The Victory Is Mine!! (Load-Bearing Wall Removed, Load-Bearing Header Installed)

I told y’all that I’d win the war, right?  Well, behold…

Load bearing wall removed and load bearing header installed

It’s such a terrible mess in there right now, but you know what?  Right now, all I see is that gorgeous huge opening between the kitchen and the breakfast room.  And it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, because let me tell you, it was hard earned.

(Sorry, but these are going to be more early morning pictures taken on a gloomy, overcast day.  And I currently have no light in the kitchen since one of the wires we removed from this wall was the on/off switch for the kitchen light and the breakfast room light.  It’ll eventually be moved to another wall.)

Just for reference, this is the wall that was removed…

wall removed in kitchen

And you’ll notice that I also changed the names of the original dining room (now the music room) and the original den (now the breakfast room) on the floor plan.  I’m going to stick with these names from here on out to avoid confusion.  :)

Anyway, I want to share with y’all some details of the wall removal and installation of the load bearing header, but let me make one thing very clear…

THIS IS NOT A TUTORIAL!!!

I’m not kidding, okay?  Do not, under any circumstances, read through this post and think that you are adequately prepared to remove a load bearing wall in your house.  Each house is different, and the type of header, temporary bracing, etc., you’ll need will be determined by your specific roof construction type, where the wall is located, and how much load the specific wall is carrying (in other words, not all load bearing walls are created equally).  Got it?  Even if you want to take this on as a DIY project (and I do recommend that part if you’re an experienced DIYer, because you’ll save a bundle of cash and it’s not that hard), you will still want to consult with a licensed professional who can tell you what kind of bracing you’ll need before the wall is removed, how large your header needs to be, whether or not your area requires a building permit for this type of thing, and so on.

So after my brother Rod and I wrestled with and wrangled electrical wires for a few hours on Tuesday, the wall looked like this…

removing a load bearing exterior wall 6

The first thing I needed to do was get that one stubborn electrical wire pushed back up into the attic.  I accomplished that quite easily with a dowel rod (my brother’s brilliant suggestion!) and a hammer.  Once the wires were in the attic, I was ready to tackle the framing.

I started by removing the remaining top 10 inches or so of paneling from the breakfast room side of the wall.

removing a load bearing exterior wall 7

These needed to go because they were nailed with big huge nails into the framing that would be removed.  So as long as those paneling boards remained nailed into the framing, it was virtually impossible to remove the framing.

Now this step wasn’t as easy as it sounds.  The ceiling in the breakfast room is lower than a standard ceiling (it’s probably about 4 or 5 inches shorter), and since this room was added later, the ceiling covers the top of the paneling boards.  Meaning that they couldn’t just be easily pried off of the wall.  Nope, I had to use my Dremel Multi Max and cut all of the boards along the top of the ceiling on the breakfast room side of the wall, and I had to remove them along the entire 11-foot span.

Oh my gosh, that was the most frustrating part of this whole project!!!  It took probably two hours total just to do that part, and the whole time I was holding that tool above my head with it going full power.  That wood was some of the hardest wood I’ve ever tried to cut, especially when I would hit a knot.

Let’s just say that that part of the process also included a few tears, some not-so-ladylike yelling at the wall, and one full-on temper tantrum with items being hurled across the room.

:-D

But once I got them removed, it was pretty much smooth sailing…except that my arms were so tired and shaky that I wasn’t even sure I could continue.  But I forced myself to press on.

The next order of business was to use that same Dremel Multi Max with a carbide blade and cut along the areas where the framing would be removed.  A carbide blade was necessary because I was cutting through some massive, very thick nails.  So I basically cut along the dotted line shown here…

removing a load bearing exterior wall 8

For the record, most people would be able to use a reciprocating saw on a project like this, which would be much faster.  But because of my uneven ceilings, I couldn’t use that type of tool.  I needed something with a much smaller, more controllable blade.

With the framing free, I left it in place and started building my header.

Headers are constructed using 2-inch lumber (either 2 x 8, 2 x 10, or 2 x 12, depending on the size you need) or something called LVL (laminated veneer lumber).  LVL’s are much more expensive, and my understanding is that they’re much stronger, so they’re used in applications where the beam will be carrying a very heavy load.

Fortunately, I could just use regular lumber for mine.  So a header built with regular lumber consists of 2 pieces of 2-inch lumber cut to the width of the header size you need, with a 1/2-inch spacer in between.  The spacer is something like plywood, so it’s like making a plywood sandwich.  Bottom layer is the 2-inch lumber, on top of that place construction adhesive the length of the board (I used quite a bit of construction adhesive!), then on top of that place the spacer (e.g., 1/2-inch plywood), then more construction adhesive, and then the second piece of 2-inch lumber.

