This is a two-story house. The only other two-story we’ve ever owned was a town house and the kitchen was pretty open to begin with. We did end up opening it up even more, but it already had a pass through between the kitchen and living room (and therefore support beams already in place).
We have taken down walls in one-story houses without any issue, but the fact that there was a second story up there kinda made me anxious.
I was hoping that this wall wasn’t load bearing, but I figured it probably was. The hubs got in the attic to double check, and of course it is. (We actually have a 1.5 story, so the boys’ room is over the kitchen, but we have attic space over the living room. The wall that runs down the side of their bedroom is visible from the attic. I’m sure that makes no sense.) Also, there’s not enough room between floors to move a beam up into the ceiling. Our boys’ bedroom floor is *right there* over this ceiling.
That was pretty annoying to hear, but I wasn’t discouraged. I knew we could still open it up but we’d just have to keep a header beam. Normally I’d cry about that (totally kidding…or maybe not), but since we already have the lower support beam at the entryway, we’d just kinda mirror that over by the kitchen.
Since the front door is so close to the living room, I actually LIKE the header on that side to give a bit of a feel of separation. So, what’s another header on the other side? No big deal. I can work with it.
In fact, it was actually best to leave a column anyway, since it gave us somewhere to run all of the gas and electrical lines, as well as somewhere to hold all the living room light switches without having to practically reconfigure our entire first floor common areas.
I showed you the kitchen side of that “column” in my last post.
So we proceeded with the plan to tuck everything away into the corner beside the ovens, and leave a “column” (I keep putting that in quotes because it’s not really a column so much as a strip of wall) on the living room side.
As much as I love a huge island, I really couldn’t knock out the entire wall in this house. It’s just not laid out to where that’s a possibility, unless I wanted my front door to open right into the end of my island. And relocating the front door didn’t really seem practical. 😉
Leaving this “column” allowed us to tuck the gas and electrical down the wall rather than having to bust out the concrete floor and channel it through there. Don’t think I haven’t
made politely requested that the hubs do that before, because I totally have. Here, however, the wall leaves an “entryway” by the front door (where my kids’ amazing painting is) and a “column” strip of wall in the living room where the light switches will reside.
First, we needed to double and triple check that the wall between the kitchen and living room could be removed and a beam installed. I assumed it could, but one should always confirm these things with experts or whatever. You might bring in an engineer if you’re scared/smart. I’m blessed to have a FIL who knows a thing or two about construction. We saw him over Christmas and confirmed that what we wanted to do could actually be done with no problems.
We also triple checked with the internet. Because why not? It knows everything. There are several beam calculators out there that will tell you how long of a span your beam can run based on the weight and size of the room above it. I don’t fully understand all this (dead load? psf? section modulas?), but my husband punched in the numbers and made sure we were good to go. (Do people say “good to go” anymore? I think that’s the first time I’ve ever typed that.)
But seriously guys, don’t go knocking down walls in your own home just because some crazy lady with a blog did. Definitely consult someone who knows what they’re talking about. (On a related note, I’m totally getting an engineering degree in my next life.)
There are “engineered beams” which are also called LVL (laminated veneer lumber) and then there is the traditional/old way of building a header/beam with two 2x12s and half-inch plywood in between. This method makes the beam be the same width as the 2×4 that will support it on the ends. You use three 2x12s with 2×6 jack studs, four 2x12s with 2×8 jack studs, etc.
The thickness you need will depend on the type of lumber (pine and fir aren’t the same strength, etc), the span, the weight of the room/attic/roof above it, and snow load for your area.
I’m pretty sure that no one is just going to read my blog for information on how to remove a load-bearing wall and replace it with a beam, so I won’t waste many words on it. You can google all about jack studs and headers and temporary walls if you care to learn about the process.
I will say, though, that I watched dozens of youtube videos and read so much about this in the previous few months. And that’s with having a father-in-law who has experience in this area. It was just scary to me. I didn’t want the roof to come crashing down while my kids were asleep directly above here. Or ever.
Obviously most people would hire an engineer and/or a contractor to do this. But I don’t see the need since we have so much info/experience readily available. Also, that would be less money in my pocket. Less money means less travel. 🙁 How sad would that be?
So, like always, we decided to do it ourselves (using the traditional beam) and now we know how to do it. Hooray! One more thing for my non-existent resume`. And if it all comes falling down soon, then whatever. We’ll deal with it then. Ha.
Here’s a pic of the hubs building up the jack studs, which are the shorter studs that get nailed to the taller king stud. They “hold” the beam. He’s doing his best psycho face or something…
See all that lumber piled up in that back corner? That’s all just from demoing this kitchen. Crazy, right?
You HAVE to build temporary walls before you remove the old wall, so something is there to prop up the ceiling/second story when you cut out the old wall. You’ll want a temporary wall on each side of the wall you’re removing. Again, you can google all about that if you want to do this, but here are some pics…
Living room side…
So then we were ready to cut out the old wall. Depending on what exactly you’re doing, you could just use a sledge hammer and knock the whole thing out. We decided to keep the bottom in place and use it for the start of our future counter supports. Otherwise, we’d tear it all out and then rebuild practically the same thing. That’d be dumb.
More about all that when we get to the cabinets and counters, but back to the beam…
Edmond had dozens of earthquakes the first week of January. That’s not even an exaggeration (we’ve had over 200 so far this year in Oklahoma, with a majority of them being near or in Edmond). The day we put in this beam, we had at least seven (plus several smaller ones that didn’t show up on the app I use). It was seriously like, “Okay, as soon as this one is over, let’s hurry up and put the beam in before the next one comes.” We just had no idea what to expect that week. It was crazy!
I’d definitely recommend a couple of guys doing this. The hubs and I did it by ourselves (because it seemed inappropriate to call a neighbor over last minute at 10pm and we were ready for it right that minute), but it wasn’t the easiest thing we’ve ever done. Kind of nerve wracking and heavy. I mean, it wasn’t as stressful as the CPA Exam or as painful as unmedicated childbirth, but it was no walk in the park.
Don’t let me lie to you, though. The hubs did all the heavy lifting. He lifted one end of the beam into place on the jack studs and then went to the other end and lifted that side up into place. I was there to just…catch it if it fell?
I didn’t get a pic of the other end going in because I had my hands on the beam, not my phone.
Here’s a pic of it in place before the temporary walls were removed. Looks like a chaotic mess of random 2x4s everywhere, right?
So here’s how we’re progressing so far…
Open up wall between kitchen and living room Relocate wires, lines, pipes, etc.
- Relocate refrigerator to pantry area
- Build new pantry
- Remove peninsula and relocate sink
Tear out drop-down ceiling
- Update flooring, lighting, cabinets, hardware, countertops, etc, etc
Three of seven items already crossed off makes it seem like we’ll be finished in no time. If I didn’t already know from experience that #7 will take as long as 1-6 combined, I’d think we’d be finished soon. We’ll see.
Next up: the start of a new pantry.