What is the Difference Between Removing a Load Bearing Wall vs. a Non-Load Bearing Wall

Continued; The basics of a load bearing wall.
Hello, in our last blog we discussed how to remove a non-load bearing wall. In this blog, we will discuss removing a load a bearing wall. Before we start, we need to discuss the basics of a load bearing wall.
Let’s assume that we are removing a load bearing wall on the main floor with a full basement below and a second floor above. Below we will discuss the basics of removing the wall, and the steps to take to prepare for the wall removal, and then the process to remove the wall.
Pictures below are of a home where a load Bearing wall was removed and a flush beam installed.
A load bearing wall, is a wall that is carrying the weight of the house above it, such as the second floor, and/or roof. This weight that is carried through the wall is transferred to, and carried to the foundation and footings. Each stud in the wall is helping to carry the load, the weight above the wall is essentially dispersed evenly throughout the length of the wall.
All the weight that the wall was carrying will be dispersed through a header and a minimum of two posts. One post will be on the left and one post will be on the right when the wall is removed. This is assuming there is not a post in the middle to help carry the load.
Now, to carry the load of the house you need to calculate what header/beam will be able to carry the load. You usually have a material choice between a steel beam, and a LVL beam (Laminated Veneer Lumber). Based on the width of the wall removed and structure of the house, the beam can be installed flush in the ceiling or dropped below.
A flush beam will be buried in the ceiling joists above. Once the drywall is completed, you will never know there was a wall there, the ceiling will be flush. Based on the length of the wall being removed and the thickness of the existing floor joist, a flush beam may not be possible.
A dropped beam is essentially like a dropped header above an interior door. In some cases, a drop beam is the only option. In this case your designer or architect can work with the builder on the design for different types and styles to encapsulate a beam.
Once the beam is calculated and decided on, it is time to calculate the posts to carry the load of the beam. The posts can be steel, or PSL (Parallel Strand Lumber) are the two most commonly used posts.
The final step in the planning for removing a load bearing wall, is carrying the load of the wall and new posts down to the basement footings. If the post lands on the exterior wall, then the load can be carried through foundation to the footings.
If the post land in the interior of the home, then load needs to be carried to the basement with another post and most likely a new footing in the basement to carry the load. This is another blog to discuss the step needed for this.
To get the needed calculations for beams, posts, and footings you will need to consult with a local structural engineer. This is not free, but is needed to obtain a permit, and yes, a permit is required.
In the next blog, we will discuss the sizing if steel beams and LVL. If time permits we will discuss footings and post sizing as well. If you are looking at completing a remodel of any size, give Excel Builders a call at 612.524.5804.