As a structural engineer, I get a steady stream of calls from remodeling contractors looking for ways to remove bearing walls and posts, either to enlarge a space or to create more headroom.

One such call came from the owners of the 1960s-era ranch shown here, which sat on a sloping lot with a full basement. The home's construction was pretty typical: The 26-foot-long main girder in the basement ceiling was supported by two intermediate posts spaced about 8 feet apart. Our plan was to create a new 16-by-20-foot home theater and play...

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