Load bearing wall removal

26 Replies

Hi,

I’m in the Atlanta area and am having trouble finding a reliable contractor who can remove a load bearing wall.

I have one estimate and i was hoping to get feedback as to whether or not it’s a good price.

It’s an old house and the walls are plastered. There are 2 walls I’d like removed. One is 8 ft and not load bearing, the other is about 24 feet and load bearing.

The estimate I got to remove the walls, take care of the electrical outlets and move the light switch on the wall, plus finish the ceiling to make it all look nice is for $4,400. This is not with a steal beam, just wood, and a column in the middle.

Is that a good price? The contractor cane highly recommended, is nice enough, punctual, and seems very knowledgeable. I’m just new to construction and have no idea what something like this should cost.

Thanks in advance!

I don't know your local market, but that seems like a reasonable price. 

The 8' wall is pretty simple. The 24' span is really large. What that means is that he's using two 12' glu-lam or LVL beams, with a column in the middle for support. If he got a beam that was engineered to support a 24' span, thereby eliminating the column, it would be considerably larger and would intrude into the space. 

Good framers aren't cheap. But you want to pay for good framers. I've come in after Craigslist guys did wall removal sometimes. By the time the structure is unstable, it's a little late to call for help.

And plaster & lath walls are harder to work with than sheetrock. Everything is more complex in older homes. If it's a total turnkey job, intended to look completely finished, for $4400, it seems like a fair price to me.

(I don't know if that includes permit fees or not, or if he's even pulling a permit. Some blue state guys on here get apoplexy about the idea of not pulling a permit, but they're indoctrinated that way by their culture. :) The truth is, inspectors don't know span charts any better than a good framer does. The important thing is that you have a framer who knows what he's doing.)

I am not terribly familiar with Atlanta prices, but I can tell you that here in TN that would be a good price for a finish install of a 24+ foot load beam.

Sometimes you get more "retail" pricing with a contractor.    Being a landlord, we have to get our pricing cheaper, so we can make a profit.

I get nervous when doing structural work, so I would hire the best.  You can save money by just having him do the beam, and getting the finish and electrical work done by a cheaper source.

Thanks guys! That’s super helpful.

After a couple days of waiting for responses from other contractors, and minutes after posting this questions on the forums, I got another estimate in at like 14,000 which seems ridiculous.

I think I’m going to go with the 4400 quote.

And he’s not pulling a permit. Seems like none of the contractors I talked to would in Atlanta for this type of job.

In a case like this I would not use any contractor that was not intending to pull a permit.  Without a permit you may/will run into issues if/when you go to sell unless your market is operated like the wild west.

I guess Atlanta is different for those types of things. This house I bought was a 2 bedroom because they added a 3rd and never got the permit for it. Works out great for me, I got a cheaper price, just need to figure out how to update it with the city to claim that 3rd bedroom.

I don’t know what difference a wall being removed would make when going to sale though.

Your city very likely requires an engineer's input to move a load bearing wall.  The engineer would have a look at the proposed change and make drawings showing what should be done.  And they would be stamped, which is the key step.  Or, I have had an engineer inspect the property, tell me what to do, inspect what was done, then write a letter stating the changes were as specified.  I submitted that letter to the city.   I would expect to pay a few hundred dollars for an engineer to specify what to do.

Changing a 24' load bearing wall is a big deal.  You want that done correctly.  

Jon, thank you for the feedback. 

That seems like the "legally advisable" way to do it. What are the drawbacks to not paying for the architectural specifications? Is it just that you feel better knowing that an architect approved the plans? Or are there some problems that I could run into in regards to fines / penalties down the line? 

Think of what can go wrong , and who will pay for it .

House caves in , contractor claims he is your employee ,  he has no insurance . 

Guy does the job , looks good , 2 years later you get a ice storm and it adds weight to the roof and the house caves , no permit . You are sued and will lose 

if the price spread between 2 contractors is 10 grand and neither wants engineered drawings , something is wrong with this picture 

I'm not talking about an architect but rather a structural engineer.  Someone with a "professional engineer" certification who's legally able to stamp the drawings.  The big drawbacks are much of what @Matthew Paul says.  But also the problem with just having a contractor slap something in place is they may go it in a more complex and expensive manner than is necessary.  When I moved a load bearing wall, the engineer specified exactly what to do.  Not only did he handle the load bearing wall I was removing (an 8' span) but also corrected old work that had been done incorrectly.  And did it in a pretty simple and fairly easy to do manner.

Got it. 

I'm new to all of this. As far as if something goes wrong on the job site, my understanding is that since the company I hired is insured they would pay for those damages / injuries.

I hadn't thought about what happens 2 years down the road when tenants are in there and the house collapses and then I get sued and maybe my insurance policy doesn't want to pay because the changes I made were technically illegal. 

