Moving an interior doorway:Do I need an architect? Structural engineer?
September 27, 2019 5:53 AM   Subscribe

TL/DR: I want to know officially going in that this longish-term plan of mine is structurally sound, compatible with building standards, permitted or permit-able, blueprinted (preferably), okay with the insurance company....etc. Not sure where to start.

Details for people who can stand this sort of thing:

I want to move a doorway in my kitchen five feet to the right, cut the bathroom on the opposite side of the wall in half, drywall the old area, and add some countertops to the kitchen. This will add to the counterspace and size of the kitchen, add to the size of the mudroom on the opposite side of that wall, reduce the size of the half bathroom, and make our dining room a simple, plausible, cozy square rather than the weird pass-through effect it has now.

-happily, there is existing plumbing for the new bathroom arrangement
-stove isn't moving; fridge isn't moving far enough to be an issue

I can draw all this out and have measured: it works. I have considered accessibility issues. But I am not a professional. I don't think I have the money to do all this at once, but definitely not the equanimity. I want a professional to work with to help verify that this will work structurally, and for them to produce something on paper that I can show the town for permitting and subcontractors for their own steps. I may hire a general contractor ultimately, but for example:

--the first order of business is 'take this bathroom sink here and hook it to the plumbing over there'*

--Second order of business is 'Move the bathroom door back'

--Third order of business is 'Add new hall/passage to access that bathroom and move the actual bathroom door'

--Seal off the existing kitchen area that accesses the mudroom and bathroom

--Add some new cabinets/countertops

I know how this work could expand and will include things like 'hey, let's do the floor too). I'm okay with it taking time, and maybe even paying more than I would if I just did it all at once.

I just want an authority figure to say: Your house will not collapse if you do this. Your math is correct. Here is a map for how it would look. Here are the exact dimensions.

*if it matters, the old plumbing is behind the wall--previous owners had a washing machine there.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
You need an experienced contractor.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:22 AM on September 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hire a residential designer. Or, since you have drawn the plan yourself, draw it and then have a consultation with an engineer.

Very generally, I’ll say, you are looking for the bearing walls. Can you go in the attic and see which way the joists are running? If they are running perpendicular to the wall you want to alter, and if they are overlapping at that point or if that point is mid-span, you are looking at a bearing wall. In general, though, moving a standard sized doorway is not that big of a deal because you’ll use an appropriately sized header over your new doorway which will transfer and carry your load.

And yes, a good contractor can also help you look at the framing of your home and see if you need an engineer. They can sometimes recommend a person to do your drawings and your permit submittal. However you may not need a permit depending on your locality. But having a drawing for them to evaluate is helpful - draw what’s there and then make a second drawing showing what you want. Highlight the changes.

You’re most of the way there!
posted by amanda at 6:44 AM on September 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

TLDR, a residential designer or an architect can help you bring all these components together as well as advise on any changes that might be an even better improvement, help get your phasing correct, create the drawings and submit your permit. However! If you just want to know if it works, definitively, hire a structural engineer who knows residential and pay for a few hours of their time for a consultation and quick review.
posted by amanda at 7:00 AM on September 27, 2019

Most decent sized cities will barely (or grudgingly, with lots of time spent talking to them) accept laymans drawings for permits, so you will probably have to pay your general contractor to provide drawings for the permit. Cost of that can be $0, as in built into the construction costs, or up to $1000.

A structural engineer's opinion and drawings are about $500-$750.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:16 AM on September 27, 2019

I hate to say it, but if you're not sure what's a load bearing wall and what's not you need to call in a professional; that's not thing you want to get wrong. I note that you don't mention electrical - you'll want lights and maybe a plug for a toothbrush or a hair dryer where the new sink goes, correct? - and say "building standards" but not "building code", which it's more commonly called.

All of this work is work that a competent person can do, for sure, but I would consider soliciting professional advice about it even if it was just coaching-type advice.
posted by mhoye at 8:47 AM on September 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

I know how this work could expand and will include things like 'hey, let's do the floor too). I'm okay with it taking time, and maybe even paying more than I would if I just did it all at once.

Just a heads-up: it's also possible the work expands to include things like "hey, we found dry-rot that needs to be addressed" or "btw this electrical needs to be brought up to code and we're legally obligated to do so."

In any case - seconding having a general contractor assess your load-bearing stuff. We've pulled our own permits for work, but have always had the GC navigate us through the process.
posted by jquinby at 9:15 AM on September 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

Cities generally want permitted work completed within a certain timeframe. One challenge with your piece-by-piece plan could be planning how the city will inspect it and being sure you'll finish on time. A contractor could help you think this through. The good news is that what you describe sounds like it could be done pretty quickly.
posted by slidell at 10:23 AM on September 27, 2019

You say you’re not professional. How much of your proposed renovation work have you already done previously? Possibly cutting openings in load-bearing walls? Most all municipalities require building permits for changes to infrastructure. What was the result of your permit research?

I’ve renovated and/or rehabbed 8 houses. After the first one, I realised that professionals are a godsend. I always do the cosmetic work - painting, stripping and varnishing wood, sanding floors, hanging the boxes in the kitchen - but not the highly skilled labour. Also, there’s one thing that professionals have that you do not: contacts. Should something unexpected pop up, and it usually does, they’ll know who to call.
posted by lemon_icing at 1:18 PM on September 27, 2019

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