Content of the material
- Call an Expert
- How to identify load bearing walls?
- 1. Start from the outside
- 2. Look for clues in the basement
- 3. Mark the beams
- 4. Floor joists have a lot to tell
- 5. The center carries the maximum load
- 6. Size matters
- 7. Know the history of the house
- 8. Look up
- How to Tell If A Wall Is Load Bearing or Non Load Bearing
- Support Beams
- Floor Joists
- Parallel Or Not
- Go To The Top
- Consider Hiring a Pro
- 3 – Look at the layout of the wall in relation to the beams and joists
- HOW TO TELL IF A WALL IS LOAD BEARING
- Is an Exterior Wall Load-Bearing?
- Look for Architectural Plans
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) FAQ
- How Big Of An Opening Can A Load Bearing Wall Be?
- Can I Open A Door On Load Bearing Wall?
- Can You Put A Pocket Door In A Load Bearing Wall?
- How To Disguise A Load Bearing Wall?
- Can You Put French Doors In A Load Bearing Wall?
- What is a Load-Bearing Wall?
- Ways to Identify a Load-Bearing Wall
- Removing a Load Bearing Wall
- 1. Obtain a Permit
- 2. Provide Support
- 3. Remove the Framing
- 4. Place Structural Beams
- Is There a Support Structure Below the Wall?
Call an Expert
We cannot go any further without strongly encouraging you to call a licensed contractor to help you figure out whether a wall is load bearing or not. That said, there are other ways (read on)!
How to identify load bearing walls?
Taking help from a professional is always a wise thing to do in this regard. However, there are some simple clues that can help you better understand the characteristics of the wall in question.
1. Start from the outside
Most exterior walls are load bearing. The walls with the windows can also be marked as load bearing.
2. Look for clues in the basement
The basement or the lowest level of your house is a great place to identify the load bearing walls. Any wall or structure that ends up into the foundation of the house is load bearing and shouldn’t be removed without proper precautions.
3. Mark the beams
Beams are the thick pieces of concrete, wood or steel that often run through different floors. These beams will also be directly connected to the foundation. In case the beams are hidden, you will need to get in touch with the original builder.
4. Floor joists have a lot to tell
The walls that run parallel to floor joists are mostly not load bearing. However, the ones that run perpendicular to the joists are load bearing and should be handled carefully.
5. The center carries the maximum load
The center of your house will have the maximum number of load bearing walls. You need to be extra cautious while dealing with even inner walls that are near the center of the building. There is a good chance that the wall is helping the house to support the weight.
6. Size matters
Internal walls that have large ends are most likely load bearing. The large end indicates that it is hiding a beam and should be handled carefully while trying to renovate the house.
Read more: Basement support beams
7. Know the history of the house
If this is a house that you haven’t built, it is crucial that you get in touch with the original owners and the builder. If it has already been modified, it will be very difficult for you to understand the structure of the house just by looking at it.
8. Look up
Most load bearing walls will support the floor or walls above it. As you scan the house from the basement to the attic, you will get a good idea of the blueprint. Be extra careful with the walls that have other walls above it.
How to Tell If A Wall Is Load Bearing or Non Load Bearing
If you’re thinking about removing exterior walls removing a load bearing, you tell if a wall is likely load bearing. There are a few different ways to find this out.
When it comes to taking the wall down, it is important that you consult a professional. Even if you only consult them before getting started, it’s better than being overwhelmed with whether or not you’re keeping the structural integrity.
The first thing to look for are support beams. If you have a basement, this is an easy way to spot them. Any beam or pillar in the basement has load-bearing walls above it. But if you don’t have a basement, things are more difficult.
What you can do is see if you can find a crawlspace under your home. If there is one, then you can find support walls and beams under there that will have load-bearing walls above them. Don’t remove these walls without professional help.
Note: Most support beams are made of steel or concrete.
A floor joists are the small timbers or metal beams ranged parallel along the walls support a floor or ceiling. You might have to move up to the first floor so you can look at the floor joists. If you have open joists, then you can see them. Joists run between beams and transfer loads to vertical members. If you can’t find them you will need to use a stud-finder.
Normally, joists and studs are 16 inches apart in bearing walls. If your walls are load bearing and run perpendicular with your floor joists, then you might need have to rely on temporary walls.
Parallel Or Not
This works with floor joists or ceiling joists. If the wall runs perpendicular to the joists, then there’s a good chance that they are load-bearing. If the walls are parallel, then there’s a good chance they are not.
