in any case. Either a Gluelam beam or a made up wood I beam.

But first off figure out if it really is load bearing.. Is there a foundation below that wall?.. If not its unlikely to be load bearing.

The majority of typical stick framed homes ,with dimensional lumber supporting the floor structure, over a crawl space or basement, have a center bearing wall. Typically there is no foundation below that wall, as it it typically supported by a beam, posts, and poured concrete bearing pads.  Once again, "is there a foundation under that wall" is playing way too loose for my tastes, as there are plenty of examples where this idea can lead to trouble.

If you are dealing with a large opening, say 8ft, or larger, I would gather as much info. as possible and head to the local lumberyard. If this is a standard 2x4 wall, I would get them to design a beam using two pieces of 1-3/4" laminated "LVL" beam stock. They are extraordinarily strong, relatively inexpensive, and there is a neat trick you can do with turning the existing studs 90* and installing one piece of LVL at a time, eliminating the need for temporary support walls. IIRC, there was a detailed write-up of doing this in a past issue of Fine Homebuilding.

Many DIYers, and sadly, more than a few framers, screw this job up by failing to track the newly created point loads, down through the structure. When you replace a bearing wall with a beam, the beam end supports, which are commonly called king and jack studs, create new point loads. These concentrated loads needs to be supported all the way down to the foundation. Typically the issue is that the framer fails to add blocking under the plywood floor to transfer the point load to the wall, or beam below. In this case, the plywood subfloor will typically hold the load, and settle over time, creating a dish when the point load is trying to push it's way down through.  Just take the time to imagine the legs holding up the beam, and what they would look like if they were going through a hole cut in the floor and resting on something solid, like another wall or foundation.  Now head under the floor and extend those "legs" until they hit solid bearing.

Papa bear

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2016, 08:22:36 PM »
+1 to paddedhat.  You can DIY this for sure, but you'll need some hands.  And go get a professional opinion from an engineer if you aren't absolutely sure what to do.

We needed to test the steel post concrete base to make sure it would handle the extra weight from the point load above.   In addition, we needed to add another 2x12 beam to the existing beam in the basement as it was undersized for the change in function of the house.  We had to verify the construction of the roof and where that load was carried. Ended up taking all the numbers, ran it across the chart, and we got 3 17' 11 7/8 lvl's.

The actual construction isn't too hard; we ended up cutting out the floor joists to bury the 3 lvl's into the ceiling.  We built 2 temporary walls, took out the structural wall, cut the floor joists out, and put in one lvl at a time.  Nailed together, then through bolted with carriage bolts per engineer specs, and hung the floor joists off the beam.   3 guys that are handy DIY, and a long day and it was done. 

That was the easy part.  Re-routing all of the HVAC to the 2nd floor was the most difficult and expensive.  (Paid a pro and worked along side him to learn). Moving the electric wasn't too hard, as long as you have a plan and know how to do it!

Good luck, I had a lot of fun.



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kendallf

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2016, 08:44:59 PM »
Another engineer here, and I've done this several times without any real drama or load calculations (hey, I'm an electronics engineer!)

The last two were on a friend's house, and we built one header from 2x8 with 1/2" plywood sandwiched between it and ordered the other one from Home Depot (it was a longer span and they recommended a size and max span for the roof load).  We built temporary walls to support the load, and in one case jacked up the ceiling beams to correct a prior shitty job that had resulted in a sag.

If you use some common sense and over-build your reinforcements (double or triple jack studs to support the beam, extra joists and/or support pads underneath if it's a framed floor) it'll be fine.


Goldielocks

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2016, 11:56:28 PM »
Woah there folks foks before we all get grand and scary!...:)

Load bearing walls absolutely do NOT need a structural engineer unless you are doing something way off the beaten path. Home Depot used to sell a a book called "House framing".. All beam sizes are shown in there. Your library should have lots of books on house framing.

I am regstered Mechanical engineer so you can bet I'd pull my own teeth out before I wentemploying any engineering help. When I looked into it it was all pretty simple to frame a built up beam... Of course you will need a tempprary stick wall to hold up the roof trusses or the floor upsairs while you remove the existing wall.

You will not need a steel beam either unless you are into very large spans.