With everything stacked and glued, it all has to be nailed together.  And because I don’t have a nail gun that shoots framing nails, I had to do it the old fashioned way.  :)  And the kicker is that it has to be nailed from both sides.  So I drove in about 20 nails on one side, flipped it over, and drove in another 20 or so nails.

The last thing I had to do was measure and cut my jack studs.  These are the studs (2 x 4’s) that actually hold up and support the header beam.

With everything ready to go, I called my brother to come over and help me get it all in place.  While I was waiting, I went ahead and installed one of the jack studs.  (This will make more sense in a second.)

When he got to the house, he did have to wait for me to finish cutting a couple of nails with the Dremel Multi Max, and then we were ready to go.  We brought the huge beam inside, pushed the old framing out of the way, lifted one end of the header onto the jack stud that I had already installed, lifted the other end of the header, and put the second jack stud in place under the other end of the header.

Let me just say for the record that this is absolutely not a one-person job.  There’s no way in heck I could have done this without my brother’s help.  And for a second there, I was honestly wondering if just the two of us were going to be able to handle it just because my arms were already so tired and shaky.  But we managed, and it actually went very smoothly.  It was definitely hard work because that beam was so long and heavy, but the process itself was quite simple.

So just for clarity, here is the anatomy of a load-bearing beam…

anatomy of a load bearing header - removing a load bearing wall

1.  King studs — These are the original studs of the house, and they go all the way from the floor to the framing at the ceiling.

2.  Jack studs — These are new studs that go from the floor to just under the header beam.  They get nailed to the king studs and actually provide the support for holding up the header beam.

3.  Header beam — Depending on the size and strength needed, the header beam is either made of two pieces of 2-inch lumber with a 1/2-inch spacer in between, or it’s made from two LVL’s.  The header beam rests right on top of the jack studs.

FYI — I’ll be adding two more jack studs today.  But those studs are the ones that will actually form the rough framing of the opening, so I’ll need to determine exact placement, and whether or not spacers will be needed between the second jack studs ad the original ones I installed yesterday.  I had hoped to get that done last night but I was so exhausted after my brother left, and I still had to go to Home Depot and buy cabinets, bring them home, and unload them!  I didn’t get that finished until 11:45, and I was so tired I wanted to just sit down and cry.  :)

But that’s it!  I’m so stinkin’ excited about how this looks now.  I can hardly wait to get in there today and clean out all of the construction debris and start getting into the final planning of my kitchen.  Now that I can see this wall opened up, I feel like most of the details are falling into place in my mind.  So exciting!!!

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Comments

  1. Sarah says

    AWESOME! You are so brave and determined! This kitchen and breakfast area is going to be amazing…love the light streaming in and how you make such great use of smaller spaces. That header is impressive!

  2. Beverly says

    Well, that was a good amount of work for one day. Congratulations! I’ve always wanted to take some engineering so I could get a handle on that sort of thing. (The engineer that worked for the architectural firm I worked for [as a lowly draftsman] wore a hardhat that said “If we can draw it, you can build it” :) )

    Your motto should probably be: “Mama’s got a Dremel and she’s going to use it”.

  3. DAF says

    Is there anything you can’t do? Seriously, this is just crazy. I think we’ll understand if you take a few days to rest and recuperate!

  4. Barbara Hebert says

    Impressed with your power and determination. Good job. If I were you, I would place another Jack Stud on each end of the new header beam. If you look closely that beam is sitting on about one inch of those 2x4s as we know 2x4s are only about 1 1/2 inch thick -not a full 2 inches. And houses shift through the years. Also is that house on a slab? If not you need to add additional support to whatever support is beneath the floor – yes, in that dreaded cral space. All that weight is now sitting on 1 1/2 inches of floor on either side of the beam. What is under those 1 1/2 inches? Think about it. Good luck! Can’t wait to see the progress.

    • says

      I’ll actually be doing that today, Barbara :)

      The second jack studs will also provide the rough framing for the opening, so I just need to determine if I need spacers (which I think I will on the left side so that my trim moulding around the opening will clear the countertop). I wanted so badly to do that yesterday, but I was so exhausted I don’t think I could have lifted a hammer. :)

      • Susan says

        So glad you are adding another 2×4 on each side. I was worried when I saw the photo, should have known you had it under control. :) You are very fearless and to be admired!

  5. Angela J says

    I thought you got rid of that double door closet by your office? Also, if you ever make a business out of your home, you could use your office and that second front door as the consultation area. (If you do decide to keep both front doors). It would be cute to have “The Linauer’s” sign on your home, and “Kristi’s office” or whatever your imaginary out-of-home business would be called sign on your office’s door.

