Load Bearing Wall – Do You Know How To Identify?

Do you know how to tell if a wall is load bearing? Like most people, you don’t. What about an interior bearing wall? That’s a tough one too, and after all you’re not a structural engineer. This is why you should follow us to learn more.

When building a new house or remodeling, chances are you have a wall that needs to be removed. Before you begin, figure out if the exterior wall is likely load bearing.

Home renovation that requires wall demolition is not a DIY beginner project. Identifying bearing walls and non load bearing walls are tasks for a structural engineer. When working on floor or roof structures, your remodeling plans should pay special attention to your load bearing walls

Unlike your last DIY project where you converted wicker baskets into shoe holders, a home renovation project is slightly more complex. With interior walls, temporary walls, and even non load bearing walls, you will need to enlist the services of a structural engineer. 

History of Load Bearing Walls

First, a little background.

Load bearing masonry construction was common in building construction beginning in the 1700s. It was practiced until the mid-20th century. Today, it is applied solely to residential construction.

Basically, it consists of thick, heavy brick or stone walls that support entire structures. The walls include horizontal floor slabs, reinforced with concrete, wood, or steel members. In Europe, for example, with traditional load bearing structures, floor slabs are horizontal wooden beams, joists, and planks.

With suburban home architecture, a wall is load bearing when its load bearing capacity is at the maximum ability of a structural member or material to take loading before failure occurs. In light construction known as “platform framing.” The load-bearing walls rest on a wall sill plate, which is mated to the bottom base plate. Later, the sills are bolted to the foundation.

Differences Between Load Bearing Wall And Partition Wall

A partition wall divides space and has no responsibility to its structure and strength. When you remove one, like in an unfinished basement, for example, it will not impact a building’s structure. Even if the walls run parallel or run perpendicular, they’re more adaptable, easier to move, and cheaper.

Partition walls are made with plasterboard or plaster. The walls offer greater flexibility, they’re easy to move, and they’re cheap.  

Load bearing walls are made of timber. The mistake some people will make is when they assume they’re non load bearing walls because they’re not part of the masonry.

Exterior Walls And Interior Walls

Identifying bearing walls isn’t hard if you’re a professional contractor. You need to know where a load bearing wall sits. 

here are two different types of loads. Either going to be an exterior or interior load. When working with an original building, this means it’s either going to be on an outside wall or an inside wall.

The load on exterior wall with clear span trusses will have half the load on each wall. For example, if building is 24′ x 24′ and has trusses, and the load on the roof will be for 30 pounds of snow load and a ceiling with no storage will total out like this.

This will amount to twice as much load on the external walls compared to a building with a center wall.

Header Size Load Bearing Wall

When determining a header size load bearing wall, measure the span in feet and add two to that number. The sum will be the height of your double header in inches. For example, if the span is four feet, add 2 to 4 for a sum of 6. Therefore, the header would need to be made from doubled 2x6s.

A home renovation project that includes separate rooms will require thorough inspection. Ceiling joists determine if a wall runs perpendicular or parallel to the joists. If a wall is load bearing, and it’s an interior bearing wall, then your floor or roof structure will need temporary walls that run parallel to your roof structure.

What Is A Load Bearing Wall?

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Turnbull Griffin Haesloop

A bearing wall or non load bearing wall is a structural element of the original building. It isn’t simply a divider, but a crucial part of the building’s structural integrity. A load bearing wall runs perpendicular to the weight of the structural elements above it. 

It uses the foundation below it to bear the weight that it has to bear. So it uses a load bearing foundation to support it, allowing it to support the load above. 

In skyscrapers, load bearing walls are made of steel. Or at least the frame is. But in housing, they are made of wood, brick, or stone more often than not. This is different than a retaining wall, which bears the weight of traffic rather than structures. 

What If A Wall Is Likely Load Bearing or Non Load Bearing?

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Buildmax Excavation Company

The significance of load bearing walls is not one you want to ignore. After all, a home needs multiple load-bearing walls or it will collapse. Non bearing walls can be removed and won’t affect the integrity of the home.