Tou will also NOT need to pour a footing if the hole in the wall is over an existing foundation.. and of course the foundation wall is in good shape.

Now how do you know its a load bearing wall for a start?

Go educate yourselves, its not that big of a deal.

Oh and you'll need a permit. Our building department is very helpful with beam sizing etc.

OP gave very little details..  How do you know that it is a minor span?

The two homes I worked with, to remove a wall, one was a 20 ft span and the other 30 ft.  The 30ft did not need a steel beam, but that was an option, and it was a close call about which would be better.  The 20 ft we did not go for a steel beam, because it worked fine, but the wood beam on the shorter span would have dropped 6 inches or more down into the room, plus drywall.

Unless it is a pretty small opening.. I have not seen where the footings line up with where you want to bring down the weight.  At least not on both ends.  Maybe a long span gives very little options...

 Footings are really not a big deal unless you don't plan for them ahead, or have a finished basement  --

What it seemed like the op was asking, what to plan for or consider when removing an opening..   My comments were to show the range of responses and experiencesas as all the others pointed to the same type of answer to OP.

Lastly, our Building permit required the structural engineer to sign off on the plan.  Your region may be different.

Exflyboy

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2016, 08:31:36 AM »
Right, it depends usually on how far of the beaten path you are with normal framing design.

That was my point, right now we don't know if it is a load bearing wall or not, I was not assuming it was minor, just that the immediate response from this forum was to get an SE when we don't know yet if this is a major job or not.

If this is a single storey house where the trusses are supported at each and the middle wall is a simple partiton, then clearly the wall is non load bearing and typically would not need an SE.

If the wall is load bearing and it requires a "hole" there are many standard designs straight out of the framing tables that will suffice.

Beyond that, then you are getting into an area where (in this area at least) you might need some extra design but usually the loacal lumber yard has access to limited design services that may suffice.. such as a Gluelam beam or an I beam.

Your right though in the OP's specific juristiction an SE stamp might be required. The good thing (usually) is that that building department are usually very helpful in telling you what is required.

My point was not to imply that you should go tearing down walls when you don't know what your doing, simply that almost everything has been done before and the information is out there. So by educating yourslf you can avoid a lot of the cost.

I was saying this as a contrary to the intitial posts that implied this was a job beyond DIY thats all.

If I came across as to imply that you should start getting out the sawzall, that was not my intent and I applogise.

pekklemafia

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2016, 10:55:00 PM »
I'm back! Thanks for all of the responses - my partner is an engineer (not the "right" type though, haha) and we're friends with a mech eng... So hopefully we've got our bases covered with respect to doing load calculations, etc. We just submitted drawings to the city for a building permit, so hopefully that gets approved soon.

If anyone is interested, here is a visual of the wall separating the kitchen/living room (yes, the face on wall is dining room entrance.) Not the perfect picture, but we're thinking we'll need a 10 or 12 ft beam.

Exflyboy

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2016, 01:06:01 AM »
A 12ft beam should not be too difficult, I.e should not require a professional Engineers stamp. If the building department does require such a stamp then it would be a brave mechanical engineer that would stamp such a design. I'm an ME with a PE license and I wouldn't..:).

Chances are this will be simple enough so as to not require a stamped design though.

paddedhat

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #15 on: July 05, 2016, 10:07:22 PM »
Search LVL span charts. There are several manufacturers of laminated veneer lumber that provide extremely detailed information for beam sizing, including charts and diagrams from all typical applications in residential framing. When building new homes, I always did my own plans in a cheap CAD program and just did a cut and past right out of the manufacturer's info. for LVL beam sizing. It was quality information, done by the manufacturer's in house engineering, and cost me exactly nothing. Once you gather the info. it is not brand specific, just pay attention to the stiffness rating, or the "E" rating. This is engineering shorthand for modulus of elasticity, or how stiff the beam is.  In my area, beams are stocked in 1.5 and 2 E ratings. Make sure that your calculations match whatever beam you order.

RunningWithScissors

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #16 on: July 12, 2016, 11:39:34 AM »
Registered Architect here, chiming in...

