01 st louis ranch home

This 1970s St. Louis ranch home was purchased as a fixer-upper. There were many obvious improvements to be made, and a home inspection showed it was in decent shape, making it a good candidate for a remodel and updates.

While renovations were in full swing, Mosby Building Arts’ carpenters made an interesting discovery when replacing interior trim on all of the windows: one of the load-bearing walls had been compromised by an improperly installed window.

02 load bearing wall compromised

It appeared that in the recent past, a window was turned into a doorway, and a new window was installed into a previously blank wall without understanding of structure or concern about which walls were load-bearing. As shown in the diagram above, four vertical wall studs were severed to make way for a 6’ wide window. Blocks of 2x4s were installed between the cut studs above the window. From work they had completed in the basement, the Mosby crew knew this was an exterior load-bearing wall, and that these blocks were a bad sign. Suddenly, the slightly sagging ceiling above this window made sense – it wasn’t just the normal movement seen in older homes, it had begun caving in from having no support!

This compromised load-bearing wall was undetected during inspection because it was a non-destructive home inspection. Other than that slightly sagging ceiling, there were no other indications of a structural problem to tip off an inspector. Only when the interior of the wall was exposed was the damage revealed. This is, unfortunately, a common occurrence for remodelers, because they are the ones who dig into walls and uncover what lies behind them.

Uncovering unknown problems is also what makes remodelers problem solvers. Mosby quickly formulated and executed this plan:

03 load bearing wall restored

• Remove the drywall from the majority of the affected wall
• Install a temporary stud wall a couple feet away from the exterior wall to support the roof trusses
• Remove the window and adjacent door
• Remove the cut studs from above the window opening, remove the short header above the adjacent door, cut a few studs in place to create jack studs for the new header
• Install new appropriately sized header of two 2×12 boards to span above the window and door
• Install a new window and re-install the original door
• Install drywall
• Trim out the window

04 installing new load bearing header

The discovery of the compromised load-bearing wall prompted a decision from the homeowner to install a new window unit. This repair and the lead-time on ordering a new item caused an unplanned delay in the project. But it was fortunate to find this potentially serious problem during construction rather than years later when damage and the expense to repair it would have been substantially more serious and expensive.

05 new window and trim in restored load bearing wall

This story illustrates how important it is for qualified professionals to identify load-bearing walls before undertaking any remodeling project. And that sometimes shoddy construction can be covered up just well enough to go undetected by home inspectors and remodelers – but only for so long.

Unexpected curve-balls are the nature of remodeling, and luckily for these homeowners, the Mosby Building Arts construction crews are experienced professionals who work quickly to solve problems. If you need load-bearing walls in your Metro St. Louis home identified, repaired or modified, call the Mosby office at 314.909.1800 or contact them here.