To Beam or Not to Beam

by Cedar & Sage Farm | Jul 16, 2017 | Farmhouse

So, let me just start off by saying that doing one’s due diligence is always key to avoiding those big, not so awesome surprises that come with renovations. I mean, I know we all think we do this, but sometimes going the extra step right at the beginning can save a lot of stress down the road. For instance, look at Chip and Joanna…. Even they have missed the boat on anticipating what is behind, underneath, above or just plain around whatever it is they are hoping to accomplish. And neither one of them likes being the barer of bad news when they have to call the family to say….” So about that wall, we wanted to move…”


So here is my fixer upper dilemma. I am sure there will be others as we move through this project but this one kicked me in the gut! As you may already know from my initial blog posts about buying this farmhouse, we didn’t go in impulsively and without debating if we could make this house the open concept home of our dreams. There are certain things that we knew we were going to have to sacrifice, and certain things that weren’t going to be perfect; but after several viewings of the house and a thorough home inspection, we took the plunge because what we wanted to create on the main floor was doable and going to be amazing. The plan is to tear down all the walls on the one side of the house to make a massive open kitchen and living area with no obstructions in the room.


Well…. As you can imagine, of all the things I was looking forward to doing the most was the moment that first major wall would come down to see what the space was going to feel like when we could see right through. So, when Andrew said out of nowhere, “Hey let’s take that drywall off and start to get a sense of what’s in that wall,” I just about peed my pants (because this is supposed to be part 2 of the reno- and we have just started part 1). So, I stood back vibrating with excitement as he tore down the drywall. Only to be transported to that moment where you expose the wall in anticipation of tearing it down and find a bullshit amount of consolidated studs, indicating that it can only mean that it is in fact, load-baring. This was a shocker, despite our previous knowledge of the house having engineered trusses!!!

I wanted to barf. My head was spinning with a million questions. How could we be so stupid? We specifically asked during the home inspection if taking down the wall was possible! I’m sure the inspector said that every interior wall in this house could technically be removed, didn’t he?! Didn’t he say that the trusses were engineered? Meaning this should NOT be load-baring? What are we going to do now? Does this mean we can’t take it out? Is the whole wall load-baring or is this a point load? You get the drift…. I was slightly neurotic and panicky.


So, we called a framing friend and showed him a few pictures and decided to have a structural engineer out to tell us what the deal was and what we had for options. As it turns out, it is a point load meaning we can’t just rip out that post and be on our way. Which SUCKS! I have tried to find a more grown up word, but the reality of it is, it just plain sucks.


We were given several options of how we could still open up the space and of course the one I was most keen on would mean that we could still have a huge open space with no posts… Until I learned that this would mean we would need a 35-foot long steel beam — which is grossly over our budget and hardly justifiable — even for me. So, we were left with several options, which incorporate a beam (either a drop beam that is exposed or one that sits in the attic) and posts. I have decided that I surely do not want one random post set dead center, so I think we are going to remove the center post and replace it with two equally spaced posts that will line up with what will be the massive island on the other side of this wall.


The debate I have been having with myself now is, do I use a drop beam and incorporate it into the design (think big rough cut timber) and lose about a foot to 18″ height in an already low-ceilinged house or do I hide it up in the attic? And what should I do for material for the posts? Should I again use chunky rough cut timbers or should I make it clean and just have drywall? As much as I love the idea of big timbers I have to be careful not to have too much going on in one space. On the living room side of this wall is a large four-sided stone fireplace and a huge vaulted ceiling covered in barn board.

So, I decided to just sit on it and focus on part one of the renovation– our bedrooms and bathrooms. Knowing something will eventually come to me regarding the main space, I am confident we can make it work. Just knowing we could still open up the space (despite still having to have posts), will provide the open concept I have been dreaming of.


And then today we were antiquing, and I came across a set of four gorgeous corbels from an old church that I can incorporate into the design of this opening. Suddenly, the worry of posts was washed away completely! I mean look at these, they are beautiful and will make this opening look intentional and pretty! I might be a bit biased because the cutout pattern on them is identical to the pews of my childhood church and makes me feel nostalgic and reminisce about my grandparents. But how amazing will it be to have that little bit of history as a daily reminder when I am sitting in my kitchen?

So, perhaps a more thorough inspection of the structure of this house initially might very well have saved me a week or two of frustration and worry (and possibly even the commitment to buy this house), part of me is glad that things played out just the way they did.

Meet Ashleigh

I have somehow been blessed beyond measure; I am married to a wonderful guy who shares in the great joy of raising our three amazing children. We recently picked up and left the city to follow our hearts, with the intention for a more simple and natural lifestyle. Both my husband and I are native Calgarians who have always been awed with the wonder of looking out at the Rocky Mountains. For us, transplanting into the foothills just made sense and we couldn’t wait to get here. It wasn’t until I was removed from the hurry of the city; that I was able to settle into my purpose and accept and celebrate the things that make me happy. Combining my love for bringing life into a neglected space, and filling it with a marriage of old and new, has enabled me to take on the challenge of rebirthing this 1980’s farmhouse. Being able to do this from home, while tackling the daily chores of caring for our farm animals is pure bliss and sits comfortably in my heart. I am chomping at the bit (along with our horses…) to continue to watch the evolution of our space take shape… And I can’t wait to fill this home with love, memories and the smell of Sunday dinners for years to come. I believe that the greatest gift in life is family, and I have been placed amongst a beautiful tribe (my late grandfather’s endearing term for our extended family). I yearn to give my children and their friends a place to melt away from the hustle; in a comfortable and pretty space, which I hope can be a refuge from a complicated and sometimes messy world. Although this move and new direction was not written down in my master plan (and I am a list and plan girl through and through), I am thrilled that the happenings which brought us here have unraveled just the way they did. I have dedicated this year to being grateful for our many gifts while also accepting my limitations with grace and courage. In addition to my home and family, I love camping, iced tea, Volkswagens and a good book… in no particular order. I hope you can find inspiration, relatability or even just a good laugh by following my blog posts as I figure out just what will unfold next.