Removing a Load Bearing Wall

Category: Do it Yourself

This weekend we finished opening up a "nook" corner of the master bedroom.

The Problem
Our aspirations for the second floor include a master bedroom that's a warm and cozy retreat. (A necessary luxury as we go the slow "live-in-it--as-you-restore" route.) To get more space, we wanted to convert an ajoining closet into a reading nook by removing this wall:

masterbedroomplancircled.jpg

Unfortunately, this is a load-bearing wall. Assuming we don't want the roof to cave in on us as we sleep, removing it would take some extra effort.

Our Solution
With some extra effort and planning, we could still cut out the load-bearing wall. We just needed to replace the support provided by the wall studs we removed.

How it Went
Prior to this project, we'd already removed a closet that had been added by the previous owner within the room. This opened up the space a little, but we still wanted more. The duct tape in this photo outlines the edges of the nook we wanted to create:

The angle is due to the roof line. This will give the room lots of character, but poses a few additional challenges to the project.

First, we used a sawzall and a crowbar to remove the plaster and expose the wall studs. Even though we'll eventually have an angled wall above the nook (necessary to match the roofline), we had to remove the plaster and lathe all the way to the ceiling in order to brace the wall properly.

Then we removed the baseboard trim. We did this carefully, so that we can re-use the trim when finishing the room later on.

We were ready to remove the studs. For each one, we cut them near the base, dislodged the bottom with a sledge hammer, then twisted each one until the top came free.

Because the studs help to hold up the roof above, we didn't fully remove them. After cutting one free, we replaced it again to bear the load once we had removed the final stud. The weight was then transfered to this single stud.

Next, we installed the first of two 2x8s that will act as the new support system. Because we rotated the last stud 90 degrees, we were able to slide the new 2x8 in beside it.

We then re-used the old studs as support for the new brace. We cut them to the right length with the cordless trim saw and then forced them in place under each end using a sledge hammer.

With the basic support structure in place, we removed the temporary stud, slid a second 2x8 in beside the first, and nailed everything into place.

Basically, that did it! After a little framing work in preparation for finishing off the angled wall, we wrapped up for the night.

One interesting thing about the project was that the old 2x4 studs are actually slightly larger than modern 2x4s. Reusing the studs was handy because boards of the same dimension will make it easier down the road to create a smooth finished surface. We're hoping we'll get to that by late winter. For now, removing the ceiling will be the next major step for the room...

Tool & Materials We Used
- Milwaukee Sawzall
- Cordless Trim Saw
- Crowbar
- Sledge hammer
- Three hammers (For a funny story click here.)

Other Useful Resources
- How to Identify a Load Bearing Wall
- Renovating Old Houses (A fantastic book in general, which also addresses load bearing walls.)


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Comments

Very interesting! Will you put a window in the new nook?

Yep, we've been considering it. We'll also be adding a Velux skylight in the bedroom so it should get lots of great light!

I want to open the wall between two rooms by about 12 feet on the middle level of my house. This is a load bearing wall. After building a new header to support the upstairs what do I need to do to support the middle level. There is a steel beam directly under the wall I want to remove.

Can you please tell me where i go to get a floor plan of my house that shows where my load bearing walls are???

Angela--

Unfortunately, there is no place you can go for this information. We drew our floor plans ourselves. The second floor was drawn by my dad, who is an engineer and who has done quite a bit of drafting in his lifetime. Aaron did the first floor.

With careful measurements, using graph paper and knowing some basic math, most people should be able to draw their floor plans.

Here is a great link that helps to describe how you begin to determine which walls are "load bearing." Old houses can be tricky. If you aren't familiar with identifying load bearing walls, you might want to have a structural engineer examine your house before you take down any walls. You will be happier in the long run!

how do i take a load bearing wall down to make a door way and then to make safe. thanks. sue.

Sue--

That is a great question. I think you should turn to the professionals on this one! If you don't have a contractor or carpenter working with you, you may want to ask for advice on the Breaktime message board at Fine Homebuilding.

We aren't qualified to assess structural issues in other folks' houses and we wouldn't want to steer you in the wrong direction.

Thanks for stopping by the site.

 

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