Behind the Before and After | Week 1 & The Load-Bearing Wall

Updated: May 18


I don’t even know where to begin. A lot has happened in a short amount of time.


The full demo was basically done in 1 day. They had my 2 rooms demolished and cleared in about 4 hours. The noise was unbelievable - it seemed like a freight train was going through my house and at some points I swore the house was going to collapse right on top of us.


Day 2 consisted of prepping for the steel beam that needs to be installed in place of the load-bearing wall between the kitchen and dining room. We have been working on this for a while. We knew we wanted to open up the wall - I knew that from the minute I bought the house 16 years ago! During the estimating process we had a structural engineer come to the house and look at the walls, basement and attic so they could calculate the load the beam had to support. Talking to the engineer was fascinating; I’ve been to hundreds of home inspections and know a little about supports and beams but only enough to be dangerous!


The first surprise, during our convos, was that we had to install a second support column in the basement. It makes perfect sense now - the beam that is going across the opening has to be supported by 2 columns - one on either side - right? That’s how it’s held up. What I didn’t know was that there needs to be another set of two support posts UNDER those columns in the basement. Again, makes perfect sense now…but unless you are in construction or do this all the time I don’t think many people would realize this. So now this entails work in the basement - jackhammering the concrete floor, pouring a concrete footing and installing the lally column in that cement to support what is above it.


The other interesting thing about the beam is the material. You basically have 2 options - LVL, which is an engineered composite beam. Depending on the load it has to carry will determine the depth of the beam. For our project, it would have had to be a little over 9”. That is before framing and sheetrock to make it look pretty. We really wanted to have a flush ceiling between the kitchen and dining room so we did not want a beam dropping down from the ceiling to interrupt the flow between the rooms - plus, Clark is tall, we want the height! The other option was steel, so it could be recessed fully into the ceiling fully. It costs more, but it is able to give me the aesthetic we are seeking. For us, it was worth the additional cost: the difference between the LVL and steel was about $4,000.


Top: Buh Bye Window, Cherie Measuring, More Measuring,

Bottom: Basement Work, And Even More Measuring, Big Bertha Beam,


So this week the existing wall was removed and temporary supports were installed. They are prepping each end of the room to install the columns that will support the beam. And beginning the basement work as well.


Despite all the prep work that went into planning this stage of the project, there were still some surprises in store as they did the work this week. Some things you just can’t know until you demo. Like, for example -


We already have key heating pipes in the space where the steel beam is going. Because of course we do! So those pipes need to be cut, and then changed from copper pipes to flex pipes, so they can be moved out of the way. Once they are moved, they’ll be closer to our exterior wales so there is an increased risk of potentially freezing in the winter - say, if our boiler goes and it’s bitter, bitter cold. The plumber wouldn’t guarantee it would never happen. But we are spray-foaming insulation, so the new pipes will be wrapped up tight when all said and done. Fingers crossed we don’t have the Winter Storm of the Century anytime soon.


We also learned a thing or two about our kitchen’s original plumbing, but more on that later...

Marlon building The Beam, Big Bertha Beam Again, Bits of Plaster Falling


And did you know that when they demo parts of your house, the force is so strong you get cracks and chunks of falling plaster EVERYWHERE - even in rooms they are not working in? Yeah, me neither.


Until next time . . .


I'm writing these Behind the Before & After posts about our kitchen renovation because I want to share our process - including any bumps along the way - so that homebuyers and homeowners can get a look at what really happens when you take on a major renovation. Clients ask me all the time, "Should I renovate?" And my answer is - usually - this, "Renovate for you, now, and how you want to live" so I'm following my own advice and inviting you to follow along.


Read more about our kitchen renovation here! And feel free to comment or contact me with any questions you have!!


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