How To Identify A Load Bearing Wall

How To Identify A Load Bearing Wall

Enduring a home improvement project is a lot like surviving an adventure lost in the woods – the average homeowner will do anything to get through it.

It takes effort and patience to get through a home renovation project, especially money. 

The average cost of a new home is over $451,000. And that is a lot of money for a homeowner to pay to then turn around and shell out even more money to pay for various home improvement projects.

And American homeowners are willing to pay a lot for home improvement projects.

About 27% of homeowners will prioritize a kitchen remodeling or makeover project over other home improvement projects. 

And those homeowners were willing to spend anywhere between $12,000 and up to $40,000 just remodeling their kitchens.

A new paint job for the interior and exterior can cost about $1,800. Remodeling a bathroom can cost as much as $9,200. Replacing a roof can cost as much as $6,600.

But if you want to reorganize the floor plan of your home to add more space after a remodeling project, then you may need to knock load-bearing walls.

The average cost to knock down a load-bearing wall can be as much as $10,000.

Load-bearing walls are designed to support the total weight of the roof and distribute the weight of the structure evenly. Identifying and removing load-bearing walls should be done by professionals.

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.

And we will give you some DIY tips to knock down a load-bearing wall if you are professionally qualified to do so.

Do you need help with site plans, floor plans, or drafting for your home? Contact My Site Plan today.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About House Framing

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.


The Basement is the best place to identify a load-bearing wall

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


The attic is another great place for getting an overall picture of your home’s structure.

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.

How to Remove a Load-Bearing Wall

It is recommended that you hire professional home improvement contractors to remove a load-bearing wall. 

However, if you are a DIY homeowner, you could be able to remove a load-bearing wall on your own. It's better if you had the experience, certifications, and were professionally licensed to do so.

You may have to get a permit first. Removing a load-bearing wall could catastrophically affect the structural integrity of a residential structure. So, you should contact your local building office department or permitting authority before proceeding.

Be warned – you may need to submit a detailed floor plan. You may even be required to submit schematics or plans drawn and approved by an engineer or architect.

After getting permission from the local municipality, you must start by adding temporary walls. The temporary walls must be in close proximity to the load-bearing walls to be removed but far enough away from you to not interfere with the work.

Before removing the load-bearing wall, you can add laminated veneer lumber structural beams to help redistribute weight while you replace the load-bearing walls. Gravity will always be working against you when the original load-bearing walls are removed. 

And while you want to work expeditiously, you also want to work professionally to avoid making any mistakes that will compromise the structural integrity of the house.

You will then have to remove the load-bearing walls according to the above-the-ceiling technique, cut the joists, or the below-the-ceiling technique, including cutting the posts. 

This is just a basic primer for removing load-bearing walls. Always confer with contracting experts before attempting to do it on your own.

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



Question Answer
What are the risks of modifying load-bearing walls without a professional? Modifying load-bearing walls without professional guidance can lead to structural damage, which might compromise the safety of the dwelling. This could result in costly repairs and potentially make the home unsafe to inhabit.
How often should I consult a professional during a remodeling project? It is advisable to consult a professional at various stages of a remodeling project, especially before starting, after any major structural changes, and before finalizing the project. This ensures that all modifications are safe and compliant with local building codes.
Are there alternative solutions to removing load-bearing walls for more space? Yes, instead of removing load-bearing walls, homeowners can consider alternatives like rearranging non-load-bearing walls, using furniture or built-ins to define spaces differently, or even adding extensions to the home if the lot size and regulations permit.
What should be included in a site plan for remodeling? A site plan for remodeling should include the current layout of the home, the proposed changes, and details such as the location of load-bearing walls, plumbing, electrical systems, and any external features like landscaping. This plan is crucial for obtaining necessary permits.
How can I budget effectively for a home remodeling project? Effective budgeting for a remodeling project involves researching average costs, setting a realistic budget with a contingency fund for unexpected expenses, regularly reviewing expenditures, and adjusting plans as necessary to stay on budget.

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  • Ryan Crownholm