Can I knock down a load bearing wall?

Written by william mccoy
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Can I knock down a load bearing wall?
A load-bearing wall has to be removed with extreme care. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

A load-bearing wall supports whatever is located above it. In two-story homes, the ground level has many load-bearing walls that help support the second floor. While you can knock down load-bearing walls during a renovation project, the process isn't just as simple as removing the wall and cleaning up your mess.

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Identification

Before you consider a demolition and renovation project involving a wall in your home, determine whether the wall is load-bearing. If not, you can simply knock it down and complete your renovation as desired. Interior load-bearing walls often run in the opposite direction of the floor joists. Load-bearing walls are also not typically stacked one over another on adjacent floors. The best way to know for sure if a wall is load bearing is to have a home builder or renovation expert look at the wall.

Temporary support

The first step to knocking down a load-bearing wall is to build a temporary support wall. The temporary support is the shape of an upside-down, square "U" and you can make it out of 10 by 10 cm (4 by 4 inch) and 5 by 10 cm (2 by 4 inch) beams. Build the support and place it up to 90 m (3 feet) away from the wall you plan to knock down, making sure the support is firmly wedged against the ceiling to hold up the structure once you remove the load-bearing wall.

Demolition

Once you've safely supported the load-bearing wall, you can knock it down carefully. Use a sledgehammer to knock through the drywall to expose the framing and any electrical or plumbing that runs through the wall. If the wall is void of electrical wires and plumbing, the demolition job is as simple as removing the drywall and cutting the studs. If the wall contains wires and pipes, you'll likely need to call an electrician or plumber to look at the situation for you. The key with a load-bearing wall is to not knock down the entire wall; leave at least two vertical joists at each end of the wall.

Permanent support

Upon removing the load-bearing wall, the structure above will be held up by your temporary support. This structure is not permanent, so it's important to build a more permanent support structure. Typically, this type of support is a large metal or wooden beam. If you use a metal beam, you may want to drywall over it, but a wooden beam can add character in the right setting. You must place the support beam across the top of the opening you recently created so that it's resting on the joists at each end of the opening.

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