A Guide to Removing Load-bearing Walls
Steel Beam Calculations for Removal of Load-bearing Walls
If you are planning to renovate your property by removing load-bearing walls and aren’t quite sure where to start this page contains some helpful advice to assist you with your project.
Our simple guide will give you a greater understanding of the usual process and stages involved in a domestic alteration project such as removing load-bearing walls. In all cases, you must notify Building Control of your intention to carry out building works. You can apply online using the National Building Control Portal.
Step 1 – You know which load-bearing wall you want to remove, so what next?
The first stage usually involves a visit from a builder for advice and quotes for the work. Without Building Control approved building plans and structural calculations any professional builder would usually walk away from the job or advise you to engage a structural consultant or an Architect. The traditional method of site visits is now almost redundant given high-speed digital communication, and electronic plan issue. Your first step before any work is carried out is to either email us your Architectural plans or take a few photographs and measurements and produce a simple sketch and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will advise you if we require further information.
With the information, you provide us, we can get to work designing your structural supports and pad stones. In certain cases, masonry nibs or steel vertical supports are required, but that’s for us to worry about and we will advise you exactly what you can and can’t do and what is required to gain Building Control approval. Approved Document A contains strict guidance and anything outside of the guidance will require additional calculations to justify when removing load-bearing walls.
Our process usually takes 5-10 days from appointment unless you request our FAST TRACK service where we provide single beam calculations the same day as appointment and payment.
Step 2 – You now have your structural calculations
You now have your structural calculation package so the next stage in the process is Building Control approval. This is absolutely essential as carrying out unauthorized building work is a criminal offence. In addition, your work will not be covered by a Building Regulation certificate and you will have problems later on if you come to sell your property. Removing load-bearing walls is notifiable building work.
A strict term of our service is that the works being carried out are subject to a Building Regulation application. This is an important aspect of a building project and serious implications can occur if there are no Building Regulations in place. You can apply online using the National Building Control Portal.
There are three options for gaining Building Regulation approval they are:
- Full Plans Approval – This is the most thorough option. You can expect a decision within 5 weeks, or 2 months with your consent. You’ll get a completion certificate within 8 weeks of completion of the building work as long as it complies.
- Building Notice – This type of application is only for smaller projects. You can start work 2 days after your notice has been submitted to your BCB. You do not get formal approval like you do with full plans.
- Approved Inspector Initial Notice – If an Approved Inspector is used, instead of the Local Authority Building Control Service, then an ‘Initial Notice’ must be submitted to the local authority jointly by the Approved Inspector and applicant before work commences on site. Once submitted, the local authority should check the details of the Initial Notice within 5 working days – the local authority can reject the notice if the details are found to be incorrect.
All three routes have benefits but the most common for very minor domestic building work, such as removing load-bearing walls, is the Building Notice route. This is a legal document you serve on the Local Authority under Regulation 12 of the Building Regulations 2010 letting them know of your intention to carry out Building Work which is controllable. You must pay your fee at the time of submission which is usually ‘minor works’ fee band and costs around £200 for work up to £1000 and £300 for work up to £3000.
You can legally ‘commence’ the works after 48 hours have elapsed from the date the Building Notice was accepted. In all cases, the Building Inspector will ask you for your structural calculation package to justify the structural support you are intending to use. beamcalc.co.uk structural reports are in a recognized and readily accepted format. See an example beamcalc.co.uk steel beam calculation report here.
If you’re not sure how to go about this stage of the process, we can assist you by acting as your agent for a one-off fee. We will prepare your structural calculation package and complete the required paperwork and issue to your Local Authority on your behalf. Let us know at the time of enquiry if you require this additional service.
Step 3 – Appoint a builder and commence works
Choosing a contractor to carry out structural alterations to your property should not be taken lightly. You should ensure that the contractor is experienced and competent in structural alteration work as specialist temporary propping will be required during the construction phase and CDM regulations place a duty on principal contractors. beamcalc.co.uk do not provide temporary propping or safe working method statements, once the work passes to site it is the responsibility of the person carrying out the building work.
As designers, we carry out our obligations under CDM by ensuring any foreseen risks are designed out, such as heavy lifting large beams by introducing smaller spliced sections. We do not act as Principle designers and all information we provide to you should be passed onto the client appointed principal designer and client appointed principal contractor and other contractors.
There are many rogue traders operating so always ask to see examples of past work, qualifications, and insurances. Some Local Authorities have ‘safe trader’ schemes so it may be worth looking into this, or various websites such as check a trade or rated people require evidence of competence and insurance etc. before registration.
Once you have appointed your contractor has completed removing the load-bearing wall and the support beam is in place you or your builder must ask the Building Inspector to call for a site visit. During the visit, the Building Inspector will check the support beam, pad stones and any anything else which is required by the design. If the Inspector is happy with the work you will be given permission to cover the structural support beam. In domestic properties, it is a Building Regulation requirement that elements of structure achieve 30 minutes of fire resistance. Standard practice is a single layer of 12.5mm Gypsum plasterboard and a nominal 3mm skim finish. If you are planning to leave a beam exposed, there are special intumescent products on the market which would give you 30 minutes fire resistance. Specialist calculation can be carried out on steel and timber beams to demonstrate that they would not lose their loadbearing capacity within 30 minutes in a fire situation. For timber this is referred to as char rating and for steel, it is known as Hp/A.
Once the building work is finished the Building Inspector will need to visit your property to carry out a ‘final inspection’. It is common for inspectors to simply ask for photographic evidence that the work is complete if minor and nature. If the work has been carried out in accordance with Architects plans and specifications and calculations and to the required standards of the Building Regulations, you will be issued with a completion certificate under the Building Regulations 2010 which gives evidence, but not conclusive evidence, that the work complies with the Building Regulations.