    Haha, sorry that this comment has nothing to do with this post, just something I thought of when I saw your updated floor plan.

    • Angela J says

      This no way implies that what you do isn’t considered as a business, I just meant by “out-of-home business” would be one that people came to your home office for a consultation for some service.

  6. Diane mansil says

    Excellent work! You’re really zooming along!

    The removed hunk of framing…I see a trellis for your flower gardens lying there!

  7. Sheila E says

    I bet that open space feels so good. Is that wood on the ceiling of the breakfast room? Is it the same as what you took off the wall? Oh boy. BTW, I love that you told us about the cussing part, you helped me feel better about myself. ;)

  8. Jim S says

    You can hide that header alltogether if you want! Also you might add another stud next to number 2 for added support. When you took the wall out did you support the top sill at all? If not you were blessed that it did not come down on you! We always use 4 x 4’s to support before taking out the load bearing wall! Maybe the wall was not actually load bearing? Just wondering and not trying to criticise!

  9. sonny says

    applause applause– THE CROWD CHEERS~!

    absolutely terrific work… you should be so dang proud of yourself. I had to do the new header thing last year for my new front door that I built with sidelights .needed an extra 4 feet to get it in. The new opening was such a pain , I swore I’d never do it again.. The old framing came out pretty easy but cutting out the bricks on the exterior side just about did me in… so I KNOW how hard this was and how much pain and determination it took to get this job done.. I applaud you:)

    Sonny

  10. SharonW says

    That is going to be so awesome with all the light! Wow! What a job. You are an amazing lady. Thanks for sharing your life with us and with such honesty. You are a real inspiration. Please don’t forget to take care of yourself. Hugs.

  11. says

    Kristi,
    Glory! That is some kind of BRAVADO ! I love it all but that LIGHT streaming in has got to be motivating!! Especially for those “green” cabinets to come ! My mom wants to take a wall out so MAYBE – you have given me COURAGE!
    May God continue to bless you !!

  12. Robin says

    That looks so awesome! It is going to make such a difference to the feel of the house with that wall opened up. Well done.

  13. Jean says

    Just when I think your talents couldn’t get any more awesome, you go and do something like THIS! You are a DIY dynamo, and my decorating hero. Is there anything you can’t do or won’t try? I can’t wait for the next installment in your kitchen adventure series. I always love your final reveal, but making the DIY journey with you is pretty spectacular, too, and I learn so much from you along the way. You go, girl!

  14. Criss says

    I am so impressed every time I read your blog, which is daily. Yours is one of the first ones I look at, and I applaud your hard work and determination. While our tastes aren’t identical, I always end up loving whatever you do. Great job on the header! That must have been such hard work! Can’t wait to see your kitchen changes. Kudos to you!

  15. Jaybird says

    O.h.. m.y…….you are amazing!!!
    and here I am loafing along about making a few curtains. I guess I had better kick my old self into gear and get with the program.
    Your home is going to be beautiful………
    Blessings to you,
    J

  16. Jane says

    You are amazing! I can totally relate to the “hissy fit” meltdown that you had. Can’t wait to see how this space looks when you are finished.

  17. Jennifer says

    I am worried you are going to work yourself sick! This is so much fun to watch, though. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  18. says

    Strike up the band and start the parade! You are one amazing, amazing woman. I have been following for a while now and all I can say is “thank you ” for proving women can work construction just as well as most men. I have attempted many re~no’s in my years but this one I would never have attempted. You are for lack of a better word amazing!

  19. Doni says

    I am so stinkin excited for you! I stop everything to read your posts and to see what you have accomplished today. A very big congrats on your lastest achievement. I can’t wait for tomorrow! :)

  20. says

    Wonderful! Wow you are a power house, determined and funny! I laughed out loud… “and one full-on temper tantrum with items being hurled across the room” then a great big smiley face! It’s crazy exhausting doing all of your own work, but very, very satisfying! Excellent job!

  21. Karen Edgin says

    Kristie, You absolutely amaze me at all you can accomplish. I look forward each day to your post and am using many of your ideas in the home we are about to purchase.

  22. Joanie says

    Wow! You go girl! It looks amazing! I love how much lighter it is, can’t wait to see it all done. This winter we added another window in my kitchen. It totally transformed the kitchen. For me a kitchen can never have too much light. So enjoy your updates.

  23. Judith says

    One of the things I can bet real money on is the fact that I’m never going to do this myself. I must say, however, that you are awesome, and your brother must be a wonder and a half. I keep looking at the triple window inn your new breakfast room–transformational. Now, schedule a massage, pour yourself a glass of wine and relax for at least 20 minutes.

  24. says

    It is SO exciting to see that wall gone!!!! What a difference! That kitchen never did make sense. This will go so far to making it work.

