How to Decide if a Wall Is Load-Bearing or Not

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During major home renovation and remodeling projects, you are likely to need to learn more about the structure of your home. For example, removing an interior wall will be a much easier and cheaper process if the wall is not load-bearing. If it is load-bearing, you might be better off leaving it in place. A professional structural engineer should always be consulted when removing or making significant changes to load-bearing walls, but there are some things you can do yourself to help you learn which walls are likely load-bearing and which are not.

  • Start with the outside of the house. Although every outside wall is not guaranteed to be load-bearing, at least a few of them will be in most cases. Pay attention to the outer walls that are supporting the heaviest parts of the roof.

  • Check downstairs in the area of the wall for another wall or beam that is either right below the wall or parallel to the wall. When a wall is built on top of other walls or beams, this could mean it's load-bearing. Interior walls that are going in a perpendicular direction in relation to the floor joists are also likely candidates for being load-bearing.

  • Find concrete footers, thick slabs and any poles or columns in the basement. There is a good chance that they will be supporting a nearby load-bearing wall.

  • Hire a professional structural engineer to inspect the wall before making significant changes to its structure. The fee will be lower if you have the plaster or drywall pre-stripped. This professional will be able to tell you definitively if the wall is load-bearing.

Tips & Warnings

  • Finding out on your own whether or not a wall is load-bearing can be very tricky. There are exceptions to all the rules, depending on the structure of your home. Even if you do some inspection yourself, getting advice from a structural engineer is highly recommended.

References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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