A few hundred bucks seems cheap looking at that way for that kind of peace of mind. I'll call the city first thing in the morning and see about pulling a permit for the job. 

Thanks!

if the contractors are licensed & insured, and they don't want to get a permit when they need to, consider what else they may be skipping.  as for the 24' span, when adding the columns (1 at each side, inside the walls, and 1 mid-point), the engineer or architect should visit the house to find out what the columns sit on inside the floor, and whether that needs to be added to or beefed up, especially an older frame house.  

typically an engineer or architect has E&O insurance (ask for proof) for several years after the project (insurance not mandatory). whereas a contractor typically is required to carry builder insurance for 1 year after project completion (in some states; check with yours). if you decide not to use professionals, proceed at your own risk.

I agree with others, you really need an engineer to sign off on this. By doing so, you may be able to get by with maybe 3 Lvl's and no post in the middle. A 24' span is a very long span especially for a inexperienced person. I can recommend an engineering company in Atlanta if needed

I second the above  comments - please hire a structural  Engineer. There is too much risk for everyone opening up a 24' wall without one.   This opening could be impacting the integrity of other parts of the structure that the avg. framing contractor may not take into account. 

@Jon Holdman is absolutely on the money.

I happen to be a Structural Engineer. 24' ft in a home is a rather long span to support. One quick word of advice, bring someone in (i.e. Professional Structural Engineer, with the ability to seal calcs/plans in your state) in at the very beginning. Remodel jobs where we are brought in on the front end are always easier for everyone involved. Bringing someone like me in at the back end is always more expensive, and it is always more frustrating for the homeowner. 

Others have touched on the liability aspect as well. There is a reason my firm carries high levels of insurance. By signing off on something, we are accepting responsibility for the design. This is something you definitely want. 

One final note, while everyone is familiar with gravity loading, very few are probably familiar with shear loading. A 24' long wall, (assuming 8 ft high) has tremendous shear capacity. This capacity plays a big role in your house standing up through time.

Best of luck. But yeah, seek professional help!

No way in hell am I moving/removing/altering a 24 foot load bearing wall without a structural engineering plan in place.  That's a huge span and altering it is nothing to take lightly.

I'm in CA, so 4k seems dirt cheap...which would scare the hell out of me.....especially when the other one is 14k....something doesn't add up.

We are all trying to save $$ but remember.....this isn't hanging drywall, or painting, or carpet or counter tops....this holds the house up !!! Don't cut corners or cheap out....do it right....

Thank you all for your help. 

Ended up finding a highly rated local structural engineer for $550 who carries E/O insurance. The $550 includes the plans and a review after the fact with a letter stating everything is okay (provided the contractor did the job correctly).

Pulling the permit is $120 if I do it myself and I can write down the contractors information (cheaper than having the contractor pull it). 

Paying an extra $670 seems well worth it for the peace of mind.

$4400 including materials sounds like a steal to me

And I am cheap.  Something doesn’t sound right to me

@Frank Zondlo @MIchael Rickerd

I am a Building Inspector and work with Architects, Structural Engineers and contractors.  It always makes me uncomfortable when someone says they don't want to get a permit because of the hassle.  Doing the job right and safe is most important.  A 24 foot bearing wall opening is large and requires analysis and calculations.  An old house, plaster walls requires careful review of the point loads.  Glad to hear you hired a structural engineer.

Good Luck.

  

Originally posted by @Frank Zondlo :

I'm curious @Michael Plante what would you expect to pay? 

To be honest I don’t know

I have always looked in awe at the flip TV shows and thought wow that must be expensive to knock out a 10 or 15’ wall.  

The. I read yours is 24’.  But now thinking about it having a post maybe you don’t need an engineered beam for the 12’ span

I thought 24’ no post would be maybe 10k or more  

Yeah 24' with no post I figured would be expensive. The 4400 includes a post in the middle. I've gotten 4 quotes in so far btw: $4,400, $4,500, $14,000, and $22,000.

Interesting aside, the two quotes in the 4k range were from contractors that came out and looked at the wall and took their own measurements. The other I sent pictures and measurements too and they just threw out the price without ever seeing it in person. 

Back in my days of gun slinging I hardly pulled permits, but I'd still get a third party opinion. Framers just don't know. I've came in after the fact to fix stuff and saw a 2x6 spanning 10' on the first floor of a two story and the investor was wondering why all his drywall was cracking. Ha. We had to put in double big tall laminated beams.

So at the very least pay an engineer to come out and advise. This has been years, but mine would come out and tell me beam size for $250, which I was happy to pay.

No days we always pull them, less liability and less hassle. If you get caught it ends up costing you an arm and a leg in fines and hiring a new licensed guy to redo the thing.

Good luck

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

Lock We hate spam just as much as you

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here