What walls can I remove in my home?

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The most common remodel questions we get at Complete Building Solutions are regarding the removal of a wall for expansions and making open floor plans. Commonly these inquiries would include walls between the kitchen and the living room to create a great room concept. Homes built in the 1930’s-1970’s typically had 11’x19’ kitchens leaving the cook of the house feeling boxed in and isolated from the rest of the family. In this modern era, we find homeowners looking for a more open floor plan that allows the whole family to interact. Because of this, our phones ring off the hook with questions from realtors, homeowners, and home flippers regarding how to proceed with a wall removal.  Typically, this is our recommendation.

Before you hire a contractor or decide to remove a wall yourself, you must determine if the wall is load bearing. Load bearing walls support or transfer the load of a structure from one area to another. Removing a wall such as this without replacing it with a new form of support can be detrimental to integrity of the home. Often times a new beam & column system will be required to replace the wall. If this is the case, you will need to hire an engineer to design the system and be sure that the new column transfers the load properly. Depending on where the column sits on the floor, blocking may be necessary. See the diagram below.

 

Load Bearing Wall Engineer Sketch Sample

With this said, it is smart to move forward cautiously while removing a non-load bearing wall as well. There are several factors to consider before the wall demolition begins. What heating, air conditioning, ventilation, plumbing, electrical, thermostat or other unknown challenges may be present? These are all questions you can ask Complete Building Solutions.

It is also very important that you check with your city before moving forward with the wall removal and installation of a new support system. Frequently, a permit will be required to proceed with this work. Our engineers can provide you the specifications in obtaining a proper permit. We can help you determine if the wall is in fact load bearing and design a replacement beam and column sealed with an engineer’s stamp for city approval.

If you are still having questions about your specific remodel, please feel free to give us a call.

 

 

The Dangers of Cutting Concrete without an Engineer

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x ray machine-concrete slab

Complete Building Solutions was recently called out to inspect the concrete slab on a 36 story building in Minneapolis. A contractor working on the site was looking to install new plumbing and would need to cut into the concrete to do this. After X-raying the floor he became concerned that the slab was structural. He noticed that some of the slab was poured 7-12 inches thick, the footings were 20 feet deep, and some of the existing rebar was placed only 2-3” apart from each other. Because of this, he no longer felt comfortable to proceed without an engineer’s opinion.

Concrete Slab

The video below shows our team and the contractor working together to examine the floor.

Complete Building Solutions determined that the slab was NOT structural and that it was safe to proceed with the plumbing installation.   Our engineer’s then provided a scope of work to the contractor on how best to fill the voids under the concrete floor and place the new concrete floor with the proper rebar installation.

Engineers -structural slab

Is my Wall Load Bearing

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Most homes built before the 1980’s were hand framed which means any wall removal or addition project typically needed to be structurally engineered by a professional. The replacement of hand framing with trusses during the 1970-1980’s simplified the whole process making it easier to pull out a wall.

However, wall removal/additions can still be very complicated and frequently require an engineer’s stamp of approval to acquire a permit. Because of this, customers call us weekly to help them determine if a wall is load bearing.

The picture below is a great example of one of those calls. The owner of this two-story home wanted to remove an entire wall and create a new beam and column system in order to open up the existing great room.

Load Bearing Wall

Complete Building Solutions performed an onsite inspection and determined that the wall was load bearing with an existing header. Our engineers then designed a column and beam to replace the entire wall.

If you are looking to remove/add a wall or start a new remodeling project, feel free to give Complete Building Solutions a call today for questions 612 868 2922

 

Sump Pump Running Nonstop

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Sump Pump

Have you noticed that your sump pump is running constantly or more than it should be? A sump pump system really exists as a backup in case your water management systems fail or are not capable of handling periodic weather-related moisture such as heavy rains. Because of this, a sump pump should not be running every 5 minutes or nonstop. If it is, the best thing to do is to have an engineer take a look at the problem. Sometimes natural springs or high-water tables cold be the culprit, but it may be as simple as poor water management. We will examine a few principles that can make a whole lot of difference in protecting your foundation from water.

Working gutters with downspouts & extensions:

Gutters are extremely important for running water away from the home. However, gutters alone will not prevent water from pooling at your foundation. You need working downspouts and extensions to carry the roof water away from the foundation.

