Addition, home structural problems, Load Bearing wall, Removing a house wall, Renovation, Residential Structural Engineer, Residential Structural Issues, Structural engineer, Structural Engineering 101, Wall removal

How do I Remove a Wall in my House?

20-0227 wall removal pic

A common request we receive is homeowners wanting to remove interior or exterior house walls for creating a more open floor plan. Older houses rely on boxed-in, function specific spaces, such as living rooms, kitchens, formal dining rooms, and family rooms. In contrast, modern houses include wide open floor plans and spacious great rooms more conducive to large gatherings with friends and family. Many residents in older, desirable neighborhoods who refuse to abandon their unique, old house character frequently explore wall removal as an alternate to buying a newer style home. If wall removal is part of your upcoming renovation plan, here are a few frequently asked questions for consideration:

Which walls are load bearing? This is by far the first and most important question to answer upfront. Older houses often rely on interior walls for supporting loads from the floors above. Some interior walls are non-load bearing, and these walls can normally be removed. If the wall is load bearing, a new beam and bearing stud column system can be designed to transfer loads and permit the desired wall removal.

Does any drywall need to be removed to determine what is load bearing? Having all the house framing exposed is the ideal situation, but a structural engineer can generally determine which walls are load bearing or not by reviewing the house layout and other indicators based on experience. In some cases, a small localized area of existing wall or ceiling drywall might need to be removed to confirm any uncertain conditions with the existing framing.

What about existing HVAC, plumbing, and electric in the wall? Existing ductwork, electrical wiring, and plumbing lines are frequently routed through interior and exterior house walls. Another initial planning step is to review the existing wall with the appropriate trade contractors to determine the need and feasibility in relocating any necessary utility lines concealed within the wall.

Can I just use the same new beam design that my neighbor used? Definitely not! Every wall removal project is unique and should be individually reviewed so the correct loads are used for a safe and building-code-compliant beam and column design. Depending on the new wall opening size and loads, the new beam could be conventional lumber, manufactured Glulam or LVL (laminated veneer lumber), or even steel. Also, new beams and/or columns are sometimes required in the spaces below to safely support the new concentrated point loads that result from removing a wall.

Is a building permit required? Typically, Yes. A building permit application and a design drawing packet stamped by a PE are normally required by your local building department for any planned alteration, relocation, or removal of any structural beam, column, or wall support. A structural engineer can provide a design drawing packet showing the modification scope of work with a floor plan, details, notes, and their professional engineer (PE) stamp.

Having a structural engineer visit, review your house layout, and determine which walls are load bearing or not is always a prudent first step. We can definitely help with this process, and please click here to visit our website for further information on getting your project started.

home foundation issues, home structural problems, Residential Structural Issues, Structural engineer, Uncategorized

What Causes House Foundation Settlement?

Some of the more common types of evaluations we perform involve reviewing the apparent downward movement or shifting of residential homes and apartment buildings. This phenomenon is typically referred to as potential “house or foundation settlement”.

Unfortunately, foundation settlement can occur at various times during a home’s history. For every house location, there is a natural level of groundwater in the supporting soil layers below the foundation. Over the lifetime of a house, the groundwater level fluctuates up and down based on the natural weather cycles, precipitation, and change of seasons. Differential settlement in the foundation occurs when a severe change in groundwater levels causes random localized consolidation of the supporting soils under load, and this is fairly common for residential housing. Additionally, if the house was initially constructed on poorly compacted native soils and/or carelessly placed back fill, the subsequent settlement can be significantly amplified. Normal symptoms of the apparent movement widely varies from cracking in the foundation walls, exterior brick veneer cracking, interior plaster/gypsum board cracking, and even severe racking of door and windows.

Structural repairs in the form of foundation reinforcement piers can be a recommendation for homes experiencing severe foundation settlement. Piers help stabilize/reinforce your foundation at the immediate areas of concern and prevent any further downward settlement. Most foundation contractors develop and market their own proprietary methods, procedures, and system design for structural foundation piers. All the various contractors present in the market today offer a collection of different pier systems, but all systems essentially focus on the same engineering concepts and philosophy. Typically, foundation contractors offer their systems as a complete, turn-key design-build package, meaning they design the entire proposed system, perform all the construction/installation activities, and provide a warranty.

Our normal site review and evaluation provides an independent, third-party assessment to determine the severity of foundation settlement and a recommendation on the need (OR NOT) for foundation reinforcement piers. If we feel piers are necessary, we can also provide approximate location limits along the house plan footprint to help ensure all your potential contractors are bidding a similar scope of work. The final design, quantity, spacing, and locations of the foundation pier system will still be determined by the selected foundation contractor who remains responsible for all design liability for their turn-key, design-build installation.

Foundation contractors who visit your home can sometimes employ pressure sales tactics, so our position as a consulting engineer with no skin in the game results in a non-biased opinion on what is truly necessary for your home.

Clayzen Consulting is a structural engineering consulting firm in Cincinnati focusing on evaluations, assessments, and inspections for residential projects and situations. We can help explain the various systems and strategies on the market today and provide a third party, non-biased recommendation on what makes the most sense for your situation.

Your first step is to visit our website at and send us an email so we can provide you more information regarding our fee structure and normal scope of services, along with list of our upcoming availability.