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Ins & Outs of Load Bearing Walls

Pro Referral > Home Guides > General Contracting > Ins & Outs of Load Bearing Walls
Ins & Outs of Load Bearing Walls

Those who have knocked down a wall during a remodeling project understand the ins-and-outs of load bearing walls. For those who don’t, here’s an important lesson. If you demolish a wall that’s holding the second floor up, and you survive, you will quickly find the second floor more accessible. That’s because everything above has crashed down to your level.

 

They’re called load bearing walls for a reason. Their mission is to support the weight of everything on top of them. Before you tear out a wall, you need to determine whether said wall is more than just a barrier between rooms.

 
  1. 1.Support Beams

    If you demolish a wall that’s holding the second floor up, and you survive, you will quickly find the second floor more accessible.

    Can you see any beams or large posts? If you’re staring at one-or-two, there’s a better-than-average possibility they’re toting the load of all that lies above. Finding a beam or a post takes a little detective work. Most often they’re out-of-site behind a slab of drywall.

     

    You want to unveil some evidence in both the basement (or crawl-space) and the attic. In both of those nether regions you’ll be able to see how the joists and walls connect.

     

    They’re called load bearing walls for a reason. Their mission is to support the weight of everything on top of them. Before you tear out a wall, you need to determine whether said wall is more than just a barrier between rooms.

     

    Even if you’re sure you’ve found the load bearing walls, you really need a contractor to verify that what you’ve discovered is indeed true. Let’s say the contractor gives you the all-clear. The wall you want to remove is not load bearing. This can be a DIY project.

     

    If it has been determined that the wall is load bearing, things are about to get complicated. That may be just the push you need to go pro and retain a contractor.

     
  2. 2.The Exterior Wall

    It’s rare that an exterior wall is not load bearing. In almost every case, the walls on the outside of the house have been designed to support the weight of the roof. Just putting in a window? Plan on adding additional support before you begin swinging a sledgehammer.

     

    Here’s an exception: If your house is a cape or colonial style design, there’s a chance that only the back and front exterior walls bear the load. A hip-style roof, on the other hand, uses all four sides for support. Even if an outside wall does not seem to be supporting the roof, it could be keeping other things like the second floor in place.

  3. 3.The Interior Walls

    On average, any wall that’s near the center of the house is likely to be a load bearing wall. Also, any wall that stands perpendicular to your floor joists might be a load bearing wall, whether it’s in the center of the house or not. Walls that run parallel to the floor joists are not likely to be load bearing walls.

  4. 4.Plans

    All of the above could be so much easier if you had the original plans for your home. If you do, you should be able to determine exactly where all load bearing walls are.

     

    These suggestions are just that, suggestions as to how to tell a load bearing wall from one that’s not. Whatever you finally uncover, please take the time to get a second opinion on your conclusions. That’s the best way to ensure that when you kick the project into full-gear, you won’t be delayed by having to fix more than what you anticipated.

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