This is because to support the upper floors, the walls need to cover multiple joists rather than just run along one. If the wall only runs along one joist, it could slip, crack, or collapse. What this means is perpendicular walls are more likely to be load bearing.
Go To The Top
Finally, if all else fails, you can check out the exposed rafters located directly in your attic. You’ll have to look closely for all of the clues with this method. If there are any walls up there, then the lower walls is load bearing.
Because you can also determine if the walls below are bearing by seeing any crossover boards. If the boards don’t run all the way across the ceiling, then the wall that is holding the seam up is load bearing.
Some exterior walls are supported on the ends. Pay special attention to your home’s blueprints for specific details the bearing walls. But all load bearing walls effect floor or roof structure designs. So, if a wall has a gap at the top, it isn’t non load bearing.
Consider Hiring a Pro
Removing a load-bearing wall by yourself can result in a lot of costly mistakes. It is best to consult a licensed engineer prior to beginning work on the project.
3 – Look at the layout of the wall in relation to the beams and joists
Generally, load-bearing walls will cross floor joists and beams perpendicularly. This means that you can go into your basement to see the position of the wall in relation to the joists. If the wall is aligned with a joist, it is probably not load-bearing.
Most of the time, load-bearing walls are also placed perpendicular to a building’s roof beams. You can go to your attic to see the orientation of the roof trusses. If the wall is aligned with a roof truss, the chances of it being load-bearing are pretty slim.
HOW TO TELL IF A WALL IS LOAD BEARING
Load bearing walls go down from the attic to the foundation and will have metal i-beams or multi-board beams attached. Any walls above these beams are most likely load bearing. Another indicator is that most load bearing walls run perpendicular to the floor joists, although this not always the case. Consulting a professional to alleviate the risk of accidentally removing a load bearing wall.
Is an Exterior Wall Load-Bearing?
Exterior walls are walls that form the perimeter, or outer footprint, of a house. Exterior walls are almost always load-bearing. Where there are windows and doors, the walls include beams, or headers, spanning across the tops of the openings. Posts on either side of the openings support the beams.
A house will rarely have an entire stretch of an exterior wall that is non-load-bearing. It is possible to build a house this way, but it would come at a high financial cost since I-beams or large laminated structural beams need to be used.
Often, homes that appear to have no supporting exterior walls still do have support in the form of steel or wooden columns interspersed between the windows. Because window glass and the exterior view take visual precedence, it is easy to miss the fact that substantially sized columns are in place.
Look for Architectural Plans
If you have the architectural plans for your home, you may be able to spot the load bearing walls. You want to look for beams, and walls under them are load bearing. You can also look for walls that are in dead space. These walls are just there to partition rooms, and they can be easily removed without any trouble.
If you aren’t sure how to read the plans, you can call the architect who drew them or consult with a professional contractor. They will know right away when they look at the plans whether or not the wall is load bearing.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) FAQ
How Big Of An Opening Can A Load Bearing Wall Be?
Any opening that’s 6 feet or less can have just one 2×4 under the beam. This creates a bearing point of 1.5 inches wide. Any opening wider than 6 feet should have a minimum of two 2x4s under each end of the beam. You don’t want to damage the top plate if you have a second floor.
Can I Open A Door On Load Bearing Wall?
You can have doors in load bearing walls. You can’t take out a stud that bears the end of the load because you wouldn’t be able to redistribute the weight. Just make sure you have the right size header set on jack studs to take the weight.
Can You Put A Pocket Door In A Load Bearing Wall?
Installing a pocket door in a load-bearing wall requires replacing the old header with a longer one. Creating the opening for the new header may require temporary ceiling support while the header goes in. A wall with pipes isn’t a good candidate for a pocket door.
How To Disguise A Load Bearing Wall?
You have a few options. If you have the money, you could extend the steal beam’s length by welding or bolting more to it and moving the support beam inside the existing wall. A cheaper method would be to cover it with drywall and make different spaces in the same room.
You could install a bookcase over it or cover it with giant screen plasma TV. As a last resort, cover it with a mirror. If you did that, at least that would help the room look bigger.
Can You Put French Doors In A Load Bearing Wall?
Yes, you can, but this will require professional help. The wall in your home are most likely wall bearing. When you cut out a chunk of a bearing wall to create a door opening, you must figure out a way to support the weight the wall was holding.