When was the last time you cleaned out your gutters? If you cannot remember it is definitely time to do some investigating. Plugged gutters may be contributing to the sump pump issue.

Positive grade:

Another important factor regarding water management is the grade around your building. A negative grade around a building will invite water back to the foundation and could make the sump pump run more frequently. To remedy this, there needs to be a positive grade  around the foundation. International building code states that the ground must fall away from the foundation at least 6 inches within the first 10 feet. This is extremely important if you are interested in preserving both the health of your buildings foundation and your sump pump.

Proper landscape:

Sometimes certain landscaping features hold water near your foundation. One example is a planting bed near the base of your home that has a metal or plastic edging to keep the ground saturated for the plants. The plants may be happy, but your home is not. That sitting water can do damage to the foundation and seep into the basement.

Properly installed hardscape:

Varying types of “hardscape” such as decks & patios can trap water around the foundation. To protect the foundation, these hard surfaces must be built with a pitch capable of draining water away from the home. Proper and correctly installed deck flashing is also an element that is crucial to deflecting water.

Without a professional to take a closer look, it could be difficult to pinpoint exactly why your sump pump is running frequently. However, even just one of the above factors could be causing the issue. Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog that will discuss in detail other important factors that go into having a DRY basement.

Home Flippers- Do your research BEFORE you buy

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Home Flippers! Have you ever purchased a home only to find out that it had a bad foundation or cracked joists in the basement? Was it a much higher investment than expected? We have been there and seen it all. Complete Building Solutions wants to assist you with your purchasing decision. Call us BEFORE you buy, so we can help save you time and money.

DIY’s & House Flippers! How to Know When You Need to Consult with a Licensed Engineer

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This blog is for all the handy husbands and professional home flippers out there. We frequently hear you asking when you need to pull the trigger and book an engineering inspection on a working project. Too frequently inspections are put off in the hopes of saving money on an expensive engineering bill.  As engineers, it is not only an ethical obligation, but the law to uphold individual and societal safety. Truthfully, monumental damage can occur if certain structural elements are altered during a project. So, how you do know when an inspection is essential?

The the answer is not so simple . However, it is safe to say when the homes skeletal structure is being altered, a  licensed engineer’s opinion should be sought out. Skeletal structures can include foundation framework, floors, walls, and ceilings. These elements are responsible for keeping the structure together & standing.

So, if you are modifying your home or building’s skeletal structure you should call an engineer. Great. But, you might also be wondering what specifically is considered a structural modification. A modification is when a load bearing element is repaired, changed, removed or when a new load bearing element is added. One example is the removal of a wall in your home. Certain walls are responsible for bearing weight and would be detrimental to your home if removed. However, there are also non load bearing walls that would present zero damage to your home if knocked out. Telling the difference between them is why you need an engineer.

IMG_2169

Another example is the removal of a metal post responsible for supporting beams in your basement. These posts are present to help disperse forces throughout different areas of the home. If one of those posts were to be moved, it could severely alter the structure of the home. An engineer knows how to diagnose this.

If you are a seasoned home flipper you probably have worked with an engineer on some of the examples discussed above. On top of this, it is likely you have hired a structural engineer to inspect a home before deciding if it was a worthy investment. Professional home flippers highly value engineer inspections. Our firm works regularly with clients who base their purchasing decisions on our findings. They want to know what they are getting themselves into before they make a significant investment in a project. Engineers are able to spot hidden problems, such as a faulty foundation, that could end up costing a home flipper or homeowner large amounts of money that was not budgeted for during the purchasing decision.

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To conclude, preventative inspections are always advised to attain a return on investment or save money long term. If you are working on a project that incorporates an alternation to a skeletal structure such as removing a wall, altering joists, or removing a beam, get a professionals advice. If you have a contractor aiding in your project, heed their guidance. A reputable contractor will let you know if they are uncomfortable working on your project without an engineer’s inspection. Sometimes the city might even require an engineers inspection before a contractor is allowed to pull a permit. We will be talking about this further in an upcoming blog post.

Remember, it the engineer’s job to make sure your dwelling is safe. It is best to consult and engineer and discuss a plan that will allow you to achieve your goals in an affordable manner. If you have any questions about your project, be sure to contact Complete Building Solutions today to speak with an expert (612) 868-2922.