What is a Load Bearing Wall?
A load bearing wall is just what it sounds like. Load-bearing walls are walls that are reinforced with extra beams and studs and are carrying a load above them (ie: roof system, second storey, etc.). The particular load depends upon whether the home where the wall is located is a single or two-story home, and how the roof system is constructed. Even single story homes have issues when it comes to opening walls. There may be an attic above that is supported by the load bearing wall, there may be heating and air duct-work, there may be wiring or plumbing work inside of the wall.
What if I want to remove a wall between my kitchen and dining room?
The decision to tear down a load bearing wall is usually made due to a need to open up or expand an area of the home. Generally we find this is typically between a kitchen and dining room to open up the space for a more open concept floor plan.
This decision should not be taken any more lightly than the load this wall carries. In this case, we recommend hiring a structural engineer or a knowledgeable, licensed and insured contractor with access to a structural engineer. We strongly advise this before deciding to take on this endeavor. Fortunately, at Mayfield Renovations, we are a design-build firm and our lead designer is a structural engineering technician who can advise on options available to remove walls. All structural changes require an approved City of Calgary building permit, which requires stamped, structural engineered drawings.
The first objective of the engineer and contractor will be to let you know if the current wall can be taken down or opened up. Wanting to open up a room by removing a wall or adding a doorway, and it actually being feasible are two different things. One of the most popular reasons for wanting to take on the project of tearing down a load-bearing wall is to add space. Obviously, opening a wall does not create any more square footage in a home, but it does make it seem that there is more useable space.
One of the most popular spaces people wish to open up is found in older homes where the kitchen and living areas are separate. However, not only the issue of the load above this area has to be taken into account, but also wiring and plumbing as bathrooms and other areas requiring plumbing are stacked, or placed on top of each other floor to floor in order to save money on running additional electrical or plumbing lines.
Another popular project is to open up a space to install barn doors. These have become very popular for openings to dining rooms, living rooms, and even master bedrooms on the main floor. However, the act of removing the existing wall still needs to be investigated, as the doors to be installed will not bear the weight above and therefore require structural support to ensure that your home retains its structural integrity.
Sometimes homeowners like where they live, but they need more space in the home. Rather than sell, the owner may decide on major renovations or additions. It is a significant undertaking to add a room to an existing structure. When this is done, there is absolutely the issue of load bearing walls, as it is not just bearing the weight of any floors above, but of the roof system and the exterior of the home itself.
If your structural engineer and contractor gives the project the green light, then there is still much more to the process than cutting out the wall itself. The process itself is quite labor intensive and time-consuming; often requiring the entire household days of being unsettled. Additional building materials that are not a part of the finished project will be used. For example, temporary support walls will have to be installed and these may have to be supported with temporary joists. All the work will have to take place above and around these extra supports.
Again, hire a certified, licensed, insured contractor and structural engineer. Mayfield Renovations meets those criteria. Please do not do this yourself with the help of relatives or neighbors. Use experts. As you can see, when considering the prospect of removing a load bearing wall, there is more work involved than just the removal of the wall. This is not a do-it-yourself project for the average homeowner or even the experienced DIY-er.
There are far too many things that can go wrong, and potential liabilities to not only your property but to others involved in the labor. Most people decide to take the do-it-yourself route to save money, while many others simply enjoy home projects. Saving money and fun should not be the considerations with this sort of project. The repercussions of improper changes to load bearing walls could far outweigh any money saved at the outset.
Do you have a project involving load bearing wall removal? We can help you easily make lasting changes to your home, from the initial consultation, through the structural design, City of Calgary permitting process through to the beautifully finished space. Contact Mayfield Renovations today to access our design team and structural engineers that would love the opportunity to discuss your project and the options available to you.
To view an example of how a structural change can make a statement within your home, please click on the link to our structural changes portfolio page.