Everything You Need to Know About Structural Remodeling

Homeowners may consider a structural remodel for many reasons. Sometimes, people need to repair or maintain their homes because of damage caused by a storm or aging. Very often, the homeowners simply want to make their homes more comfortable and valuable by adding windows, changing the home’s design, or increasing living space. Find out more about structural remodeling, concerns you should have about your home’s structural integrity, and of course, how you can benefit.

House structural elements in roof


What is a Structural Remodel?

A structural remodel refers to residential remodeling that involves fixing, changing, removing, or adding any load bearing elements. A load could either refer to weight or pressure. These elements could include posts, beams, columns, and of course, the home’s walls and foundation.


The Importance of Load Bearing Elements in a Home

The original architects and builders included these structural elements to bear the weight of the structure and, of course, the contents of the structure. For instance, a fully furnished second floor will add more weight than an empty one.

Sometimes, home builders have to consider outside forces as well. The following are examples of ways that the environment may add on a considerable additional load that must be considered:

  • During a windstorm or heavy rain or snow, the walls and roof may need to bear additional force or weight.
  • Changing soil pressure can put an additional load on the foundation during wet seasons and less when the soil’s dry. A typical example is the gumbo soil we have to deal with in Houston.
  • In some parts of the country, designers may even account for earthquakes, hurricanes, and other severe weather.

Naturally, a high-quality home builder will account for all of these potential loads and environmental factors when they design and build the original house.


Structural Remodeling Concerns

Just like good builders, high-quality construction companies can help you make structural changes by maintaining and even improving the house’s original structural integrity. In some areas, building codes may appear restrictive, but they’re written that way to protect property owners. You certainly don’t want to risk the wrath of your area’s building authority. More importantly, badly done structural changes can result in roof and foundation damage, uneven floors, wall cracks, door problems, and in the worst cases, collapses.

As an average homeowner, you may not always know which elements of your home are meant to bear weight and pressure and which are merely decorative or serve other functions. You probably don’t have the training to understand the long-term consequences of removing an internal wall or cutting a bigger window. The wrong steps can make your home vulnerable to damages; however, the right structural changes can improve your home’s strength, usefulness, and value. That’s why it’s important to work with a licensed, experienced construction company.


Which Structural Remodeling Permits Will You Need?

You will probably need to obtain permits before your project begins. The need for permits can vary by your local jurisdiction. These permits ensure that you conform with the building codes. In turn, these codes are meant to protect public safety and your investment. While it’s the homeowner’s final responsibility to acquire these permits, an experienced, licensed construction company will make sure you know what you need and help you get them.

In some neighborhoods, you might also need approval from your community homeowners association. You will probably need to begin by contacting your neighborhood association to find out what they require to consider your project. Your construction company should help you acquire the plans and other documents you will need to submit your approval request.


Why Consider a Structural Remodel?

Homeowners make structural remodels either to maintain the structural integrity of their home or to improve some other aspect. In many cases, they may decide to make changes that impact both of these things at the same time. For example, a homeowner might need to replace warped struts in a wall and decide that offers them a good opportunity to also add in an extra window.


Structural Repairs

Sometimes, homeowners need to do a structural remodel to preserve the structural integrity of their dwelling. These houses may have suffered wear over time, been damaged by storms or other hazards, or were simply built to outdated standards that never adequately protected them even when they were new. Some of the most common kinds of structural repair jobs on older homes include foundation repair, replacing wood supports that have warped or been damaged by dry rot, and repairing old masonry.

On the positive side, good construction companies can give these older, sometimes historic, homes a second life that will make them as sturdy and safe as a new home. They can also incorporate more modern features, such as extra windows and open living spaces, in older homes. According to the homeowner’s wishes, they may still retain the classic look or revamp the house to appear more contemporary.


Structural Remodeling

Very often, homeowners choose to make changes to improve comfort, usability, and value. Some popular examples can include:

  • Add in more or larger windows to help improve natural lighting.
  • Remove walls for contemporary and inviting open living spaces or to enlarge the rooms.
  • Add in extra rooms or more living space or storage without needing a home addition.
  • Change the design of spaces to make them more attractive, comfortable, and usable.
  • Improve energy efficiency and the home environment with extra protection against the weather and noise.

Typically, homeowners seek improvements that will make their homes more spacious, sensible, and visibly appealing. They may hope to combine or expand rooms to meet their own functionality requirements. Other changes can add design touches to make their homes more distinctive and attractive.

People who plan to stay in their home for a long time might consider the features that matter the most to them. They might need to add an extra room for a new baby or to enlarge the master bedroom after children have left home. Of course, changes that increase living space, structural integrity, and appearance should also represent a good investment in the home’s market value.


Article reviewed by Dan Bawden, CAPS, GMB, CGR, CGP, and President of Legal Eagle Contractors.