Can I Remove This Wall? Removing a Load-Bearing Beam (2022)

Updated: Aug. 27, 2019

Almost any wall can be removed-it's a matter of how much you're willing to spend

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Can I Remove This Wall? Removing a Load-Bearing Beam (1)Family Handyman

People are always asking remodeling contractors, 'Can I remove this wall?' And the answer is, 'Yes, any wall can be removed. But there are a lot of factors that affect the difficulty and cost of the job.' In this article, we'll explain these factors, including how to tell if the wall is load bearing, what hidden costs you may encounter, and what professional services you'll need to hire to get the job done.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

What’s inside the wall? How to tell if a wall is load bearing

Can I Remove This Wall? Removing a Load-Bearing Beam (2)

Check from the basement to see what’s in the wall

Look for pipes, ducts and wiring that run up into the wall. If you discover plumbing, heat ducts or wiring and aren’t sure whether relocating them is a DIY project, call in a pro to get an estimate of the work involved and what it will cost.

You might think the first thing you should figure out is whether the wall is load bearing (more on that later). But in fact, what’s inside the wall can present a much bigger obstacle. Heating, plumbing and electrical lines will have to be rerouted. And sometimes, moving those lines is a huge task-so difficult that removing the wall just isn’t practical. Figure A shows the most common things found inside a wall.

A main drain running through the wall from a second-floor bathroom could be very difficult and expensive to reroute. Heating and air conditioning ducts often run through interior walls, and these can be hard to relocate. So the first step is to figure out what’s hidden behind the drywall.

(Video) How To: Removing a Load Bearing Wall! (EASY STEP-BY-STEP)

Figure A: What’s Inside a Wall

  • Air ducts almost always run up and down through the wall. Supply ducts are usually sheet metal, and coldair returns like the one shown here use the stud space. If you discover either one, you’ll have to find a way to relocate it. If the duct is supplying a room above, this can be a difficult job.
  • Water pipes can run vertically or horizontally-that gives you a lot of flexibility in relocating them. Just remember that in cold climates you can’t run them in outside walls.
  • Waste and vent lines aren’t always easy to move because of plumbing restrictions on turns and horizontal runs. You may need a building inspector’s advice.
  • Gas pipes are relatively easy to relocate, but you may need to hire a plumber to do it.
  • Wiring is one of the easiest things to move, but all connections must be made inside a code-approved electrical box and the box must be left accessible. You can’t bury a junction box in the floor or ceiling.

Detective Tips

You can’t be absolutely certain what’s inside a wall until you tear off the drywall. But you can often get a very good preview by looking for a few clues:

  • Cover plates, grilles or fixtures-look on both sides of the wall.
  • Pipes or wires exiting the wall in the attic above or the basement below the wall.

Is it a bearing wall? How do you know if a wall is load bearing

Only some of your walls are needed to hold up your house. These are called bearing walls. The rest of the walls, the partition walls, are simply there to divide rooms. You can remove either type of wall, but if the wall is load bearing, you have to take special precautions to support the structure during removal, and to add a beam or other form of support in its place.

So how do you know whether a wall is load bearing? Some bearing walls are easy to spot (see the central wall in Figure B). If your wall conforms to the situation shown, you can be sure it’s load bearing.

Ceiling or floor joists that are spliced over the wall, or end at the wall, mean the wall is bearing. Look for these from the attic. Walls that are stacked may be load bearing. Find these by measuring or by studying a floor plan of your house. In some cases, you may not be able to tell for sure whether a wall is bearing. If you’re not sure, hire a contractor or structural engineer to help you figure it out.

Figure B: Types of Walls

  • The outside walls are supporting the roof, so they’re bearing walls.
  • A beam directly under a wall usually means that it’s a bearing wall, whether the beam is in a crawl space, basement or on the main floor.
  • Ceiling joists that meet over the wall indicate that it’s a bearing wall. It is carrying the weight of the ceiling.

Options for replacing a bearing wall

Can I Remove This Wall? Removing a Load-Bearing Beam (3)

Figure C: Adding a beam under the ceiling

The most common method to support the structure after you remove a wall is to add a beam under the ceiling. This is the easiest method because you don’t have to cut into the joists or other framing above the beam. You also have to support the ends of the beam with posts that carry the load to the foundation.

Can I Remove This Wall? Removing a Load-Bearing Beam (4)

(Video) Ripping Down a Support Wall and Installing a 16 Foot Beam

Add a beam where the wall was

This two-part laminated-veneer- lumber (LVL) beam is strong enough to support the load above. Built-up 2×4 posts will support the ends of the beam.

Can I Remove This Wall? Removing a Load-Bearing Beam (5)

Add hangers and straps

After the new recessed beam is in place, joist hangers and straps are added to tie everything together.

