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Spanning an opening.

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Aug 05, 2013, 07:22 PM
Spanning an opening.
I have been remodeling my 1959 ranch home and am moving in to the living room area. There is a half wall with an opening to the kitchen that is 10' long. The half wall is 7' 7" long and 38" tall. The open to the kitchen takes up the rest of the space. From the floor to the bottom of the wall left in the opening is 6' 10". The half wall has a series of 8 decorative posts in the opening the half wall creates. They really don't go with the style and color of the room as it will be in a few days and I would like to remove them. My problem is I am unsure if I can remove them. The wall In question runs the center of the house and is load bearing. I was hoping the area between the celling and the opening for the entry in to the kitchen and the half wall was a beam, but I am 90% sure it is a 2x4 box because I can find studs 16OC with a stud finder. What I don't know is how long of a span can an opening be if there isn't a beam in place, and can I safely remove the posts? I can imagine the posts being load bearing, but I am not a structural engineer. Yes, I know that would be the best and safest way to go, but I would like to get the opinion of individuals on this message board before I go that route and incur that kind of expense. I tried to include a picture, but it exceeds the file limit. If you would Ike to see the picture, just comment here and I will contact you. Thank you in advance for any and all help.
Aug 05, 2013, 09:09 PM
A picture always helps, but you did a pretty good description of what's going on. It sure sounds like a load bearing wall and as such, the allowable opening is the existing 14-1/2" that is between your existing studs. While realistically you could get away with removing one stud and never noticing any sag, even removing one stud will cause the load on the wall to exceed it's limits.

If you want to get rid of those posts, you are just going to have to install a header in this location to carry the load. Odds are that a 1959 rancher has stick-built rafter/trusses that are braced to the centerline. You don't say where you live but a heavy snow or even a high wind could really test the load carrying ability of that central load-bearing wall. You just can't weaken it

Your options are to rebuild the wall with a header above. Your 10' opening will take a double 2x10 header with a 1/2" plywood core. A paralam of the same size will also work. Each end must be supported by a double 2x4, making for 3" of contact on each end. As a finished product, this style of drop header will look much as your wall does now, only without the central poles.

If you want to open things up all the way to a clear ceiling line between the two rooms, then you may be able to install the header in the attic and use hangers to attach it to carry the roof load.

All of this is a project for either a very experienced DIYer or a pro. You don't want to play guesswork with a structural wall.