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How to install a loead bearing beam?
The best way to make small or cramped rooms larger is to remove a wall between adjoining rooms. You’ll not only create a larger, more useful floor area but also give your home a feeling of spaciousness. You’ll wind up with an area that seems absolutely huge compared with the sum of the individual rooms. With this project, you can create a cavernous master bedroom from two moderately sized ones, join a kitchen and a dining room to make them feel larger (our project) or create a “great room” by joining the dining and living areas. The framing materials for a typical 12- ft. opening are relatively inexpensive. The bigger expenses will come after you complete the framing, when you restore the trim and redecorate.
In this story, we’ll show you how to remove nearly any wall and tell you how to add a structural beam if it’s needed. It may be scary to think about tearing walls out of your house, but don’t be intimidated. You can do it if you’ve done any basic carpentry work like framing in a wall or building a shed or deck. In fact, removing the wall and replacing it with a beam will only take a half day or less.
We’ll show you how to build a temporary support wall to hold up the floor above while you tear out the old wall. Then we’ll show you how to create the beam supports at each end. Finally, we’ll demonstrate a foolproof method for installing the beam itself. . You’ll need a helper for about an hour to help hoist the new beam into place (Photo 9), but you can do all the other work solo. Round up basic carpentry tools, including a cat’s paw (nail puller) and a flat bar, a sledgehammer, a circular saw and a reciprocating saw. Be sure to pick up a couple of 8-in. coarse-tooth bimetal blades for the reciprocating saw to cut through framing and nails during demolition of the old wall .
In the last step, we’ll also show how you can get a wide-open look (without weakening the house) by hiding a large, strong beam inside the ceiling, rather than placing it underneath. It’s a little more work because you’ll need to cut out more of the ceiling and build a second temporary wall, but the basic idea is the same.
Any lumberyard will be able to furnish the beam and other materials. Our 12-ft.-long beam was made from doubled 11-7/8-in.-wide x 1-3/4-in.-thick “LVLs” (laminated veneer lumber), a very common, strong type of beam that looks exactly like thick plywood boards.
The beam system we show will work for nearly any opening up to 12 ft. wide. But your beam could be made from other materials ranging from simple doubled 2x12s for shorter spans to more exotic beams consisting of glued and compressed stranded wood fibers or laminated 2x4s. Don’t worry—our techniques will work for whatever style beam your situation calls for.
For constructing the temporary support wall, buy three 2x4s the length of the wall for the plates and enough 2×4 studs to space them every 2 ft. (Photo 4). Also pick up a couple of shim packs and a 1-lb. box each of 8d and 16d nails.
Bang holes in the wall and check for obstructions. Remove any trim, slit the tape joint along the ceiling and adjoining walls, then remove the drywall from both sides of the wall.
Turn off electrical circuits in the wall.
Snap a chalk line about 12 in. out from the wall and cut a slot. Strip 1 ft. of ceiling drywall from one side of the wall. (Use shallow strokes to avoid nicking any electrical cables hidden in the ceiling.)
Full Scope of the Work
As a contractor, I opened up quite a few rooms by ripping out walls and replacing them with beams as needed. Two things always amazed my customers: how quickly and easily the beam part went and then how extensive the rest of the job was. That work generally includes drywall patching, respraying textured ceilings, entirely repainting the new room and replacing sections of wood trim. Usually electrical outlets and switches need to be repositioned, which calls for rerouting cable and rewiring devices. If the wall contains plumbing pipes or heating vents, a plumber and a heating contractor have to be called in. And the finished flooring always has to be replaced. Be sure to consider all of these secondary expenses when calculating the cost of your project. Most of the materials for those items are fairly inexpensive if you do the work, but it’s best to get bids ahead of time for whatever work you plan to hire out.
Knock out the bearing wall studs with a sledge and bend over the leftover nail shanks in the bottom plate to protect your feet.
Cut the nails that hold the backer studs and pry them out. You may have to pry open a gap with your chisel to reach the nails. Cut the backer stud in half to remove it.
Assemble two beam cradles from pairs of 2x4s and screw them to the tie plate and floor with 3-in. screws.
Cut the beam to length and cut notches to clear tie plates in adjoining walls. Then slip the beam members into place and rest them on the temporary cradles.
Cut blocking to fit between the floor joists directly under the trimmers at the beam ends. Toenail and end-nail the blocks to the surrounding framing.
Cut an opening at 21 7/8” from either side of the bearing wall (assuming it’s 4 1/2-in. wide) so you end up with a 48” opening to patch when you’re done. Add the temporary walls about 3-ft. from the bearing wall. Then tear out the bearing wall.
Finally, install the beam between the joists. LVLs are heavy, so install them one at a time. Fasten the joists to the beam with joist hangers. If the joists are also acting as collar ties, add new collar ties above them or consult an engineer (see Fig. C). Then cover the opening with drywall.
Figure B: Overview of Bearing Wall Removal
If there’s a bearing wall above the wall you want to remove, you’ll need a second pair of shoring walls directly above the first pair. Otherwise, the upper bearing wall will be supported only by the flooring when you cut sections out of the joists below.
Figure B: Bearing wall removal
Figure C: Collar Ties
Ceiling joists don’t just hold up your ceiling; they also prevent the rafters from pushing exterior walls outward. So if there’s an attic, rather than living space, above the bearing wall you want to remove, you’ll have to nail 2×4 collar ties to the rafters before you cut the ceiling joists.
Figure C: Collar ties