SHOP SATURDAY- front entry remodel

Today on shop Saturday I’m going to talk about support walls and beams. How to tell the difference, determine what walls can be removed, to open up your space. If your not sure which walls are structural then I do suggest hiring an engineer for a small fee they can come out and tell you exactly which walls can come down. Don’t take anything I say here to mean start swinging a sledge hammer, that’s not what I mean at all.

There is a lot that goes into determining if a wall is load bearing or not, like I said don’t just start swinging a hammer knocking out walls. But one of the main ways to tell a structural wall from a non structural wall is a supporting wall starts all the way from the foundation or support posts, known as telepost’s in Canada, in the basement. An outside wall is structural, walls constructed in concrete in the basement and go to wood on the first floor and wood on the second floor. The force is flowing down from the roof to each floor right down to concrete foundation. Now a structural wall in the center of the house would have a beam and teleposts in the basement that support that wall and carry through to each floor, a thing called squash blocks are used to distribute the load from each floor directly to the beam and not the joists

Here is a picture of a telepost and 4 ply beam in a basement, each layer of 2 by material is called a ply. 4 layers = 4 ply.

In this image below you can see that walls that run parallel with the joists are not supporting. Now, that doesn’t mean they can’t be supporting, it just means they most likely are not supporting. A safe bet is all exterior walls and a wall in the middle of your house is supporting. A little more investigation needs to be done to determine a load bearing wall, A wall running perpendicular to the joists and if it’s supporting would have a wall underneath it for support. Each floor has to be supported by following floor. Floor joists need a support wall underneath as they can’t span clear across the house. As in the image below the Center wall is load bearing and under that wall is a beam and posts to support that beam and wall up above.


Now when it comes to a roof system, 95 % of the time you see a truss in your attic, that means no walls on the top floor of your house are supporting. Trusses are normally built to be clear span, or self supporting, which means they are engineered to need no intermediate support. Trusses are built off site and brought to site. Below is a truss diagram

Stick framed roofs normally rely more on supporting walls. They are made up of 2 by material cut and nailed together on site to build your roof piece by piece. Below is a stick framed diagram.

So as you can see, lots of things determine if a wall is structural or not. You would have to look and see what your attic structure is. Then determine if a wall is supporting or not. Follow that wall down each floor and see if there is a wall or posts underneath.

On this shop Saturday I install a 3 ply beam in the attic on top of the truss bottom 2x4 cord. From there I install a joist hanger under the truss cord and attach to the beam with the appropriate fasteners. Now this wall isn’t supporting, there’s no beam or posts down stairs in this location.

So why did I do it?

In the original hall way one truss was sagging about 1/2” because this truss was not sitting on any of the walls. So even though these walls were not structural, they were supporting just a little, tiny bit.

Would it be fine if I didn’t add the beam?

Yes 100% it would be.

I added the beam to prevent any further sagging and to support the trusses in the mid span of the house, or Center of the house. The beam is supported on the outside wall and on the inside wall that is a structural wall. Again it was not needed but I tend to over build things. For the $150 materials cost and 1 days labor I think it’s just a good practice. If there was no sagging at all originally, then I would have not put in a beam at all.

But ... Better safe than sorry

Check out my cinnamon video on the progress of this job . Also a little discussion on load bearing walls.