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Question DetailsAsked on 6/22/2015

What is the estimated cost of taking down a load bearing wall and installing a steel beam to span 24 feet?

I want to open up my kitchen by taking down a load bearing wall and column. I've been advised by an architect that it will require a steel beam to span the 24 feet across the width of the townhouse. I'm also worried about the limestone tile floor installed in the MBA on the floor above. It was installed over Ditra.
Has anyone had an experience with this process and thus know the pros and cons as well as the expense?

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1 Answer


The architect should have been able to provide a construction cost estimate, unless one of the modern prima donna's who say they "create the concept" but down-to-earth things like architect's or engineer's cost estimates and helping you figure out if you can actually afford what they designed is below them.

Depends on a lot of things - if any intermediate supports, what is below the support points/bottom of support columns (especially if not at the bottom level of the building, so support columns would be needed below it too), how deep a beam is acceptable (shallower beam means heavier, so more cost - so a beam half the depth of another carrying the same load will typically cost about 3-4 times as much for the beam itself - plus more for the supporting members as the beam weight goes up), how the beam is being architecturally treated (painted, boxed in with drywall, veneered, etc.), accessibility to get the beam in (i.e. can it be snaked in horizontally through a hole in a wall without tree or neighbor's house interference, what are walls made of (wood frame, brick, concrete, etc) or does the beam have to be built in two pieces with a splice to get it into place, utilities located in the wall that have to be relocated, etc). And of course, the floor or roof loading it is being asked to carry down from above controls its dimensions and weight.

As architect said, a non-custom beam wood drops out at about 18-20 foot maximum span, so steel would be your normal choice for a 24' span though you might be able to do it with a custom-built laminated high-grade plywood beam. Might cost, just off the top of my head, probably at least $3-5,000 all told on the very low side if on ground level and can be snaked in horizontally, and I would expect you are looking at more like $5-10,000 range if in a difficult to work location or major support work has to be done to support it through an underlying floor. more if you have significant utilities in that wall.

My recommendation - look at whether you really need an uninterrupted 24' span or can tolerate a mid-support or perhaps two or more supports with a concealing arch to get you into a lighter member and possibly back into wood beam territory - because without at least one intermediate support I would guess without roughing out a design) you are talking roughly a 10-12 inch deep beam weighing about 400-750#, or for a shallow (say 6-8 inch) heavy duty beam maybe as heavy as 1000 pounds for the beam alone. Not that steel is inherently bad or inherently harder to use - just reduces the number of contractors who are likely to want to bid on it, because many have little or no experience with structural steel framing, so using steel beam will probably result in higher bids than otherwise.

Certainly it will require a definitive design from an architect or structural/civil engineer to get a permit, and for general contractors to bid from and eventually build to.

About the tile floor - beiong installed on ditra actually hjelps, because it is pretty much debonded fromt he subfloor, so a bit of movement is less likely to crack it. In all probability, any cracking would almost certainly be through the grout, not the tile, so a bit of grout touchup should be expected.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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