How To Identify A Load Bearing Wall
Three out of five American homeowners started a home improvement project over the past year. If you are one of those three and are planning to modify walls in your home, you'll need to identify if those walls are load-bearing.
Determining if a wall is load-bearing can be difficult if your home is already finished. We'll explain several methods on how to identify a load-bearing wall in your finished home.
What is a Load-Bearing Wall?
Load-bearing walls, which are also called support walls or bearing walls, support the roof structure or the floor's weight. Load-bearing walls are the bones of your home that hold the home's structure in place and distribute the weight so that it spreads across the foundation.
A non-load-bearing wall, or partition wall, doesn't hold the home's weight, so it can be removed without compromising its structure. When remodeling your home, you can make changes to non-load-bearing walls easily, but you should leave load-bearing walls alone for the most part.
Related Link: Frequently Asked Questions
Why are Load-Bearing Walls Important?
Load-bearing walls are the support structure that holds the bulk of the house's weight and distributes it to the foundation. They are the essential walls of your home. You should not attempt to remodel a load-bearing wall in your home without professional help.
Methods for Identifying a Load Bearing Wall
While most exterior walls are load-bearing, it can be challenging to determine which interior walls are also load-bearing. Here are some common ways to identify load-bearing walls:
Examine the Floor Joists
Floor joists are the long wooden boards that run the length of the floor. In the basement, these boards support the first floor. If you are on the main floor, these boards run along the ceiling to support the second floor.
Floor joists run perpendicular to load-bearing walls. If you are in an unfinished home, these floor joists are easy to recognize. On a finished house, floor joists are generally hidden behind drywall. If the house is finished, your best bet is to look in the basement to determine which walls are load-bearing.
Look at the Foundation
If you can easily get to your foundation, this is typically the quickest way to determine load-bearing walls. In your basement or crawlspace, you'll want to look for signs of load-bearing walls, including:
- Beams or columns that directly go into your concrete foundation
- Beams or columns that lead directly to a wall above
- Floor joists on the basement ceiling that run perpendicular to a basement wall
In each of these cases, the walls above them or those they connect to are generally load-bearing walls.
Identify What's Above the Wall or in the Attic
Another way to identify load-bearing walls is to look in your attic. The attic can give you an overall view of the house's weight distribution. Most attics are unfinished or partially unfinished, making it easier to identify load-bearing walls.
Do you need professional help to identify your load-bearing walls? Contact My Site Plan to draw up a site plan that will detail your home's structural layout.
Related Link: When Do You Need a Permit to Work on Your House
Seek Professional Expertise
If you are planning to remodel, it's never a bad idea to seek professional expertise. Even if you are doing the remodeling project yourself, you should consult a professional about load-bearing walls and whether the remodel will affect your home's structural integrity.
Consult the Original Blueprints
If you have the original blueprints, you can find valuable details about which walls are load-bearing, the location of support beams, and joist direction. If you don't have original blueprints, you can generally get them from your local county clerk's office.
Get a Site Plan for Remodeling Construction and Permits
Another alternative is to have a professional drafting company draw up a site plan for your home. My Site Plan offers residential site plans that can plot the primary structure of your home. Residential site plans are also the most common plan used for obtaining building permits.
My Site Plan can draft your site plan within 24 hours for a fast turnaround if you want to submit for permits.
Hire a Structural Engineer or Home Remodeling Consultant
If you are thinking of modifying a load-bearing wall, you'll want to hire a structural engineer or a home remodeling consultant. When doing a major home renovation, four out of five homeowners hire a professional.
A structural engineer can help you identify your load-bearing walls and evaluate your remodeling plans to ensure the project won't compromise your home. They can also improve or modify your plan to make it more efficient and cost-saving.
A home remodeling consultant can help you design, manage, price out, and complete the remodeling project. Using a consultant also ensures that you follow building codes and file the proper permits for the project. This is important for selling your home because the remodel will need to meet safety codes and standards.
Use Caution When Modifying or Removing Load-Bearing Walls
When remodeling your home, use extreme caution when modifying or removing a load-bearing wall. Changing a load-bearing wall is risky because it can severely damage your home. If you need to alter a load-bearing wall, hire a professional who has the necessary experience and will maintain your home's structural safety.
My Site Plan utilizes experienced CAD designers to create a non-certified site plan for your next remodeling project. My Site Plan can create a site plan for most remodeling projects once they receive your details.
Do you need help drafting your next remodeling project? Contact My Site Plan to learn more about their services.
Related Link: Site Plan: Everything You Need to Know in 2021
- Ryan Crownholm