Open Concept Floor Plans
This is probably one of the most used terms in 2020 and current real estate market. Whether you are a home buyer or an investor, a chance you have a wall or two that needs to be removed is highly likely.
Removing a load bearing wall to accomplish an open concept floor plans is the new norm now a day. An LVL beam needs to be specified to support the load and transition it safely to a foundation element.
As a structural engineer, I get many calls whether to evaluate the structural integrity of the walls, supports, provide suggestions for the wall's removal or to size the LVL beam replacing the wall, connections and supporting posts.
Unfortunately not every investor and/or homeowner know that they should consult with a licensed engineer when they decide to remove a load bearing wall.
If the wall that is being removed is a load bearing wall, it is important to know the following:
- Often times if not always your main load bearing wall in the middle of the house is carrying far more load than one of your foundation walls, in many cases twice as much load.
- Load distribution on the structural member below the wall being removed will be a little different, especially if the wall was supported on a 100-year old beam that has only few supports spanning 9 to 10 feet apart and could be problematic.
- Localized stress concentration if not taken into account, may cause future cracks and potentially major sag in the floor.
Consulting with a competent and the right structural engineer is definitely worth the investment and research about the engineering background and competency especially when a major structural member is being altered.
Impact of Improperly Designed Load Bearing Beam:
I've performed structural engineering evaluations for many houses that had a wall removed and replaced with an LVL beam that was either installed incorrectly, or was undersized because the previous owner did not want a huge beam creating a bulkhead and did not want to pay more money to create a recessed beam; below were some of the telling signs:
- Sags on the floor above the level where a wall was removed and undersized beam was used.
- Cracks in the wall near post/beam attachment.
- Stress signs on structural beam below the wall being removed.
lastly, due to some lateral load I’ve recently seen few cases where lateral torsion on the beam was not considered which caused stress cracks. Unfortunately many people overlook this check.
Save yourself and your future buyers unnecessary headaches and in some cases possible legal responsibilities and call a competent and licensed structural engineer.
Written by Firas Abdelahad, P.E.
Firas Abdelahad has been practicing structural engineering over 15 years working with teams of consultants, architects, investors, homeowners, contractors and subcontractors to come up with solutions for challenges may arise during design and construction phases.