If you want to remove a bearing wall, the main thing to keep in mind is that you have to replace the wall with some other means of support, and transfer the weight down to the foundation. There are a few different ways to do this. Figure C shows a typical situation where a beam is installed under the ceiling. But you can also hide the beam by recessing it (Figure D).

Adding a beam is only part of the solution. You also have to support the ends with posts. And the posts have to carry the load to the foundation. Figure C shows one example of how this works. If you add new posts in the basement, they should rest on footings (Figure E).

If you plan to remove a bearing wall, we recommend hiring a structural engineer. An engineer will inspect the house, calculate the size of the beam and posts you’ll need, and determine whether you’ll need to add support under the posts. In most cases, the city will require beam calculations in order to approve a permit, so the money spent on an engineer won’t be wasted. Call around to find a structural engineer who’s familiar with residential construction and is willing to take on a small job at a reasonable cost. Expect to spend $300 to $1,000 for this service.

If you’re interested in the step-by-step process of removing a bearing wall and adding a beam, check out How to Install a Load-Bearing Beam.

Figure D: Adding a beam flush to the ceiling

Figure E: Posts require footings

What else should I know before I remove a wall?

Taking out a wall is one of those projects that can mushroom into a lot more work than you originally intended. For example, it’s easy to overlook the fact that you’ll have to patch or replace the flooring. If you have hardwood floors, and the boards run parallel to the wall you’re removing, you can easily patch in floorboards. But you’ll still have to refinish the floors to blend in the patch. If the flooring boards run perpendicular to the wall, the job gets a lot more difficult.

If you have carpet, tile, vinyl or laminate flooring, you’ll probably have to replace it or put up with an obvious patch. The only other option is to install a strip of wood or some other threshold-like treatment to cover the gap where the wall was. And remember, you’ll also have to patch the walls and ceiling alongside the new beam and posts, and touch up or repaint the newly joined rooms. Adding these costs to the budget now will avoid surprises later.

Originally Published: August 27, 2019

(Video) Remove load bearing wall during lockdown

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Popular How-To Videos

FAQs

Can I remove a load bearing beam? ›

In most homes, you can remove any portion of a load-bearing wall. However, this depends on what's inside the wall and how you intend to redistribute the weight. Once you decide to create an opening in a bearing wall, you'll need to shift the loads above it. Usually, this is done using a properly sized beam.

What happens if you remove a load bearing beam? ›

Removing a load bearing wall may create structural problems in a home, including sagging ceilings, unleveled floors, drywall cracks, and sticking doors. Recognizing the warning signs of this is important.

Can we remove wall from a load bearing structure? ›

You can remove either type of wall, but if the wall is load bearing, you have to take special precautions to support the structure during removal, and to add a beam or other form of support in its place.

How do you remove a beam from a load-bearing wall? ›

When i insert the header the header will hit the two by fours and support them the two by fours will

Can beam be removed? ›

Hi, welcome to the forum and "Nope," there is no way you can remove that beam. The joists overlap at the beam as the beam is supporting the ends of BOTH joists. In fact, the shims under some joists should indicate that it is a load bearing beam. Also it looks like you need some shims under all of the joists.

Can you replace a load-bearing wall with a beam? ›

When you or a contractor remove a load-bearing wall, it must be replaced with either a structural beam or a structural beam and post or posts.

How much does it cost to remove a load-bearing wall and install a beam? ›

Replacing a load-bearing wall with a support beam costs $4,000 to $10,000. Hiring a structural engineer for load-bearing wall removal calculations runs $300 to $1,000. Creating a kitchen pass-through costs $1,000 to $4,000. Get free estimates from wall removal contractors near you or view our cost guide below.

Will house collapse if load-bearing wall is removed? ›

Even if you remove a load-bearing wall, the home won't immediately collapse to the ground. To be clear – over time, the missing load-bearing wall will lead to structural damage.

How many load-bearing walls does a house have? ›

Some homes built in the past 50 years only use the front and back exterior walls as load-bearing walls, while most older homes use all the exterior walls to bear loads. Any exterior wall that stands on the foundation sill can be considered load bearing.

Can you remove a load-bearing wall in a two story house? ›

Can I Get Rid of A Load-Bearing Wall? The short answer is yes, absolutely — most load-bearing walls can be removed once there's an alternate support system in place that can continue to provide a balanced transfer of weight.

How do you know if a wall can be removed? ›

Generally if the wall in question runs parallel to the floor joists above it, it is not a load-bearing wall. If it runs perpendicular or at a 90-degree angle to the joists there is a good chance that it is structural. Again this is not a hard-and-fast rule but it is a guideline of something you can look for.

How do you know if a beam is load bearing? ›

Check the foundation — If a wall or beam is directly connected to the foundation of your house, it is load bearing. This is extremely true for houses with additions, as even though these walls may be interior now, they were previously exterior walls, and are extremely load bearing.

