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This month’s featured project will focus on a particular problem that presents itself in many remodels. What happens when you want to start moving more than a simple interior wall and want to start altering the overall structure of a home?

Recently we completed a full house remodel for a family who purchased a lake house intending to fully transform the house into a home that better fits their style. To do so, they wanted to know if they could not only shift a few walls around but redo the whole floor plan by changing room locations. Most anything is possible if you have a full working knowledge of how structures work and know what you can move and how to do it.

With our experience of major remodels over the past century, we have multiple clever solutions that truly deliver on our client’s most challenging requests. The truth of the matter is structure is essential. Walls can’t always be shifted to create the space that you want without some significant planning. Sometimes the amount of work that it is going to take to get the desired result isn’t worth it in the end. On the other hand, having a knowledgeable builder can help you to find solutions for these issues and can help you reach that desired end goal.

The three typical outcomes when altering structure include fully visible structure (like walls or beams), partially visible structure (a decorative wrapped beam or columns), or fully hidden structure (no structure in your way or visible). The biggest trend in remodeling these days is “open concept.” However, if you remove all your interior walls without careful planning, your roof will come crashing down on you.

In this project, we have three good examples of the different outcomes when it comes to altering the structure.

Fully Hidden Structure

These types of challenges are easiest to deal with if they can be foreseen before the remodel starts. Our first example is one that we knew was going to be an issue before the first wall was ever demoed as the existing structure clearly, and visibly told the whole story.

Our homeowners were wishing for a larger kitchen and wanted to add a walk-in pantry that the house currently didn’t have. The existing home had a Solarium on the side that the homeowners weren’t too fond of. It also had a formal dining room that they weren’t planning on using. Removing these two rooms provided an area where a larger kitchen could be placed along with a walk-in pantry. The existing kitchen could be removed from the rear of the home and relocated to this new area.

Two issues presented themselves with this. The overall idea of this new layout was to create an open floor plan. Removing the dining room meant a major bearing wall carrying a large portion of the second level above needed to be fully removed. The second issue was that the Solarium was an “added” room that was cantilevered (or floating) off the side of the house and would not provide a solid foundation to carry this new proposed load. Here is how we solved these two issues.

The simple solution for this issue is to just install a longer beam that extends to the outer foundation wall to carry the floor load above. Like previously mentioned, the issue with this is the Solarium isn’t resting on a foundation as it’s cantilevered. In addition, aesthetically, the beam is still sticking below the ceiling and would be sticking down right in the middle of the kitchen ceiling (fully visible structure). We chose to take on the challenge of taking this beam and shoving it up into the floor system making it disappear in the final product (fully hidden structure). That would take care of the aesthetics of it, but we still needed to figure out how to support the load that the beam would be carrying.  

The interior portion of the beam was an easy solution. A new footer could be poured in the basement and a new column under the beam on the main level could be carried down to the new column and footing in the basement.  

The exterior load was a little more challenging as a hidden post in the new exterior wall carried the load down to a footing under the cantilevered portion of the structure. 

A new multi-ply engineered beam could then be installed into the floor framing by precisely cutting out the floor joists and mechanically fastening the joists to the new beam which can now rest securely of the new posts on either side. 

The finished result really shows cases all this hard work. You have a large open kitchen that fully disguises all the physical work that the structure is doing (fully hidden structure). You would never know that there is a very large beam carrying the entire second floor above you by looking at this kitchen.  

Partially Visible Structure

A second scenario that frequently pops up in many remodels is when you can’t easily see how the structure was built, and you may not have the original plans making preplanning very difficult. You can make your best-educated guesses, but you won’t truly know what you are dealing with until you open the walls.

This project had such a scenario. The homeowners were looking to change the ceiling in the front turret of their home from a tray ceiling to a vaulted ceiling. We had our best guesses as to how the roof of this turret was framed, but we didn’t honestly know until we opened up the ceiling. We guessed that the roof was either stick framed or comprised of trusses. We were hoping for a stick frame, but of course, it was trusses.

The issue that this presented was that there was a main structural truss that couldn’t be removed. At this point it was going to be fully visible structure. So our solution that we presented as a possible solution to the homeowner was that we could still do a vaulted ceiling around the truss, but create a finished wrap to go around the truss. Our goal was to lessen the draw of the beam by making it an accent to the room.  

Although the structure isn’t always removeable within a room, with a little problem solving and a great designer, there are many ways that you can disguise structure so that it doesn’t jump out at you or mess with the overall aesthetics of the room (partially visible structure). With completing this living room, the wrapped truss almost “disappears” as it now becomes a simple accent. Staining the beam the same color as the mantle and the separating beam between the two vaults helps to tie it into the same feel as the other accents in the room and not to stand out on its own, but rather as a group. This simple trick keeps the main focus drawn to the fireplace as the main focal point of the room and removes any attention from the “exposed” structure.

Fully Exposed Structure  

Finally, sometimes, in an area of a home that is just utilitarian and the aesthetics don’t matter as much; structure doesn’t have to be disguised. It’s just there, and it serves its purpose. Plain and simple. Our homeowners for this project wanted to add a substantial garage addition to the front of their existing garage. To do so, the current front wall that is carrying the existing roof needed to be removed, and a steel beam is to replace it so that the addition could be built.

In the end the beam is clear as day (fully visible structure), it sticks out, but it simply didn’t matter to the homeowner. It’s there to serve a purpose. There was no need here to hide this structure as it’s a simple garage. 

If you are looking to do a major remodel and are wondering if it would be possible to switch your floor plan around, our team of highly experienced craftsmen would love to help you plan your project. If interested, please contact our Remodel Salesman Dan Wanke at 608-849-5916.  

Be sure to keep an eye out next month as we show you how the rest of this project turned out!