On Moving Walls... and Quieting Squeaky Tiles

An expert gives tips on renovating space and fixing a squeaky floor.

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Question: We have a rambler that was built in the '70s. We are planning to renovate our kitchen/dining area. We need to knock out a wall to open the rooms for a more even flow. Can you suggest a software package that would help us draw plans prior to making these changes?

Answer: There are several downloadable kitchen design packages online. I found several by typing in "kitchen design software" at my favorite Internet search engine. I have not used any of the software listed, so I can't endorse a particular product or package.
What I can tell you is to be careful when knocking out a wall or a partition in your home. Most homes have what are called load-bearing walls, which support the weight of the ceiling joists and portions of the roof. If you have an accessible attic space above the kitchen, it is easy to determine if a wall is load-bearing. However, walking on the ceiling joists is tricky, and one misstep can lead to injury or damage, so it is best to examine the attic from the opening only.

In most homes, the ceiling joists extend from the front of the home to the back of the home with a single load-bearing wall in the center of the home. By moving some of the insulation away from the joists, you will be able to see where they overlap at the bearing wall.

In homes with factory-built, trussed roof systems, however, there may not be a bearing wall. A truss is designed to span the entire width of the home independent of a bearing wall. Generally, a truss will have a metal or wood plate where the rafters and their supports are joined together. Assuming the wall is load-bearing, it can be moved as long as a beam is used to support the ceiling's weight. The beam can be exposed, like those at a door opening, or it can be hidden in the attic in what is called a blind beam. Installing a beam is challenging and requires the skill of an experienced carpenter. I would not recommend you attempt this on your own.

Question: Three years ago we moved into our present home, and the kitchen floor had vinyl flooring. We had it replaced with ceramic tile, but in a certain area of the floor, it squeaks when you walk on it. Am I right in thinking that I should mark the tiles where the squeak is, remove them, put screws in the subflooring and reset new tiles?

Answer: That might work but removing the tile is expensive and usually unnecessary. Locate the squeak under the kitchen floor from the basement or crawl space. While you're under the floor, have a helper walk around the kitchen to identify the squeaky spots. Use either a Squeak Ender or Squeak Relief kit, designed to close the gap between the subflooring and the floor joist. The kits are available at most home stores or online.

(Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors.)

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