Getting a permit and submitting drawings to your local authority is a good start.  Your local library should have a copy of the applicable building code, including a section on 'Housing and Small Buildings' that should identify wood framing details.  There may also be span tables at the back of the code which indicates required depth, number of laminations, and nailing patterns if you need to crunch the numbers yourself.  Once you exceed a certain length, you will also need to provide more bearing at the ends, such as two not one stud widths, as a previous poster noted.  In my area, having the municipality review and stamp a permit does not absolve the Owner of complying with all code requirements.

As a quick estimation (not to be used as a substitute for actual engineering), the depth of the beam in inches should be 1/2 the span in feet + 2.  So, a 20' span would need a 12" deep beam (20/2 = 10 +2 = 12).  Of course, doubling the laminations can allow you to decrease overall depth slightly.

Also take care to avoid drilling holes in the top or bottom 1/3 of the beam if you need to get wiring through.  Forces are neutral in the center, so the middle 1/3 is your best bet.  I've seen many instances of saggy floors caused by notched joists and beams for electrical and plumbing work.

Good luck!

Jon Bon

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #17 on: July 17, 2016, 11:30:41 AM »
Posting mostly to follow.

So sizing the beam is as easy as this chart?

an 18 foot beam span, carrying 2,  15 foot floor joists would require 3 14 inch LVLs?

Just like that?!




paddedhat

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #18 on: July 17, 2016, 10:28:24 PM »
Posting mostly to follow.

So sizing the beam is as easy as this chart?

an 18 foot beam span, carrying 2,  15 foot floor joists would require 3 14 inch LVLs?

Just like that?!
Yes, and no. You are looking at a chart for a beam supporting one floor in a typical house. An application like this would be where you are removing a center bearing wall, on the first floor of a two story home, WITH a truss roof system, and just supporting the floor above, and any non-structural interior walls on that floor, no ceiling or roof loading at all. There are several LVL guides online that provide very clear illustrations regarding exactly how to size beams, everything from garage door headers to beams carrying several floor, ceiling and roof loads.

Jon Bon

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #19 on: July 18, 2016, 10:09:23 AM »
Thanks Paddlehat.

That is basically what I have. Load bearing wall of a two story home with stick framing in attic.

I guess a call to the building department and a talk with my architect neighbor might be in order!

To the OP and others following. I want to plug LVLs here. I have done some work with LVLs, they are probably the best option for most residential construction. Cheap and can be worked with traditional tools.

Steel is another option, also pretty cheap, super strong and smaller if you care about clean lines in your ceiling. The only issue it is much harder to work with. Weighing sometimes 10-20 pounds per foot. So a 20 foot beam is going to be 400 lbs and require special equipment to handle.






Macrolide

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #20 on: July 18, 2016, 03:13:04 PM »
Wow. I've been spending too much time over at Reddit DIY. I was expecting the OP to get ripped to shreds. Nope, not here. Just people that want to contribute with plain ol' helpful advice.

paddedhat

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #21 on: July 19, 2016, 07:35:26 PM »
Thanks Paddlehat.

That is basically what I have. Load bearing wall of a two story home with stick framing in attic.

I guess a call to the building department and a talk with my architect neighbor might be in order!

To the OP and others following. I want to plug LVLs here. I have done some work with LVLs, they are probably the best option for most residential construction. Cheap and can be worked with traditional tools.

Steel is another option, also pretty cheap, super strong and smaller if you care about clean lines in your ceiling. The only issue it is much harder to work with. Weighing sometimes 10-20 pounds per foot. So a 20 foot beam is going to be 400 lbs and require special equipment to handle.
This varies a bit from my answer. Typically, but not always, the fact that you have a stick framed roof would indicate that you are also picking up loads, maybe even live loads, from the ceiling and perhaps from a storage attic above. In some cases, the stick framing may have even transferred some roof load to the center wall. This is usually evident if there are posts supporting the ridge beam, or if there is angled framing transferring loads from the mid span of the rafters to the center bearing wall.

Papa bear

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #22 on: July 21, 2016, 02:36:07 PM »
Yeah Jon Bon.  You don't have a truss attic. I've been up there. Go talk to your neighbor.  And make sure your wife is ready for this.  I'll be there with a hammer.


