How to Install a Load-Bearing Beam
A load-bearing beam is a structural element that supports the weight of the floor or roof above it. Installing a load-bearing beam can create a more open and spacious floor plan by removing an unwanted wall. However, installing a load-bearing beam is not a simple DIY project. It requires careful planning, proper tools and materials, and professional guidance. This article will show you the basic steps we at Load Bearing Wall Pros take when installing a load-bearing beam in your home.
Step 1: Determine if the Wall is Load-Bearing
Before you start removing any wall, you need to determine if it is load-bearing or not. A load-bearing wall supports the structure’s weight above it, such as the floor or roof joists. Removing a load-bearing wall without proper support can cause serious structural damage and even collapse.
To tell if a wall is load-bearing, you can use a stud finder to check the direction of the joists. A load-bearing wall usually has joists running perpendicular to it. You can also look for clues such as beams, columns, posts, or headers that indicate where the weight is transferred. If you are unsure, you should consult a building contractor or your local building inspector for advice.
Step 2: Get a Permit and Plan the Beam
If you have confirmed that the wall is load-bearing, you may need to get a permit from your local building department before you start any work. The permit will ensure that your project meets the building codes and safety standards. You may also need a structural engineer or architect to size the beam for you. We give all of our customers the option to have a Load Bearing Wall Pros expert hand-hold you through the permit process if so desired.
The beam size depends on factors such as the span, the load, and the type of material. There are different types of beams that we can use for your project, such as solid wood, steel, or engineered wood. Engineered wood beams are made of layers of wood glued together under high pressure. They are stronger, lighter, and more stable than solid wood beams. Some common engineered wood beams are LVL (laminated veneer lumber) and Glulam (glued laminated timber). However, for many of our customers, a steel beam is the right choice for its durability and typically lower cost.
Step 3: Build a Temporary Wall
Before removing the existing load-bearing wall, we need to build a temporary wall to support the structure above it. The temporary wall should be parallel to and about 12 inches away from the existing wall. This can be done by building a temporary wall out of wood or by using a system called shoring material which can be easily installed and removed.
Step 4: Remove the Existing Wall
Now that we have built a temporary wall to support the structure above, we can start removing the existing wall.
To remove the existing wall, we typically follow these steps:
- Cover the entire work area with moving blankets to ensure little to no damage to the floors and we seal the area off from the rest of the house with plastic to contain the dust created from construction.
- We install temporary support, called shoring material, parallel to the existing wall to support the load while we remove the wall.
- With the temporary support in place, we begin the demo of the wall by removing the trim, then the sheetrock, and lastly the 2”x4” studs.
- We leave the electric intact to make rerouting it easier for an electrician. This saves him time and the homeowner money.
- With the wall removed, we then precisely measure and carefully cut the ceiling joists to create a pocket where the new beam will be lifted into place.
Step 5: Install the Beam
Once we have removed the existing wall and created a pocket in the ceiling, we can install the beam in its place.
To install the beam, we typically:
- We prepare the beam for installation; on steel beams, this is done by packing the sides of the beam with wood by using a powder actuated nail gun that creates a weld between the nail and the steel. This secures the wood to the steel beam permanently. The beam that is chosen for each application is carefully selected by a 3rd party engineer to ensure it’s capability of carrying the load.
- We lift the beam into the beam pocket and support it on either end with “stud packs” which are multiple studs on-end. The amount of studs chosen is based upon the load requirement.
- We connect the ceiling joists to the newly installed beam with joist hangers.
- We make sure the beam is level and flush with the ceiling and then remove the shoring material.
- We finish by taking all the construction debris and trash off site and sweeping the floors.
Step 6: Finish the Project
After we have installed the beam, we can refer you to a trusted contractor to finish the project by adding drywall, paint, trim, or flooring. You can also enjoy your new open and spacious floor plan! If you’re ready to get started, trust the professionals – choose Load Bearing Wall Pros.