I want to remove a load bearing wall in my house and make it a half wall. It has only a roof above it and a basement below it. We would like to have a column at the end of the wall by the hall opening, what else should we do?
Kory - Gaithersburg, MD
Kory, anytime that you remodel an existing load bearing wall in your house, it is imperative that you consult a structural engineer so that your alterations don't compromise the structural integrity of your home. Determining which walls within your house are carrying its roof and snow loads can be difficult, and even minor miscalculations can have serious consequences.
Once a structural engineer inspects your home's wall and roof framing, then the engineer can develop a plan for how a given wall can be safely altered. In some cases, a floor-to-ceiling load bearing wall can be converted to a half-wall by installing a horizontal beam and some vertical posts to carry the load that the wall framing initially supported. The size of the beam will be determined by the length of its span, as well as by the size of the load that is being supported.
Two crucial areas of your home that an engineer needs to inspect when determining the proper design of your new half-wall are the roof trusses above the existing wall and the underlying floor framing. Inspecting the roof trusses will help an engineer calculate how best to transfer the roof load through the new half wall and floor framing all the way to a concrete footing in your basement.
If you plan on wrapping the newly installed posts and beam in sheetrock, then you can use ordinary framing lumber, much like building a header over a large window opening. If you would rather have the new beam and posts exposed, then you might choose some solid wood beams, such as 6x6s, or even a Glu-lam beam, which is a manufactured beam made out of laminated dimensional lumber. Whichever route you take, remember that it is very important that the posts and beam are sized and installed correctly.