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Blindsquirrel

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #23 on: August 13, 2016, 04:04:53 PM »
You can make your own composite beam/load bearing beam by ripping down plywood sheets and gluing the pieces together with wood glue to make a long thick beam. Look them up, the strength and yield limits on them is off the chain. Made a 12 footer out of 2 sheets of I think 3/4 inch plywood to tear out a wall about 15 years ago and it has not given 1/4 of an inch. You can also have them made for you.

paddedhat

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #24 on: August 14, 2016, 06:22:02 AM »
You can make your own composite beam/load bearing beam by ripping down plywood sheets and gluing the pieces together with wood glue to make a long thick beam. Look them up, the strength and yield limits on them is off the chain. Made a 12 footer out of 2 sheets of I think 3/4 inch plywood to tear out a wall about 15 years ago and it has not given 1/4 of an inch. You can also have them made for you.

Couple of issues with this. First, don't do it IF you are doing anything that needs to be blessed by an inspector.  There are too many variables to determine if the finished product is going to be acceptable, or a failure. Plywood selection, grade, fasteners, fastener schedule,  adhesive selection and more can affect the strength of the finished product. Field applied glues and construction adhesives are not factored in by most codes, since there is little control over their application. For example, I could use a decent wood glue to build a beam, and properly clamp and cure the joints under ideal conditions ( temp. humidity, clamp pressure, cleanliness, volume and application of adhesive, etc....) and end up with a great product. The framer down the street could use the same glue, in near freezing conditions, on dirty lumber, and shoot the entire assembly together with undersized air nails. His work is useless, mine is rock solid, and nobody can visually determine what is what.

The other issue is that a lot has changed in modern construction.  Laminated veneer lumber (LVL) is now common on most construction sites.  LVL is essentially a plywood beam like you made yourself. It has a few big differences, including the fact that all the veneers orient with the length of the beam, which is opposite of plywood, where alternate layers are rotated 90*.  It is also built under much tighter specifications than any field made beam could be.  It is incredibly strong, and has greatly reduced the use of steel beams and glu-lam beams, particularly if the glu-lam is structural and not a "show" beam, exposed in the final product.  Finally, the stuff has become such a commodity that it's pretty cheap. One way of looking at it is that LVL is roughly 3X as strong as the piece of lumber it replaces, such as a 2x10 or 2x12, and it's rough 3x the cost of the piece of lumber.  bottom line, I'm an old timer, and I've built plywood beams, and other built up structural beams. They can work well,  but now LVL is faster, cheaper, easier to use, and incredibly strong.

Blindsquirrel

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #25 on: September 06, 2016, 06:02:42 PM »
   That is a good point, I did not really have any better information when I built it but a carpenter friend showed me the deal. When we were done it was solid as a rock but it was a modest pain to make. We used really good plywood that was clean, dry, and we took our time making it with the final glue up spending about 5 days clamped and curing (real job got in the way of house renovation) . If I did today I would just buy it from Lowe's as it is cheaper/easier with the price/quality of plywood these days.

pekklemafia

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #26 on: October 02, 2016, 08:43:11 PM »
Hey everyone, back again with a super late update (even though we finished the beam back in july... I just never found time to forum after that.)

So, funny enough, we didn't have a load bearing wall after all. We went up into the attic and the way that the roof is designed (cottage-style, I think it's called), most of the loads are on the exterior walls... so we didn't have anything to worry about. My partner still engineered the beam to be for a load bearing wall, though, just to be safe, but since we have a bungalow, the beam is totally just holding up the ceiling :P

I appreciate all of the input, though. We almost did go down the route of getting a building permit and a structural engineer to look at it - and if you are not sure, that is definitely the best route - but fortunately we didn't have to.

Here's a picture on how it turned out, from a slightly different angle. It's been a couple months that we've opened up the wall, and so far the roof is not sagging... so I think we did ok.

ender

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #27 on: October 03, 2016, 07:01:19 AM »
Looks like you found a chance to get rid of the yellow paint, too ;-)

Metric Mouse

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Re: Removing a load bearing wall?
« Reply #28 on: October 09, 2016, 02:44:18 AM »
Looks awesome. Deff. a positive change.