How do you calculate the beam size to remove a load-bearing wall? ›

Multiply the loading per square foot by the area in square feet of the surface which the beams will be supporting. Divide by the number of beams which will be installed to get the loading per beam.

Do you need a structural engineer to remove a wall? ›

It is always best to check with a builder or structural engineer before removing any wall. They will be able to tell you whether or not the wall is load bearing, supporting the weight of any of the following: The roof: In older houses the roof structure often relies on support from an internal wall.

Can you replace a load-bearing wall with columns? ›

If you have an existing home that feels cramped, replacing load-bearing walls with stylish columns is a great alternative. However, this is no DIY project for the homeowner to tackle. Identifying load-bearing walls can be difficult.

What is the main support beam in a house called? ›

Girder beams are the main horizontal support beam in any structure. They support the joist beams and all other beams found in a home. Girders will be the largest beam in a building and number much fewer than other beams in a building, such as joists.

How do you open up a load-bearing wall? ›

How to Cut a Pass-Through in a Load Bearing Wall | Ask This Old House

How can you tell if a wall is load bearing in a two story house? ›

To determine if a wall is a load-bearing one, Tom suggests going down to the basement or attic to see which way the joists run. If the wall is parallel to the joists, it's probably not load-bearing. If the wall is perpendicular, it's most likely load-bearing.

What is used to replace a load-bearing wall? ›

The most common support system used to replace a load-bearing wall is a beam under the ceiling and columns or posts which carry the weight down to the foundation.

How do you replace a supporting wall beam? ›

Ripping Down a Support Wall and Installing a 16 Foot Beam - YouTube

How much does it cost to remove a supporting wall? ›

How Much will it Cost? To remove a load-bearing wall, construction will likely cost between $1,200 and $3,000 if you have a single-story home, and between $3,200 and $10,000 for multi-story homes.

Should I remove the wall between kitchen and dining room? ›

One of the biggest perks of removing a wall between kitchen and dining room is that it creates an open space with no walls separating any areas. This makes cooking meals and gathering around a table far more sociable than before. An open concept also helps improve the overall flow of the house.

How long does it take to knock down a load-bearing wall? ›

Removing internal walls can take between 5 and 10 days once the work starts. Removal of load-bearing walls usually takes the longest amount of time due to the need for additional work and the installation of the steel joist, and making good, plastering, skirting and painting etc.

How much does it cost to knock down a wall between kitchen and living room? ›

Removing a wall can cost anywhere between $300 and $10,000 depending on the scope of the entire project. Non-load bearing walls run between $300 to $1,000 according to HomeAdvisor. Cost factors include the size of the wall, expert advice and repairs to your ceiling, floor and adjacent walls post-removal.

Do load-bearing walls run the length of the house? ›

When a support beam is located directly below a wall, you can expect the wall to be a load-bearing one. You will usually find this near the center of the house and running the length of the house.

What happens if supporting wall is removed? ›

A load-bearing wall supports the weight of other elements of the house, such as the roof or a wall above, so taking it out without professional help could have a dramatic effect on your home: “If the building isn't supported correctly during the removal then there's a risk of the building actually collapsing,” warns ...

What is the thickness of load-bearing wall? ›

The minimum thickness of interior load-bearing walls shall be 8 inches (203 mm). The unsupported height of any wall constructed of adobe units shall not exceed 10 times the thickness of such wall.

Do single story homes have load-bearing walls? ›

In a single-story home with a stick-built gabled roof, the bearing walls are the exterior walls where the rafters rest. The load from the roof is transferred from the rafters to the walls and down to the foundation footings. In addition, there may be one or more interior walls that support the ceiling joists.

How can I tell if a wall is load-bearing? ›

If a wall runs at a perpendicular angle to the joists, it is load-bearing. Any wall that doesn't support another wall is most likely not a load-bearing wall. If a wall provides direct support to the structure of a house, it's a structural wall that you should not remove.

Are 2x4 ever load-bearing? ›

If it's a solid 2x6 or greater turned vertically going from the jack stud on one side to the other, there's a good chance the wall is load bearing. If there are only cripple studs on a flat 2x4 to give you something to attach the drywall, it likely isn't load bearing.

Are all exterior walls load bearing? ›

Almost all exterior walls are load bearing, but in some instances, especially in larger homes, interior walls can be load bearing as well.

How much does it cost to move a wall in a house? ›

Written by HomeAdvisor. Removing a wall costs between $300 and $1,000 if it is a non-load-bearing wall. On the other hand, removing a load-bearing wall costs $1,200 to $3,000 for a single-story home. The price increases to $3,200 to $10,000 for homes with more than one level.

Do you need planning permission to remove a internal wall? ›

You should not need to apply for planning permission for internal alterations including building or removing an internal wall. If you live in a listed building, however, you will need listed building consent for any significant works whether internal or external.

