Q: How much does it cost to remove a load-bearing wall? In the basement of my home, there is a single concrete beam below the intersection of the living room, dining room and kitchen walls. I’d like to remove the wall between the dining room and kitchen.
Victoria L., Pittsburgh
A: Open floor plans continue to be popular with homeowners. But unless your home is fairly new, more than likely you have separate rooms and many walls dividing the space. Removing one of those walls might not seem like a big deal, but it could cause the house to crumble.
A load-bearing wall is just that – a wall that holds the weight of the house, including its contents, and transfers that weight to the foundation. A home’s exterior walls are load-bearing. Some interior walls are also load-bearing, designed to support the roof or areas with concentrated weight, such us under a bathtub or kitchen. Typically, all load-bearing walls are directly above one another throughout the different levels of a home.
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You can’t simply remove a load-bearing wall without causing serious structural damage to the house. The wall needs to be replaced with another type of support system – which can be less obtrusive – to hold the weight. The cost associated with such work varies according to the logistics of your house. How big is the new support beam, and where will it go? Do you have to re-route HVAC ductwork and electrical wires? Will you need new drywall, trim and paint? The total project could cost anywhere from $1,500 to more than $8,000.
To identify interior load-bearing walls, start in the basement or the lowest level of the house and look for beams or columns that appear to hold the weight of the floor above them. In an unfinished basement, it should be easy to pinpoint as a large beam, usually made of metal, running from one side of the room to the other. It may have posts supporting it in the middle, or it may just sit on top of the outside wall or foundation. It can be a more complicated to recognize a load-bearing wall if it’s hidden behind drywall in a finished room, which is why hiring a licensed contractor is always recommended. Consider a qualified general contractor, structural engineer or architect for the job.
You’ll need a permit from your local municipality to remove a load-bearing wall. Having a kitchen that opens directly into the living room is great for entertaining, but the city is going to want to make sure you follow building codes during the remodel. Also, don’t be surprised if they send an inspector to check out the work during the process and once it’s completed.
Staff writer Staci Giordullo contributed to this report.
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