Taking Down Walls

Carpenter removing wall.

Taking down a wall or removing a section of one is a part of most major remodeling projects. Over the years, many of my customers have had us break through a wall in a little used formal dining room to enlarge the kitchen and create an open floor plan.

We’ve also removed quite a few walls for homeowners who want to transform small adjoining bedrooms into a single master suite. And, of course, exterior walls frequently need to be removed for additions in order to help integrate the new space with the old.

Some walls can be removed without much fuss. Interior walls that run parallel to floor or ceiling joists generally do not bear the weight of upper floors or the roof, and can be removed completely. But all exterior walls and most walls with ceiling joists or beams resting on their top plates are structural. If one of these walls is removed, a beam must take its place to support the weight above.

Before tearing out a bearing wall, my carpenters build a temporary wall to carry the load until the new beam is in place. If the opening is 10 ft. long or less, we fabricate the beam on site from 2-by lumber and plywood. The depth of the beam is critical, and remodeling contractors rely on span tables to specify the right size.

Wall removed and replaced with beam.

For longer spans, engineered beams make more sense. There are two basic types. “Glulam” beams are made from lengths of solid lumber glued together; they can take a stain and varnish finish. Laminated veneer lumber (LVL) beams are made from wood veneer, and are usually covered with drywall or solid wood for appearance sake.

When removing a wall, I usually recommend that the homeowners leave a short section of the wall in place on either side of the new opening. This makes it a lot easier to install the beam, and it also creates a bit of a corner for placing chairs, cabinets and other furniture or decorating elements.

Whether the wall is completely or partially removed, the demolition work is messy, so we isolate the area with plastic sheeting. And one thing that few people plan on is the void in the finished flooring that’s revealed when the wall comes down. It has to be patched, or a whole new floor has to be part of remodeling plans.

12 COMMENTS

  1. I’m looking to remove a door from one spot and cut a hole in the wall in a different area, and replace the door, can you please help, I will be replacing the old door with a peace of sheet rock. thanks

  2. Hello my name is Jason and I am remodeling a house that I just recently bought. I removed a wall in the living room/dining room so I could make a bigger room. It was 20 feet stretch. So I made a beam with 3 2X8 rough lumber with plywood in the middle. It sagged almost a 1/2 inch. Will this be ok for a long period of time. thanks

  3. @Jason I hope you are still alive. You are in deep doo. You need to contact an engineer to determine remedies here – your house is about to collapse.

  4. I have an opening of 11′ of a load bearing wall. Are two 2x8s sufficiant for the beam? The above talks of a “span Table” where can I find this?
    Thanks

  5. I own a row house in DC. We are considering removing load-bearing walls on the first floor to match the current open floor design market. We will be doing a complete gut of the house for a full remodel. However, rather than removing walls and adding load-bearing beams, we’re considering replacing the joists that support the 2nd floor with taller, stronger i-joists, a technique called “lofting”. Does anyone have any information on the relative cost and ease of implementation of lofting versus adding a beam? Are there other considerations?

  6. I want to knock out a frame/ outside wall of a bedroom to add a closet. OUTSIDE this area is an open, 8 foot deep patio UNDER THE MAIN PART OF THE ROOF. Do you still think this is a load bearing wall?

  7. lindadavis2928@comcast.netI have a 1990 double wide mobile home and I am trying to remodel my bedroom by taking the 2 sliding door closet out i’m putting my bed in the closet! So far it looks pretty good however, I have a dilemma. I have the two corners in the far left and far right that are empty that I would like to hang bars on to hang my clothes out of sight. I do not know how the framework is in the wall in a mobile home nor do I know how sturdy the ceiling in the closet would be, And I’m also thinking of other options for a closet and need some advice! Can you help?

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