Cutting a “pass thru” in a load bearing wall

Normally, cutting a pass through in a wall is a fairly simple task. Cut the drywall, cut out the studs, frame it and you’re pretty much done. It’s maybe a half day job.

However, when you are cutting a pass through or “window” in a load bearing wall, you have a whole new set of issues and challenges to deal with.

Recently, while visiting some friends, the subject came up, as they had been considering opening up a pass through from their kitchen into their living room. Simple, right?

Not so much.

Upon inspecting the wall from the basement, we realized we had two very important issues to deal with. First, the wall is a load bearing wall, supporting the upstairs of the house and second, there was a ton of “stuff” running up through the wall; a toilet stack, a set of water lines feeding the upstairs bathroom, a cold air return and three sets of ducts.

After some consideration, we agreed that we would cut two smaller “pass thrus” instead of one larger one; One on each side of the toilet stack.  We would then only have to move one duct and the two water lines.

Opening up the wall allowed us to see exactly what we were dealing with. In these photos, you can see the plan taped out on the wall and the obstacles to be dealt with.

 

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We would need to remove three studs, normally not a problem but in a load bearing wall, potentially a huge problem if not done correctly.

The process is not difficult, it just takes some extra work. I had to build two beams that would carry the weight previously supported by the studs to be removed.

Building a beam involves sandwiching 1/2″ plywood in between a series of 2X6s to arrive at the correct width.

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The beam is then supported on either side by 2X6 studs running vertically to the floor.

 

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With the wall supported, I could then cut out the rest of the drywall and finish framing the first pass thru.

 

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The second pass thru was a bit more challenging as the duct and water lines for the upstairs bathroom had to be re-routed.

 

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With the “pass thrus” complete, I could then close up the wall and the face and trim the “windows”. A little primer and paint and the two “windows” were complete, opening up the kitchen and bringing more natural light into the living room.

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