What Is a Load Bearing Wall?
Posted at 14 June 2022 in Blogs by Gary Braun
You’ve come with a fantastic plan to renovate your living room, and it involves knocking down a wall. But before you do anything, make sure you aren’t dealing with a weight bearing wall.
What is a load bearing wall? It’s the structure that holds the weight of your house. Each property has multiple building walls that distribute the load and move it to the structure’s foundation. If you knock down this wall, there’s a danger the entire house will collapse. But how to tell if a wall is load bearing? Keep reading to learn about the most reliable methods to identify these structures!
Ways of Identifying Load Bearing Walls
An exterior wall is often a load bearing structure. But it’s much harder to identify interior walls that take the weight of the entire house. Here is how to tell if a wall is load bearing with the highest accuracy!
Check Your House’s Blueprints
If you participated in building the home, you might have blueprints. Perhaps previous owners left them in the house. But in most cases, you’ll have to go to a local city hall and ask for a copy of the blueprints. You’ll need to pay a small fee, but this document is a reliable source of structural information about your home.
The blueprints don’t always show load bearing walls. But if you look at the basement floor and framing plans, joist direction could give you valuable information. Blueprints also indicate the latest permitted changes to your home. If you notice a difference to the current situation, consider that a warning. The previous owner might have done remodeling without a permit, which could be a safety risk.
Inspect The Attic or Basement
Head to the attic to assess your house’s structure from above. Pay attention to the ceiling joists below and analyze the situation. If you notice roof or beam support on top of the wall you want to remove, it indicates a load bearing structure.
You also shouldn’t knock down the wall if the roof ridge is above it. Finally, imagine pushing down the joists. If you did that, would you hit a wall? If the answer is yes, you should alter the structure since the odds are it’s load bearing.
Apart from the attic, you can also analyze the situation from the basement. You need to analyze the joints and beams on the ceiling. Here are the main pointers to consider:
- You want to assess the direction of the beams and joints.
- If the joists are perpendicular to the wall you are observing, it’s a load bearing wall. So, if you imagine a wall goes in an up-down direction, the joists should be left-right.
- Look for a beam, pillar, or another wall below the one you want to remove. If you find it, the structure is load bearing.
Look At Joists and Beams
Learning about joists and beams is crucial to determine what is a load bearing wall in your home. Joists are metal and wooden pieces that are parallel and placed throughout the room’s length to support the upper floor.
Beams intersect the joints to transfer the house’s weight to the foundation. The main difference is that beams are thicker. Don’t take the parallel joist setup as a guarantee the wall is weight bearing since there are exceptions.
Hire A General Contractor
Who can tell me if a wall is load bearing with a 100% accuracy? The answer is a professional with years of experience. If you want to be sure if you are dealing with a weight bearing wall, hire a general contractor.
They can discuss your house structure with you and suggest the best alterations and renovation solutions. If you aren’t a DIY expert or prefer to sit back and relax, a contractor can even do the actual restructuring work for you.
How To Remove a Loading Bearing Wall?
Even if you are dealing with a weight bearing wall, you can still remove it. However, it’s important to be careful. A wrong move can result in the entire house collapsing, which is a big danger if you are inside.
Check out the steps on how to remove load bearing wall structures below. And remember – if you aren’t absolutely sure what you are doing, it’s better to contact our building demolition services to safely remove the wall!
- Add temporary walls. You need a temporary structure to take the weight while you are doing the wall. Make sure it’s close enough to hold the weight, but far enough to let you work.
- Redistributing weight. You can do this by adding posts on both wall sides. If there’s a beam on the lower floor, make sure to put the post on top of it.
- Create point loads to remove the weight from the wall. The first option is an above-ceiling technique. You cut the joists to position a beam in the middle. The beam should be flush to the ceiling, but placed on point loads. You attach the joists to the beam after installing it.
Try the below-ceiling technique. If the previous step seems complex, the alternative is this method, which leaves an exposed beam. You cut the posts shorter and place the joists above on the upper side of the beam across.