How do you know if a interior column is load-bearing? ›

The best place to start is by consulting any building plans or original blueprints you may have. These should indicate whether your interior columns or exterior porch columns are load bearing or simply decorative. If a wall or column is structural, it will usually be marked with an "S".

How do you know if a partial wall is load-bearing? ›

Look for floor joists.

If any of these joists meet a wall or a main support beam at a perpendicular angle, they are transferring the weight of the floor above into the wall and, thus, the wall is load bearing and should not be removed.

Can a stud wall be load-bearing? ›

Of course, studwork can be used for load-bearing walls — in timber framed homes, timber stud walls are used everywhere. Studwork doesn't have to be timber. Many builders like to use steel channels, which are lightweight and fast to erect, making it ideal for partition walls where loading isn't an issue.

What are the three types of beams? ›

Types of beam structure
  • Continuous beams. A continuous beam is one that has two or more supports that reinforce the beam. ...
  • Simply supported beams. Simply supported beams are those that have supports at both end of the beam. ...
  • Fixed beams. ...
  • Overhanging beams. ...
  • Cantilever beam.

Are bathroom walls load-bearing? ›

It is not common for engineers to make the bathroom wall load bearing. As a result, the majority of the bathroom walls are not load-bearing.

How do you know if a beam is load bearing? ›

Check the foundation — If a wall or beam is directly connected to the foundation of your house, it is load bearing. This is extremely true for houses with additions, as even though these walls may be interior now, they were previously exterior walls, and are extremely load bearing.

How much does it cost to replace a load bearing wall with beam? ›

Replacing a load-bearing wall with a support beam costs $4,000 to $10,000. Hiring a structural engineer for load-bearing wall removal calculations runs $300 to $1,000. Creating a kitchen pass-through costs $1,000 to $4,000. Get free estimates from wall removal contractors near you or view our cost guide below.

How do you replace a load bearing beam? ›

Removing a Load Bearing Beam - YouTube

How do you calculate the beam size to remove a load bearing wall? ›

Multiply the loading per square foot by the area in square feet of the surface which the beams will be supporting. Divide by the number of beams which will be installed to get the loading per beam.

What is a load-bearing beam called? ›

A girder is the main load-bearing beam in a structure and is supported by posts. Joist is a structural member supported by beams. Therefore, the main beam in your house isn't just a “main beam” – it's a girder beam. And the floor joists in your house are not just “joists”, but are technically “joist beams”.

Do load-bearing walls run the length of the house? ›

When a support beam is located directly below a wall, you can expect the wall to be a load-bearing one. You will usually find this near the center of the house and running the length of the house.

How do you tell if a load-bearing wall has been removed? ›

If a wall runs at a perpendicular angle to the joists, it is load-bearing. Any wall that doesn't support another wall is most likely not a load-bearing wall. If a wall provides direct support to the structure of a house, it's a structural wall that you should not remove.

Do I need a structural engineer to remove a wall? ›

If the wall is not load-bearing, then it shouldn't be a problem to remove, provided you know what you're doing and take all the necessary precautions. If, however, the wall is load-bearing, you may need to get help from a structural engineer who can provide you with a structural engineer's report.

How do you cut opening a load-bearing wall? ›

Steps for Cutting a Pass-Through in a Load-Bearing Wall

Hammer the studs into the temporary wall until they're snug. Use a drill/driver to secure a brace across the studs. Use a level to draw the outline for the opening. Cut the opening using a reciprocating saw.

How can I tell if a wall is load bearing? ›

From a basement or crawlspace, check to see if another wall or support structure is directly below a first-floor wall. If a wall has a beam, column or other wall directly below or following its same path, it's a load-bearing wall. Walls more than 6 inches thick are usually load-bearing walls.

How much does it cost to open up a wall? ›

Removing a wall can cost anywhere between $300 and $10,000 depending on the scope of the entire project. Non-load bearing walls run between $300 to $1,000 according to HomeAdvisor.

What is used to replace a load-bearing wall? ›

The most common support system used to replace a load-bearing wall is a beam under the ceiling and columns or posts which carry the weight down to the foundation.

Can you replace a load-bearing wall with columns? ›

If you have an existing home that feels cramped, replacing load-bearing walls with stylish columns is a great alternative. However, this is no DIY project for the homeowner to tackle. Identifying load-bearing walls can be difficult.

Are all exterior walls load bearing? ›

Almost all exterior walls are load bearing, but in some instances, especially in larger homes, interior walls can be load bearing as well.

How much does it cost to add a load bearing beam? ›

Load-Bearing Support Beam Cost

A load-bearing support beam costs $5 to $20 per foot on average, or between $50 and $200 per foot installed. Support beam materials other than steel include engineered beams like LVL or Glulam, wood, and concrete. LVL beams cost $3 to $12 per foot, while wood beams run $5 to $20.

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