But a load-bearing wall cannot simply be removed unless you are willing to risk the safety of your family. One can be removed, but only as a new one is built to replace it. 

How to Tell If A Wall Is Load Bearing or Non Load Bearing

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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. 

Support Beams

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. 

Floor Joists

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. 

Gaps

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. 

Building Bearing Walls

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H&L Environmental Demolition Inc

Tearing down load-bearing walls is a risky business. But building them is just as important. If you don’t have enough load-bearing walls, your house will collapse in time. You need all the support you can get. 

  • Mark Walls – Wouldn’t it be nice if the walls in the home you remodel were marked a different color if they were load-bearing? Well, be that act of random kindness to the future homeowner or your future self and mark those walls.

    You can either write structural, LB, or even just S and most people will get the picture. with a Sharpie. If you make mistakes, check out this Sharpie on wood guide. 

  • Start At The Bottom – Putting a load bearing wall on the first floor with nothing to support it below is pointless. It’s imperative that you start at the foundation. You need to make sure there are support beams below the wood foundation.

    The beams can be made out of concrete or steel, but they need to be planned before construction begins. Otherwise, someone will have to crawl under the house afterward and it will be ten times more difficult. 

How To Build A Partition

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H&L Environmental Demolition Inc

This building method works both for load-bearing walls above the sub-level, and on partitions that are non-load-bearing. This is actually one of the easiest steps of building a house and is a great thing to practice with beginners. 

Measuring Space

The first thing you should do is measure the space where the wall will go. Remember that if a door will be in the wall, you need to keep the top board solid while accommodating for the door with partial studs. 

Measure across the floor and ceiling to make sure they are the same length. In older homes, sometimes the floor and ceiling will be different which makes things much more difficult. After you measure this, measure the vertical space on the left and right. 

Horizontal Boards

You will need two horizontal boards that run the length of the space you measured. Measure the space and the boards at least twice before cutting. Then measure the mark you made. Then, cut the two boards. 

Cutting Studs 

Studs will need to be placed every 16 inches. So, mark the horizontal boards every 16 inches. It’s okay if the end is less than 16 inches, it’s better to be less than more. So, add an extra if need be. Then, start cutting.

Each board will need to be the same length. It’s important to remember to take out three inches for the 2x4s on top and bottom. So if your ceiling is 70″ then cut the studs to be 67″ to accommodate them.

Screwing Studs In

After all the boards are cut, screw the two end boards on. This will ensure that you don’t leave an overhang. You can place the boards where they should go and leave them while you screw the others in. 

Use two screws for each end of each board, so four screws per board. It’s important everything is flush or else you won’t be able to screw anything else in, including drywall, properly. Take your time and do things right. 

Placing Support Walls

Build the wall while it is laying down on the floor where it should go when you’re done. When you finish screwing all of the boards in, then you can begin putting the wall up. 

When it is in place, use a rubber mallet to make sure that it is level. Hold the level on each side and hammer the wall with a mallet until it is in place. 

Now you’re done.  Don’t forget to mark it either way so no one else will have trouble identifying load-bearing walls in this home again. 

Kitchen Island With A Load Bearing Wall

If you want to make a kitchen island with a load bearing wall, sit down and figure out how much money you’d be willing to spend. Rest assured it won’t be a cheap project.  

Replacing a load-bearing wall with a support beam costs $4,000 to $10,000. A kitchen island project will cost more.

Make no mistake about it, professional engineer attention will be required. Your biggest concern will be to find out what is underneath the floor. You will need to make sure the load path follows the same path of the footings placed in the ground.

Beam size, distance between support columns, and overall expenses can be determined by a structural engineer. If the renovation cost does not exceed the value of the home, then do it.

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.

Load Bearing Conclusion

The role of a load bearing wall is to provide a structure with strength and support. It is responsible for holding up non load bearing walls. This is known as its load bearing capacity. The walls in your home are most likely load bearing. Become familiar with your roof trusses, ceiling joists, before you begin home renovation.

If you can tell if your walls are load bearing, then you’ll be ahead of the game. Of course, you want to leave your home standing, so make sure you choose the right remodeling plans.