How to Open Up Load-Bearing Walls

Do-it-yourself remodeling can save you money and teach you how your house was built. It can also be more time-consuming and expensive than hiring a professional. Load-bearing walls generally run perpendicular to joists and distribute the weight of the roof and floors above to the joists and foundation below. Although opening up such a wall might be simple, you should seek professional advice on materials and strategy before starting.

View of Staircase from Living Area
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Load-bearing walls, given the proper support, can be opened up.

Step 1

Pull the wallboard off both sides of the wall just beyond your planned opening on both sides. Score the board on the ceiling with a utility knife then pull off the wallboard 3 feet on either side of the wall. You should see the ceiling joists above the wall. Remove any floor covering present in the area as well.

Step 2

Measure the studs in the bearing wall then build two walls to support both sides of the planned opening's full length. Use 2-by-4 inch top and foot plates with 2-by-4 inch studs on 16-inch centers. Use two 2-by-4s at the ends of each temporary wall. Build the temporary walls flat on the floor so you can nail through the plates into the studs.

Step 3

Tip the temporary walls up against the joists on either side along the original wall about 3 feet along it. Tap the walls into place so they are tight and straight. Check the walls to ensure they are standing straight with a level. Shim the bottom plates if the floor is uneven.

Step 4

Knock several 8-penny nails halfway through the floor plate and into the floor to hold the bottom of the temporary walls in place.

Step 5

Tear out the old studs from the original wall with a pry bar and pull out nails with a claw hammer. Cut the floor plates 4 inches into the opening to provide support for the new arch.

Step 6

Lift the new LDL beam that will form the header into place against the top plate with house jacks and 4-by-4s or with jigs made with 2-by-6s nailed together with a 2-inch shelf to hold the beam in place. LDL is an exceptionally strong -- and heavy -- engineered material that comes in 2- and 4-inch thicknesses and widths large enough to replace most supporting walls.

Step 7

Measure the exact distance from the top of the plate to the bottom of the new header. Cut four 2-by-4 uprights and sandwich two together. Nail these two together and sandwich the other two. These will create framing supports for the header.

Step 8

Set the base of one support on the foot plate on one side of the arch and knock the top in under the header. The supports should be tight and require some force to place. Repeat with the second support.

Step 9

Remove the house jacks and support or jigs. Remove the temporary walls.