    Can I just say that it makes my heart so uber-happy to see a music room in there. That house has always had music in it and it is special to see a new music room in the “heart” of the house. <3

  25. Sue says

    Shazam!!! That looks great! Even on a gloomy day you can see how much extra light the kitchen will benefit from this opening. I can’t wait to see what you are going to do next. Every day I can’t wait to check your blog for the next adventure in remodeling. You are truly amazing and should have your own tv show!

  26. Michelle says

    Just be honest…..Does your hubby truly realize he is married to Wonder Woman!? I’m recuperating on the sofa after just READING what you did! But i am so proud of what you are doing for the image of WOMAN! The next truth telling would be a photo of you while you’re doing these super-feats. Rock on, Kristi!

    • Kimberly says

      No kidding! I think I need a beer and a nap … in that order … after just reading about all the work Krisit’s done!

  27. Krissy says

    Congratulations on winning the war! Fantastic job! While I got one decorative tin sign hung in my kitchen (no joke, that was my proud accomplishment yesterday), you take down a wall and continue to make your house the home of your dreams. Thank you for inspiring me to try more.

    I love comments like Sonny’s and Len’s, while other comments are irksome… People telling you what to do when- if they read your full post- they’d know you have everything under control. Keep on keepin’ on! And yes, do take a break and pamper your self. You deserve it.

    • Krissy says

      One more thing: even if thus is NOT a tutorial, I learned so many things from this post, as from almost all your posts. The amount of general knowledge you are able to impart- on ANY subject- is such a gift to the rest of us. Thank you.

  28. Trish says

    Wow, Lady, what kind of vitamins are you on? You are like the little engine that could! You are able to do more work in one day that most crews that I’ve hired can do in a week. Congratulations, you are doing an amazing job on this house.

  29. Kimberly says

    Every time I think you’ve left me in complete awe, you go and do something like this! You are braver and more fearless and determined than 10 men! In fact, I think you do the amount of work that 10 men could do, all on your own.

    The room expansion is impressive. I’m glad to see that you said you went to Home Depot and bought cabinets. That’ll save you a ton of time vs. building them yourself, and they looked like nice pieces.

    My question: are you going to also install some cabinetry or perhaps a wall of shelving, that would complement the kitchen? I’m not sure if the breakfast room is going to act at times as a more formal dining space, and am wondering if maybe some base cabinets and shelving might be nice to store china and other more formal kitchen items in, and would tie in with the kitchen cabinetry itself.

    Anyhow, SUPER IMPRESSED with what you’ve done so far. I cannot wait to see the end result, I think this is going to be one of the more impressive renovations in your home. That kitchen was NOT pretty to start with, and I think once it’s had “the Kristi touch,” it’s going to be very lovely.

  30. Genelle McDaniel says

    What Trish said is so true. No hired crew would have gotten this much done in one day. You are so amazing. I was thinking a year and a small fortune to redo the kitchen. My shoulders are hurting from reading your post. I so agree with someone who said you deserve a massage. Maybe your family members will surprise you with one.

  31. LANELL says

    This is my kind of reality show! I love the play by play, not just the awful before and the amazing after.

  32. Guerrina says

    Congratulations on your victory! So very excited to see all the light. Now it is easier to picture different half walls with counter and there is certainly enough light now that the green cabinets won’t be too room darkening. Really an awesome undertaking and a great job, Kristi!

  33. Kristi C says

    Hi Kristi… another Kristi here. I’ve been following your blog for a while now without commenting, but this post compelled me to finally do so. Wow, you are such an inspiration to me. I can’t believe you did this basically alone. I love to create to decorate my home as you do, but on a smaller scale — you have encouraged me to branch out and try bigger and better things (OK no load bearing wall removal for me just yet, but I’m now trying things that are ‘big’ for me thanks to you). Keep up the great, inspirational work!

  34. says

    Stupefying ideas! Well done, Kristi! You are amazing and inspiring. I am very much Impressed with your command and determination.
    Excellent work! This kitchen and breakfast area is going to be amazing. Keep it up!

  35. says

    YOU ARE AMAZING… !!!!! I just want to come over there and help you clean that up.!! I was in construction for three years and it was easier then some of my other jobs….!! I’m so excited for you. Can’t wait to see all the progress you’ve made. (I haven’t been on the computer for some time so I am doing some follow up time.) Great job lady…!!!

  36. says

    Excellent work. We did the same thing in our kitchen. It was a DIY project as well. However, we had a friend who is a licensed contractor take a look at it so great recommendation. I cant wait to see the finished project.

  37. shawn mcnabb says

    great job but………did you even put up temporary walls to support the load while removing the old unwanted wall???? If not,,,,your lucky to be alive.lol

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