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How to Tell If a Wall is Load Bearing

To create an open floor plan, add additional space in your home or complete certain renovations, you need to be aware of what that wall is supporting before you remove it.

Demolishing a load-bearing wall could quickly impact the safety of your home, as load-bearing walls support the roof, and are required to stand in place for the structural integrity of a home. Making sure any wall you plan to remove isn’t load bearing is incredibly important.

But how can you tell which walls in your home are load bearing? Let Mr. Handyman help! This guide will help you identify a load bearing wall so you can make a plan, but we don’t recommend you remove any walls until you consult an expert.

Load-Bearing Wall Checklist

Here is a checklist to tell if the wall you want to take down is load bearing:

Grab your blueprints — A great place to start is by digging out the original blueprints if they’re available. The original blueprints for the home will tell you which walls are load bearing and which ones are not. If a wall is marked as “S” in the blueprint, this means “structural,” thus showing it’s a load-bearing wall.

Check your ceiling — Take a look at your ceiling to identify any load-bearing beams that run across the house. Any walls beneath these beams are probably also load bearing. If there is no load-bearing beam below the wall you are considering getting rid of, it’s most likely not load bearing.

Assess your basement — Look in your basement or crawl space for steel beams or joists. If you do spot joists in your basement and there is a wall that runs perpendicular, this wall is most likely load bearing. If the wall is parallel above the joists, it’s most likely not a load-bearing wall. 

Check the foundation — If a wall or beam is directly connected to the foundation of your house, it is load bearing. This is extremely true for houses with additions, as even though these walls may be interior now, they were previously exterior walls, and are extremely load bearing. Checking your home’s original blueprint can help with this.

Load-Bearing Wall Removal Facts

You can remove a load-bearing wall, but you should never do it without consulting a professional builder or engineer. If you remove a load-bearing wall without the proper planning, it could quickly lead to disaster in the form of structural instability and ceiling sagging.

Here is what you need to be aware of before an expert comes over to your house:

  • A permit could be required — Some city ordinances require a permit and a structural engineer's sign-off if walls are being replaced or torn down.
  • Replacement support is mandatory — A structural support must be in place before removing the wall. It’s necessary to have plan in place; otherwise your home will start to sag over time.
  • Know your beams — For this type of project, a heavy-duty beam is needed if you are looking to fully remove a load-bearing wall. By purchasing and installing a LVL support beam (laminated veneer lumber) you can ensure the stability of your home’s structure – you simply can’t rely on anything smaller to support your roof properly. 
  • Removal is dangerous — Removing load-bearing walls can be a difficult and dangerous task, so it’s necessary to make the proper safety precautions at all times. Never complete this task on your own and call an expert to avoid disaster.

Alternatives to Removing a Load Bearing Wall

Pass-thru openings allow homeowners to keep load bearing walls but give the floor plan a more open feel. There are less expensive than load bearing wall removal, easier to install, and often don’t require permits or engineers.

Trust the Experts at Mr. Handyman

Our team of licensed contractors is ready to help. In some cases, we may not be able to determine with certainty if a wall is load bearing and will require an engineer to be safe. However, if you’d like to explore other options such as a pass-thru opening, our experts can help!

Ready to get started creating your open floor plan or remodel? Trust your local professionals at Mr. Handyman to help turn your dream renovation into a reality.

Call (877) 685-1377 or schedule an appointment online to get started today.

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