How to Know If a Wall Is a Weight-Bearing Wall

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Just about every wall in your home has a covering such as plaster or drywall. This covering makes it hard to locate weight-bearing or load-bearing walls. If you plan to remodel your home and you need to locate the weight-bearing walls, you can do so by starting in the basement and working your way up. Weight-bearing walls transfer weight from the roof or second level to the footer or foundation.

  • Locate the floor joists that hold up the first floor of the home, and trace them to the walls that run perpendicular to them. This means, the joists will extend to and rest on the foundation walls. The walls that run perpendicular are the foundation's weight-bearing walls.

  • Inspect additions to the home that might have joists that intersect with the original joists of the home. If the joists that hold up these additions run perpendicular to the joists, the foundation walls are also load bearing.

  • Locate all the posts that extend from the floor to the joists on the floor. The posts would be made of stone or brick, or they could be made of metal poles or beams. These vertical supports are used to transfer load from a wall, through a joist and to the foundation.

  • Locate any walls that are built above those supports. In most cases, the weight-bearing wall will run across the joists and vertical supports. This distributes the weight across several joists and not along the length of one single joist.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are not sure if a wall is weight bearing even after inspection, consult a structural engineer. Tearing down a weight-bearing wall can instantly jeopardize the safety of the people in the building.

References

  • Photo Credit Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images
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