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How to Cut a Pass-Through in a Load Bearing Wall

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva helps a couple frame an opening between their kitchen and living room in a load-bearing wall.

Steps for Cutting a Pass-Through in a Load-Bearing Wall

  1. Before doing any work, determine if the wall is load-bearing or non-load bearing. If in doubt, consult a structural engineer.
  2. If the wall is load-bearing, a temporary wall will need to built using 2x8 plates on the floor and ceiling and 2x4 studs at an angle to support any weight from the floors above.
  3. Hammer the studs into the temporary wall until they’re snug.
  4. Use a drill/driver to secure a brace across the studs.
  5. Use a level to draw the outline for the opening. Cut the opening using a reciprocating saw.
  6. Remove the wallboard and studs in the area of the new opening.
  7. If needed, fill any extra space with studs.
  8. Install the first jack studs on either side of the opening, with a small stud attached to hold the bottom plate of the new opening.
  9. Install two sill plates into the bottom of the opening. Secure them with screws.
  10. Create a header for the new opening using two 2x12 boards with a piece of ½” plywood sandwiched in between with construction adhesive and screws.
  11. Install the header in the opening. Install the additional jack studs inside the opening for the header to rest on.
  12. Attach the jack studs and header using screws.
  13. With the header in place, the temporary wall can be removed.
  14. Use the reciprocating saw to cut the drywall on the other side of the opening.
  15. Touch up the drywall or plaster around the opening.

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Tom uses kiln-dried lumber and plywood to frame the pass through, which is available to buy at from lumber yards and home centers.

Tom also shares some tips for identifying a load-bearing wall, but ultimately cautions that a structural engineer is the best person to consult.

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