The first floor has a single load bearing wall that runs the length of the house front to back. It divides the floor into roughly one-third/two-thirds, where the larger fraction was for the living room, dining room, bathroom, and kitchen while the smaller side was for bedrooms and the stairs. The house is relatively narrow: about twenty feet wide on the inside. This means the bedrooms were only a bit over seven feet wide, too small for anything other than a bathroom. As I was designing the new floor plan early last year it quickly became clear that in order to have an open concept we were going to need to get rid of the load bearing wall.

Load bearing wall

Load bearing wall

Because the wall is supporting the second floor we can’t simply remove it, we have to replace it with something of equal or greater strength. The plan calls for a 14″ LVL beam supported by two columns. The load bearing wall is directly over the beam in the basement that we recently upgraded to steel. The new columns and beam need to go in the same place in order to properly carry the structural load.

In the basement we built a temporary wall to support the floor while we removed the existing beam. For the first floor I got the idea of moving the load bearing wall over about 6″ to make room for the beam. To do this I would use the beam from the basement on jacks and posts to take the load off of a section of the wall, remove or cut any nails in the way and then tap the wall over one stud at a time, top and bottom, with a sledge hammer.

Beam and columns

Beam and columns

I cut down the longest beam section into two nine-foot columns and the 16′ section as the beam. The beam weighs close to 150 lbs, so moving it was a bit of a hassle. I nailed the steel plates to the bottoms of the columns so that they wouldn’t fall out as they often did during the basement leveling. Since the house has ten foot ceilings, getting the beam into position was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately Sarah was able to help with the ladder and we got it in with minimal issues.

As a precaution, I put a jack post in the basement under the floor joist the bottle jack was sitting on. Then I pumped up the jacks until I heard some creaking from the ceiling joists. I spent a good hour prying flush nails out of the bottom plate, using a chisel and the edge of the hammer claw to scrape away the surface wood so I could get to them. Unfortunately, it became clear that the wall has been built by first nailing down the bottom plate and then standing up the studs and toe-nailing them in. That meant there were several places where the nails in the bottom plate were directly under studs. 

Anticipating this sort of problem I had picked up a corded reciprocating saw and some long blades, but putting it to use quickly disabused me of the notion. I simply couldn’t get at the nails under the studs without ripping things apart that I was trying to save. I didn’t even try to cut the nails in the top plate. The plan was not going to work.

One of the reasons I was trying to avoid building a temporary wall was I didn’t want to go buy lumber that I would only briefly need, but I got an idea. I counted the number of joists and then went down to the basement where we’d stacked all of the lumber we’d saved from demo. Sure enough, we had saved enough ten foot studs to build a temporary wall. I de-nailed the boards and stacked them up in preparation for the project. Now to figure out how to get that beam back down…

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One Response to First Floor Beam: Wall Move

  1. FontsDownloadFree says:

    We also want to open a load bearing kitchen wall to the same great room, and if structurally OK, there will be two columns supporting the room above, appearing to extend up to the first floor ceiling from the bar counter.

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