Wall removal permit question

9 Replies

Hey guys, noob question:

I'm looking at taking a few walls out in my primary residence/ live and flip.

I need to pull permits, but I'm not sure exactly what type of beam i will need to comply with code. So i'm hoping an expert can review my plans and point me in the right direction. (a PDF of the plans is below.)

Do I need to consult an engineer? an experienced GC? or do i go to the codes and compliance office and ask them what I need?

Before i make a fool out of myself at C&C I'd like to come correct.  Obviously my priority is safety and quality, however budget is a close second as I'm trying to do as much of this first flip myself.  

The plans can be found here.

The house is in Newport News, VA. There is a second story above the one shown on the plans.

Thanks for any help BP 

you can get a few contractors in to see what type of walls you want to remove and a rough estimate but you will need plans from a structural engineer. The city will not likely be able to advise you on what is needed only the permit process   

You need a structural engineer.  I would guess, and it is JUST a guess, that the 14' wall is load bearing and the 11' one is not.  If there is hardwood flooring on the second floor the walls that run in the same direction as the boards in the flooring are likely load bearing.  You will need columns at the ends of the new beam and those will need something firm to stand on.  If there is a basement below this floor, you may need to add columns below the first floor columns.  If there's a basement with a beam under that 14' wall (another good clue its load bearing), the beam may be adequate.   if its on a slab, you may need to add support in the slab below the columns.  This is all the sort of stuff a structural engineer figures out.

The city will not advise you but might be able to point you to local structural engineers.

Very helpful @Jon Holdman @Steven Picker

I figured I'd need to consult with an engineer, but when talking with a contractor before he made it seem like it was as easy as "pull a permit and get it done" maybe it's best I didn't go with that guy lol.

The house is on a crawl space, but wow, I hadn't even thought about what the columns would stand on. And yes, that 11' wall is most likely not load bearing but i figured that out after I sketched a little beam above it. 

Thanks again guys.

If the wall you are removing is structural you will need to have plans drawn up by a structural engineer or an architect.  The plans will detail exactly what type/ size beam you need to use.  This will be required by your local municipality.  Go into the municipal office to pull the permit and they can probably give you some names of people if you don't have one.  Many counties/ cities require the contractor you use to be registered with them to do the work.  I don't recommend removing a structural wall yourself unless you have some construction experience.  A non-structural wall is a much simpler project that could be handled by someone with little experience.  

This will be very town/area specific. I have never had to have any plans drawn up for my structural beams. Here is what I recommend doing.

Start at the permit office. Explain to them that you will be removing a couple of walls in your home, and assume at least one or two is structural. Ask them what they need for you to do this. There is no harm in asking what you need to do for them (unless you planned to try and skirt the permit process and it sounds like you don't want to). They will tell you if you need Engineered plans, or if you simply need calculations and an engineered beam.

Once they tell you what they expect, this will change what you do. If they require stamped engineered Plans, then hiring an Engineer is your only real option. If they indicate they only need the calculations and engineered beams, this can actually be done without an Engineer. Now with that said, if you are not comfortable with running these calcs (live loads, dead loads, etc...) then you can have an Engineer run them for you. If you have the calculations, you give the beam manufacturer the loading, and the exact measurements of the space. They will then provide you with the beam you need.

My experience has been this. I have never needed a plan/drawing showing anything. The town asked for calculations (didn't care who came up with them) and then the manufacturers documentation for the beam. In my last project they provided me with 3 options, depending on how deep I wanted the beam to be. On one house I added a column in the basement under the beam support, however the town never inspected it (he asked if it was there, but never went down). The last house I did he asked me to pack the space between the carrying beam in the basement and the floor at both the exterior wall and the center section, but not column required.

when you file for the permit they will tell you what you need

Or just call up the permit offIce and ask what you need 


I don't know how far along you are on your project.

If you have a little construction experience you should be able to look up in the attic and see whats up.

First look to see if the joists and rafters are stick built or trusses. The way the house is laid out it would be reasonable to frame the house with trusses.

If they are trusses I would think that both walls are not load bearing. If stick built the one running perpendicular to the long wall is likely a load bearing wall.

You can get an experienced GC to look at it and they will be able to tell you.

If it is load bearing you will need an engineer to draw it up so you can turn it into the city.

Not that expensive. I just had an engineer draw up turning roof rafters and joists into trusses. It cost me a wopping $350.00.

there is a second story above the drawing there, but that’s good to know. I want to go about this the right way, but I really don’t want to have to hire an engineer. But 350 isn’t bad I was expecting something more brutal haha. Thanks for the help guys. I emailed the plan examiner and he said they need to know what the load is sitting on (foundation wise,) and the manufacturers specifications for the beam. 

I’m sure I will have to have the new framing and wiring and inspected also though. Now what I need is someone who can accurately calculate the required beam without beating me over the head on the price.

@Michael Snead this is very easy for an engineer. I can't imagine more than a few hours of their time to view and calculate. The calculations go to the beam manufacturer and they provide the specification. Both of these go to the town and your set. They do have to review the work, but with you reaching out before hand and being up front usually goes toward them not being tough on you.

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