Bearing Walls & Moving an interior door?


Old 04-25-05, 11:19 AM
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Bearing Walls & Moving an interior door?

New to home ownership here, and my assumption is that the below work will need permits. My primary question I suppose is where do I start / what processes to follow before taking on this project?

Obviously will fully research the proper procedures for the alterations and will do everything 'right'.

My house (built in 1969) is one level, relatively rectangular.
One wall runs the most of the 'length' of the house, roughly in the center. This wall divides the kitchen/living room, and a hallway/two bedrooms. My assumption is that this is a load bearing wall. How can I confirm for sure? Do cities keep blueprints of every house built?

There is currently a doorway (no door) between the living room and kitchen on this wall. I would like to shift that 'doorway' about four feet and widen it slightly to turn it into more of an archway (slightly wider than a door) than a door jamb missing a door. An outlet and switch will need to be relocated.

Additionally, the side wall of a kitchen has another doorless jamb connecting to the family room. This wall runs perpindicular to the main wall above. I would like to enlarge this door by about a foot.

Thanks for any insight you can offer.

Last edited by Doug Aleshire; 04-25-05 at 02:05 PM.
Old 04-25-05, 01:55 PM
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Load Bearing walls – Where is it?

First and foremost is to understand that what is written here, is a summary of what it is and how one MIGHT find them. It is always recommended that you acquire a Structural Engineer or at least, a General Contractor whose experience can assist in determining what is and is not “load bearing”. This is also not normally a do-it-yourself project.

There are too many issues that determines what is and isn’t a load bearing wall. I’ve heard stories that if there is a gap between the joists and wall below, it is not load bearing. Not always true! I’ve heard that if the walls has a header at an interior opening, that it is a load bearing wall. Not always true! The point is, that making the wrong assumption can be a disaster waiting to happen. What one sees and assumes as correct and logical may not be the correct story. What if what you see was done incorrectly by another carpenter and you think it is right? Then what will you do when you start to tackle your project without taking the proper steps in the first place?

Let’s assume you have a basement, most beams have floor joists placed over them. Directly above these beams, steel or wood, there may be a wall placed directly over it. This is “usually” load bearing. This is the method in which to transfer the load to a “load bearing point” at the lowest level.

Look at the basement ceiling for a wall or beam running along the same line as the wall upstairs. The presence of a supporting wall below usually indicates the wall above will also be bearing. The weight of the ceiling transfers downward from one wall to the one beneath, and then to the ground.

Let’s assume that you have a slab on grade. You can look in the attic to see whether structural members -- ceiling joists, beams, or rafters -- are supported by the wall in question. Overlapping of the above members over a wall below, means it is load bearing. Removal of this wall, if it does not have a header, means that removal would cause collapse of the ceiling or floor system above.

This can be difficult to determine even for an experienced carpenter. Analyzing the wall loads in large, complicated homes is tough enough to understand. When there have been previous renovations, determining what is and isn’t load bearing can become nearly impossible. Even building inspectors rely on what some call, the "when in doubt" principle... when in doubt, assume the wall is load bearing and act accordingly.

It is easy to understand how renovations can cause weight to be transferred onto formerly non-load bearing partition walls. One area that many do not think about is that adding a second floor addition, partial (one that does not expand to the entire lower level exterior walls) will mean that some transfer of the load will be moved to other areas. Without properly installing beams, properly sized for span and load, you would be susceptible to possible sagging floors, windows and doors, even the collapse of your home.

For example, the addition with a new stairway or open to the above foyer entry, often requires cutting of ceiling joists, which can also transfer loads from the original walls... the main (center of the house) beam and the outside wall, onto non-load bearing walls that are in between them. Adding a room in an attic can change the entire load bearing status of the walls below. What is worse, in some types of construction, such as post and beam or steel girder, it may not have any bearing walls at all except for the outside walls. Then the issue is how do you install the proper supports and beams? This may mean new support posts in the lower level and proper sizing beams just to hold up that new addition or renovation work you want to do.

Things that I check would be,

Is there a significant load above, any built-up or pre-manufactured beam or another wall directly above that must be considered?

What about the roof system? Is it stick built, pre-manufactured trusses? Where does the load go? If you are unsure, ask a professional to look at it.

If you can view the joists in the attic, is the wall parallel or perpendicular to them? Generally, load bearing walls are perpendicular to the joists they support. If two separate floor joists or ceiling joists that intersect or overlap over a wall, that wall should be considered load bearing.

Is it an outside wall? You should consider all outside walls load bearing. If the house has been remodeled, a former outside wall could now be an inside wall. You need to look closely at the foundation to find these hidden load bearing walls. If any additions were done, the new load bearing foundation may not be visable without going into a crawl space.

Look at the beams and posts in the basement. In homes that have 2 or more floors, posts and beams in the basement indicate bearing walls above them, these can be duplicated to the floors above. Be aware that these multi-floor bearing walls may not be directly above each other. This is critical.

Basements can sometimes be a maze of beams and posts, crisscrossed and interlocked. Careful inspection is necessary to determine how this is carrying what above.

Hope this helps!
Old 04-26-05, 07:06 AM
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to me, it sounds like your load bearing wall IS load bearing. (because it is likely that attic joists bear on it.)

enlarging/moving your doors is PROBABLY ok, but you should have someone more experienced than yourself look at the situation. It's possible that it might not be ok.

What would make it ok?

1) you have a very regular framing of the attic - all joists the same (except at entrance to the attic) - all joists bearing on top of your bearing wall.

What would make it not ok?

1) below - in the basement - there is another beam and columns - this COULD be taking heavy point loads & relocating the door may disrupt this.

What is likely?

1) It'll be a bearing wall, but you can frame up the old opening, cut in a new opening with a heavy header (probably doubled 2x8's, 2x10's or 2x12's depending on width of opening)

Note: I'm not talking about your second door, but it should be similar to this one.

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