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Good morning, I have a load bearing wall that separates my living room from my kitchen and dining room. The wall is approximately 23 feet long, with 2 openings in it. One opening is 35 inches(going into the kitchen), and one is 47 inches(going into dining room).

I originally wanted to take part of this wall out, and I contacted the structural engineer in my area. The only thing he would recommend is replacing the whole wall with a beam then add in whatever walls I wanted to keep. This cost me $250 and an additional $1000 if I get him to design the beam. I felt like he would not give me any other ideas as he wanted me to pay the $1000.

This brings me to my question about the weight distribution of this wall. I understand I can't make an opening with a header and 2 posts because the load points(2 posts) will be sitting on the beam below and will not be directly over the posts/footings in the basements(although both current openings are also not over the posts in the basements).

I'm wondering if I were to put a header above the opening, leave a half wall, put a "header" at the top of the half wall, which my posts will sit on(rather then go straight to the beam in basement), would it distribute the weight evenly across all 2x4s in the half wall instead of having 2 load points?

Here is a picture to better demonstrate what I mean. It's not a very good drawing any questions please ask.

enter image description here

Just for extra information, the posts in the basement are the exterior wall on one side, another interior concrete wall on the other side, and one post directly in the middle. There is no second floor over this, just a roof, although it is quite a large area, 23x30

I would also like to increase the 47" opening by a couple feet. Anyone know how I could do the calculations to see if I would be able to do that?

I would hate to pay the $1000 for engineer to tell me I can't do it lol.

Thanks for the help!

  • It can be done but supports may need to be added in the basement to cary the load. Since this is a load bearing wall permits may be required and possible engineer's stamp. One way to get engineering info is to contact a company that sells custom beams in some cases there sheet will cover the requirement for a stamp. – Ed Beal Dec 6 '17 at 17:44
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No, the second header won't convert the point loads from the first header into a uniform load.

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Sure you can do that (probably) if: 1) the load bearing wall aligns with the beam below (or nearly aligns), 2) the beam below is adequate (sufficient size), 3) posts in basement are adequate, 4) footings are of sufficient size, and 5) Are there any horizontal loads on the wall?

Your engineer is worried about transferring ALL the loads to the ground (soil). We do this all the time. Calculating the vertical loads is easy. Determining the horizontal loads is a bit tougher.

1) You’ll need to confirm the wall above aligns with the beam below. If not, you’ll need to determine EXACTLY where it is in relation to the beam below.

2) The roof load and the main floor load transfer to the beam in the basement. So, you’ll need to determine the size, species and grade of the beam. (If you don’t know the species or grade we can ask a local contractor, “What is common in your area?” Or ask a local lumberyard.

We’ll need to know how much of the roof and floor loads rests on the wall. (How far away are the next bearing walls/beams.)

3) what are the size, species and grade of the posts holding up the basement beam? Measure their spacing along the beam and determine if it’s one long beam or if there’s a splice...and where?

4) What are the sizes of the footings under the posts? If you can’t see the footings and all you see is the concrete slab floor, you may need to visit your local Building Department and have them look it up on the original plans. (Yep, they keep those plans and specs forever, if your builder got a Building Permit.)

5) Is there plywood or OSB board on the wall? This would be an indication of the wall being a “shear wall”. Do you have extra strong winds or earthquakes where you live? Oh, before you knock a hole in your wall to check for plywood, remove an electrical outlet cover and look...check both sides of wall.

With all that, we can determine if point loads (concentrated loads) from the new posts holding up your header for the new opening can be added to your basement beam.

Simple huh? That’s why your structural engineer was hesitant in removing too much of the wall. It takes a lot of time to gather all that information. (You gather...I’ll calculate.)

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You can absolutely make this opening, it's no different than any other window opening in a load bearing wall. However, your diagram is not how you want to make it! Also the bottom header isn't going to support the weight like you'd want, so you can leave that out. Your diagram is missing a key component, 2 king studs. These should be on each side of the opening, running unhindered from the top to the bottom.

Standard window framing

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