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How to Remove a Load-Bearing Wall?

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Primary Blog/How to Remove a Load-Bearing Wall?

This post will continue right where Is That Wall Load Bearing? left off.

After reading that blog post, you may have asked yourself, “What is my next step?”

If you determine that you are dealing with a load-bearing wall. You’ll certainly want to know before reaching for your sledgehammer… That’s good because I’ll be covering the following today:

The steps involved in obtaining a Building Permit.

The different solutions available to help you stay on budget.

I’ll begin with this disclaimer…

If you are planning a large renovation, particularly one that involves altering the existing structure (or adding new structure), I recommend you start by assembling a team of qualified professionals who are well-versed in larger renovations.

1. A Designer with a BCIN (Building Code Identification Number). Communicate your vision to them, and they’ll translate it into a conceptual design. Putting digital pen to paper, so to speak.
The BCIN I mentioned qualifies them to draft, stamp, and submit permit drawings to the Municipality’s Building Department on your behalf.

2. A Licensed Structural Engineer to assess the situation. They’ll review the current structure and formulate a new structural design that suits the conceptual design; budget notwithstanding.

3. An experienced General Contractor, or subcontractor if you’re self-managing, to execute the renovation work. It all starts with knowing What Does a General Contractor Do? I have a five-part series dedicated to helping you find, qualify, and hire a General Contractor. Check it out!

Okay, so now you know the core members of your team.

Here is a play-by-play breakdown of the steps leading up until the contractor’s work:

1. Contact your Municipality’s Building Department and request to speak with a Plans Examiner. Review the proposed work with them. They are very receptive and will advise you when a Building Permit is required. A Building Permit is a must when there are structural alterations or additions involved.

2. The Structural Engineer must visually confirm the existing structural conditions. Factoring in the various structural loads and forces, they’ll create a new structural design.

3. The Structural Engineer will provide their structural details to a qualified Designer who will add them to the Permit drawings. The details will include the size and location of new posts and beams as well as connection details. Gusset plates, joists hangers, size, and length of screws or nails, etc.

4. The Structural Engineer will review and seal/stamp the structural design before the Permit drawings are submitted to the Building Department. The seal/stamp means shows they are licensed and responsible for the structural design.

5. You are ready to submit your Building Permit application to the Municipality’s Building Department. There are advantages to having a Designer with their BCIN submit the Permit Application on your behalf, including direct communication with the Plans Examiner.

6. The Building Department will complete their review, and if they don’t come back with comments, they’ll issue the Building Permit.

7. The work can then commence. The Building Permit must be posted where it’s clearly visible on the work site.

Follow the above steps exactly as I’ve outlined and you’ll be far better off than if you try to cut corners.

You know what they say. If you don’t do it right, then don’t do it at all.


What are some possible options to replace the load-bearing wall?

Well, with advancements in building materials and systems, there are solutions to every problem. It comes down to your vision and your budget.

Here are different options to achieve an open-concept floor plan from less intrusive to more intrusive.

The more intrusive the solution, the more costly the material and labor will be.

1. Create an opening in the load-bearing wall.

A header/lintel consisting of multiple layers of dimensional lumber (2×6, 2×8, 2×10, etc.) will span across the opening. The greater the width of the opening, the larger the lumber required. Each end of the header will sit on a post, or built-up framing (2×4, 2×6, etc.).

The structure below needs to be sufficient as well.

2. Remove a portion of the wall.

Add a surface-mounted beam. The structure above (i.e.: floor joists) will sit on top of a surface-mounted beam. Much like it already sits on top of the load-bearing wall.

A drywall bulkhead will have to be built around the surface-mounted beam.

Depending on the span, the beam will be multiple layers of dimensional lumber (mentioned above), a single layer or multiple layers of Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), or a steel I-beam.

Similarly to #1, the greater the width, the deeper the beam required. On either side of the header, it will sit on a post, or built-up framing (2×4, 2×6, etc.).

Again, the structure below needs to be sufficient.

3. Remove the entire wall.

There are two options:

A. Add a surface-mounted beam, similar to the process above.

Depending on the span, the beam will be multiple layers of Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL), or a steel I-beam. The greater the span, the larger the beam, and the larger the beam, the greater the size of posts or built-up framing required.

B. Add a flush beam.

Rather than the structure above (joists) sitting on the beam, the majority of the entire beam will be flush with the underside of the joists. The joists will be cut to put the beam in place, and joist hangers will be attached to the beam for the joists that have been cut short to connect to.

This is the most labor and cost-intensive amount of work.

Visualize the following.

Where I mention multiple layers and greater depths of beams, imagine you have a popsicle stick that’s laid flat. If you try to bend it, it will break rather easily. If that same popsicle stick is laid on its side, it becomes a bit more difficult.

If you get a larger popsicle stick, and try bending it on its side again, it becomes even more difficult. If you add two more layers of the larger popsicle sticks (similar to the image above), try to bend them. It’s nearly impossible without an extreme amount of force.

Take that same concept and apply it to a beam.

How do you support the floor/ceiling above if you’re removing the load-bearing wall that’s supporting it?

There are two different methods:

1. Build one temporary wall on either side of the load-bearing wall.

The temporary walls will need to tie into the structure above and below. Both walls together will pick up the slack once the load-bearing wall is removed.

2. Build temporary supports using jack posts.

Similar process to the above, but consists of dimensional lumber top plate and bottom plate used with jack posts to support the load transfer.

While the process I described may sound straightforward, do not go into a large renovation haphazardly. There needs to be a solid plan in place before you start the work.

That’s why you hire an experienced team to guide you through the process.

Does spending thousands on something you’ll never see when the renovation is finished send cold shivers up your spine?

Rest assured that it will be money well spent to ensure the safety of yourself, your family, or your tenants (if it’s an investment property).

To recap, today I’ve broken down…

…The importance of engaging an experienced team of professionals.

…The workflow for planning a large renovation including the Building Permit process.

…What options are available to replace that load-bearing wall with and how it’s properly done.

I’ll close out by saying this… Taking the time to properly plan is worth the small investment upfront, in order to avoid future mistakes.

Ensure you do your due diligence and it will pay dividends.

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Michael Emanuele

(a.k.a. ""The Real Estate Rehabber")

​Bestselling Author, Real Estate Investor, and Entrepreneur

I want to empower new and seasoned real estate investors alike to navigate the challenges of property rehabbing with confidence.

These resources include essential tips and insights, that every real estate investor can use to excel in the competitive world of property rehabbing.

​Whether your goal is to flip houses, create long-term rentals, or execute the buy-rehab-rent-refinance-repeat strategy, "The Real Estate Rehabber" will educate viewers on how they can plan and manage property rehabs.