If you don’t know how to identify load bearing walls or a non load bearing wall, you will have problems. Typically load bearing interior walls have floor joists and a high load bearing capacity. An interior wall is typically load bearing if it runs in the same direction or one direction that’s parallel to the joists.
What is a Load-Bearing Wall?
Load-bearing walls are an issue for many renovators today, as more homeowners are opting for an open concept layout instead of individual rooms. Unfortunately, these walls can’t be ripped out haphazardly as load-bearing walls play a vital role in the structure of a house. They distribute the weight from the roof, through the floors, and down to the foundation.
Ways to Identify a Load-Bearing Wall
There are a few different ways to identify which the load-bearing walls in your house are. It’s imperative you get this right if you’re doing any kind of renovations or repairs that affect the structure of your house.
As said earlier, load-bearing walls transfer the weight of the structure down to the foundation. So an easy way to identify them is by looking at which walls are built over one another from floor to floor. But since we’re talking about a single story house, it can be a little harder to find out which the load-bearing walls are.
Things can get a little easier if you have a basement where the walls are exposed. This lets you see how the beams of the house are arranged. A wall that is built on top of the beam is usually a load-bearing wall.
The other structural element that you need to know about is the joist. These are parallel lengths of wood laid out horizontally to support the structure of a house. One way to tell if a wall is load bearing is if it is perpendicular to the joists. Again, you can go to an unfinished basement or attic to see how the walls have been constructed relative to the joists.
The important thing to remember while trying to identify load-bearing walls is that they support the structure of a house. Any wall that doesn’t seem to be holding up another wall or post is probably not a load-bearing wall.
Removing a Load Bearing Wall
You cannot remove a load-bearing wall unless you install a new structural element in its place. Otherwise, removing a load-bearing can lead to dangerous structural conditions that can lead to walls, or even your roof, collapsing. With that said, knocking down and removing walls that do not bear any load is generally perfectly safe and commonly practiced.
However, if you remove a load-bearing wall and put a beam in its place, it should be able to carry the load. Either way, it is recommended that this be done by a professional who can determine the requirements for such a beam. You can remove a load-bearing wall on your own, however, but you must follow the proper steps and take precautions.
It can cost up to $3,000 or more to have a load-bearing wall professionally removed. If you don’t want to hire a contractor to remove your load-bearing wall, you can do it on your own. Let’s explore the steps involved in removing a load-bearing wall.
1. Obtain a Permit
Depending on where you live, a permit may be required to remove a wall that is load-bearing. Besides that, you may need to enlist the professional help of a structural engineer to approve your plans. This can be an annoyance, but it never hurts to get a professional’s opinion and approval when it comes to something potentially dangerous.
2. Provide Support
When you lose a load-bearing wall, you are also losing much-needed support for your home’s structure. Because of that, you need to provide some form of support instead of a load-bearing wall. The best way to do this is to build a temporary wall made out of 2x4s and plywood so that the joists have support as the wall comes down.
Simply make sure that your temporary wall is in line with the joists or beams that the load-bearing wall uses. This step is important as it can prevent your ceiling and floor from sagging which can put major stress on the foundation.
3. Remove the Framing
Now, you can remove the framing using a pry bar and some elbow grease. This step goes by much easier if you have the help of a friend. Don’t worry about the structure during this step because the temporary wall that you placed will be able to take on some of the load.
Once the framing of the wall is removed, you can knock the rest of it out using a sledgehammer. Wear protective eye gear and gloves during this step as debris can get into your eyes.
4. Place Structural Beams
Now, you must place structural beams strong enough to carry the load once provided by the wall. A steel beam is your best bet as it can support a lot of weight and are durable. Otherwise, you could use strong veneer lumber if that is your preference as both materials can hold large loads.
Place horizontal and vertical joists as the combination of both means that it can handle a larger load. Combine joists using joist hangers and add vertical beams at the end where horizontal joists meet.
Is There a Support Structure Below the Wall?
If the wall is on the first floor of the house, and there is a basement or crawlspace below, you can check in the lower level to see if there is another wall or other supporting member (piers, beams, columns, jack posts, etc.) directly below and following the same path as the wall above.
If there is no support structure below the wall, the wall might be non-load-bearing. If the wall is, in fact, load-bearing and there is no support structure, this portion of the house is in danger of collapse.
You should consult with a building professional, such as a carpenter, architect, or structural engineer, to confirm that a wall is load-bearing or non-load-bearing. In most municipalities, a permit will be required before removing a load-bearing wall.