Enlarging a Room

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

The techniques for removing a wall between two rooms to turn them into one large, through-room are essentially the same as those needed to make a new doorway or a pass-through but on a larger scale.

However, if the wall is load-bearing much more of the structure of the house will be at risk from collapse, so you must take particular care to ensure that you provide temporary support for any loads carried by the wall before you start to remove it and, just as importantly, that there is adequate permanent support when finished. This means finding out if the floor joists of the room above rest upon it and also if the same wall continues upwards to form a dividing wall on the floor above, for example. This is where you may find it necessary to check first with a professional contractor.

If there is no continuation wall above and the floor joists simply rest on top of the wall, you can remove it completely, using stout wood planks and adjustable props to bear the weight of the joists from below while the supporting beam is set in place. However, if there is a continuation of the wall, you must leave a margin at ceiling level to allow for the insertion of wooden needles at 3ft intervals.

Ceiling joists at right-angles to the wall must be supported by props under planks, spaced at 3ft intervals.

As already mentioned, it is normal for wide spans c: this sort to be supported by a steel beam but the beams can be very heavy and you might find it easier to use a steel angle instead. This will be lighter and only good for shorter spans depending on the size.

You could also use a reinforced concrete beam or a pre-stressed concrete beam (the lighter of the two). But both will only cope with spans of 10ft so they are only really suitable for narrow rooms.

In any event you may have to gain approval from your local Building Inspector for the way you intend to tackle the job, and this includes your choice beam. If you are not sure of the best type to us always take professional advice or check with your local Building Code.

Whatever type of beam you choose, it will still be heavy and you will need helpers to lift it into position. You will also need enough extra adjustable props to support it at 3ft intervals while you mortar it in place.

The ends of the beam must rest on bearings that are 6 to 9in wide, and because of the heavy loads carried it is usual to support the beam on concrete “padstones” (concrete blocks are ideal). This helps to spread the load evenly across the bearings.

As an alternative to a concrete padstone, you could use a heavy steel plate, or one or two courses of a strong brick; normal facing bricks would crumble under the weight.

The bearings must have substantial support below them to cope with the loads imposed on them from above and the way you arrange this support can take several forms. It is something that the Building Inspector will pay particular attention to.

A common method of supplying support for the bearings is to build brick columns or piers at each end of the span, toothing every second course into the brickwork of the adjoining walls.

Such piers must have substantial foundations of their own and this usually means digging down into the ground below, putting in a layer of well compacted gravel and pouring a thick layer of concrete on top. The exact requirements will be specified by your local Code which should be checked at the beginning.

Once the foundation has hardened. you can begin building the footings of the piers, remembering to set flashing in one of the mortar joints level with the flashing of the existing walls. This should be just below the level of the floor. If the floor is solid concrete, it should have a damp-proof membrane and you must take steps to see that your new flashing and the membrane are sealed together.

In some cases you may be allowed to use a set of engineering bricks as a flashing.

When the pier has been built, it is topped with mortar and the padstone set in place and leveled.

If the wall you are breaking through is a solid Sth thick wall, you may be able to leave short stubs of the wall projecting into the room to act as piers for the ends of the beam. However, you will need to check with your local Building Code to be satisfied that the original wall has substantial enough foundation. Remember, the weight carried by the wall, which was spread evenly along the length of its foundations on removal of the wall, be concentrated on two much smaller patches.

The mortar of the old wall should be in good condition, too. If it is loose or crumbly. rake out all the joints and repoint them with fresh mortar.

Building a Stud Partition

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

The easiest form of partition to build is the wood frame variety — it is ideal for dividing one bedroom into two, making an extra powder room or bathroom, or splitting a dining area from a kitchen or living room. The wood frame is simply nailed together and faced with drywall on each side; it is easily adapted for doorways, pass through or windows. Being essentially hollow, it can also be used to conceal electrical wiring and water pipes.

The framework comprises a number of uprights called “studs” fitted between lengths of wood spanning the width of the ceiling and floor. These are called the “head plate” and “sole plate” respectively. Short horizontal lengths of wood are fixed between the uprights to brace them and support the cladding. In most cases 2 x 3in rough sawn softwood is ideal for the studs and bracing, with 11/2 x 3in for the head and sole plates. If the partition is to carry a lot of weight such as shelves or cupboards, a larger size should be used, say 2 x 4in.

Planning the partition

Deciding where to put the partition is the first thing to do so that you end up with two usable rooms. If possible arrange things so that each new room gets the benefit of a window, but do not be tempted to set the partition so that it divides a window in two. Not only does this look dreadful, but in some cases it is also illegal. If you cannot provide a window for each room, glaze the upper portion of the partition so that you can “borrow” some natural light from the room with the window. Similarly, if you cannot provide an opening window for each new room, you will be required to install a form of mechanical ventilation.

Important considerations are the layouts of floor and ceiling joists since the head and sole plates will be attached to these. Ideally, the partition should run at right angles to the joists so that its weight is spread across them. If this is not possible, it must be directly above a joist. With a solid floor, there is no problem.

If the head plate does not span the ceiling joists and does not come below a single joist because the ceiling joists do not line up with the floor joists, you should nail lengths of 2in sq blocking between the ceiling joists and attach the head plate to these.

Before you begin work, check under the floor and above the ceiling for any cables or pipes that might be damaged by nails or screws. It is also a good idea to check with your local Building Code before carrying out any structural work.

Erecting the framework by cutting the head and sole plates to length; whenever possible buy wood long enough so that you can span the room with one piece. Nail the sole plate to the joists through the floorboards using 4in long common nails or fix it to a concrete floor with 4in long No.10 woodscrews and wall plugs or with masonry anchors or masonry nails. Screw the head plate to the ceiling joists.

Cut the studs for each end of the partition, leaving them a fraction over-length so that they will be a tight fit between the head and sole plates, and screw them to the wall. Use 4in long No.10 screw and wall plugs.

Then mark off the positions of the other studs along the sole plate, making sure their centers are 16in or no more than 24in apart. They should be positioned so that the edges of the cladding material will meet along their center lines (standard sheets of drywall are 4ft wide). If the partition is to have a door in it, the stud positions on each side of the opening must be adjusted to allow for the door width and the thickness of the lining.

Measure and cut each stud individually as there is no guarantee that head and sole plates will be parallel.

Set each stud in place, making sure it is vertical with a spirit level, and fix it by driving 3 or 4in common nails at an angle through the side of the stud into the head and sole plate (known as toe-nails).