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How to Identify Load Bearing Walls and Avoid Structural Problems

What are load bearing walls?

Load bearing walls are structural elements in your house that carry and transfer load from one area to another. If your house is well-designed, then the load should be transmitted to other parts of the foundation such as the concrete footer supporting a post or column.

You can easily identify some load bearing walls since they usually run in the middle or are stacked one on top of the other. However, some may be so well-hidden that you may just find out when you have already torn your walls down.

What are the not-so-usual load bearing walls?

  • Exterior house walls are usually primary load bearing walls. But this is not the true for all houses. Some homes may have only the front and back bearing walls. Still in some homes, it is the interior walls of the first floor which support the main roof.
  • Interior walls that are perpendicular to the run of floor joints may be load bearing if there is a beam directly below the wall or a beam parallel to it and not found too far away
  • Some may think that short walls can be torn down without experiencing any structural problem. However, these walls may be where electrical and plumbing lines run. After stripping the plaster, you might be surprised to find wires, cables, and pipes running horizontally from one area to another.

Even the most innocent looking walls can be hosts of pipes, wires and lines. They may not be found below the wall, but this does not mean that they are not running above it.

How can I be completely sure of the location of bearing walls?

This is very important work that needs the help of an expert. You do not want your house to come crashing just because of an innocent mistake. Hire a structural engineer to do the work for you. To save on expenses, remove the plaster or drywall yourself.

In summary, load bearing walls all depends on the design of your house. Exercise caution before knocking down any of those walls to avoid structural damage.