Get advice on how to remove load bearing walls. Find out how to do this remodel project without making your home structurally unsound.
LESLIE: Mike in Maryland, listening on WJFK, is thinking about knocking down a wall. Let’s just hope it’s not a load bearing. What can we do for you?
MIKE: Yep, I have a 1950s (inaudible). Pretty much, once I take the drywall off, what are the simple indications of it being a load bearing wall ?
TOM: Well, where’s the wall that you want to take out, Mike?
MIKE: It’s between the kitchen and the living room.
MIKE: (inaudible) layout.
TOM: And so, is it parallel with the front and back walls of the house?
TOM: In 1950s ranch?
TOM: Most likely it is a load bearing wall.
LESLIE: Yeah. Is there a support pole in the basement right below where that wall would be?
MIKE: No basement.
TOM: There’s no basement? Is there a crawl space ?
MIKE: No crawl space. There’s a …
TOM: It’s on a slab? OK. Well, chances are it is a load bearing wall. If you go up in the attic above it, you may see that the ceiling joists criss-cross over that wall; another indication that it could be load bearing. There may be connections from the roof structure down there. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take it out. It just means you have to do it very carefully.
What’s your – what’s your vision here, Mike? Do you want like no wall at all between the kitchen and the living room?
MIKE: Right. Maybe a beam going across would be fine.
TOM: Then there’s two ways to do this. You can do it with a girder that would be visible or you could do it with something called a flush girder. In either case, the way it’s basically done is you build a temporary wall on either side of the wall you’re going to dissemble that will be temporarily holding up the house while you take that wall apart. And then you’re disassembling that load bearing wall. And if you’re going to do a girder, that would actually be easier because, basically, you would be putting a girder up there and then supporting it on the ends and you would see the girder so you would actually have that break. Or you could do a flush girder. And if there’s a flush girder, it’s a lot more work. But it looks nicer. It’s actually cut up in flush with the ceiling joists and then supported that way so that you have a continuously flat ceiling. But I would say …
LESLIE: But if you go with an exposed girder, you can then cover it with some salvaged wood  or make it look like it’s an exposed wood beam and then sort of mimic those across the rest of your ceiling.
TOM: Yeah, but Mike, by virtue of the fact that you’re asking this – how we can tell that this is a load bearing beam or not – I would suspect that this is probably not a project you should do yourself if you don’t have that level of experience. Because it could be a very costly mistake if you do it in the wrong order or, you know, miss an understanding of how the home is put together. So you might want to consider just getting a little bit of help with that part of the job and do the rest yourself.
MIKE: I appreciate it. Thank you very much.