With more and more homeowners embracing the open floor concept, it’s becoming increasingly common for engineers to get requests for tearing down walls during renovations.
While taking down walls may sound like a fairly straightforward job, it really isn’t. A lot of factors need to be considered upfront, especially if you’re planning load bearing wall removal.
Improper removal of a load bearing wall can compromise the structural integrity of your house, leading to sagging ceilings, uneven floors, drywall cracks, and sticking doors. Even removing a small part of a load bearing wall, to widen your doors or windows, can be risky if the job is not done properly.
To understand this better, let’s first find out what a loading bearing wall is.
What Is a Load Bearing Wall?
Homes have two basic types of walls, load bearing and non-load bearing. As the name suggests, the former carry the weight of the house above them, while the latter serve as partitions that divide up the house into rooms.
In that sense, a load bearing wall is essentially a structural wall that supports the weight of your home’s roof, upper floors, and the ceiling. This weight is also called “load.”
The load (the roof and everything under it) gets transferred from the roof down to the footings. This is often referred to as the load path. Simply put, it is the route via which the weight of the house gets transferred down to the foundation.
Not every wall inside a home is load bearing. A lot depends on the way the house was constructed. For instance, older homes with a hallway at the center may have load bearing walls on each side. Modern homes that are built with trusses may not have any interior load bearing walls as the trusses distribute the load among the exterior walls.
So, how can you tell if the wall you’re planning to take out is a load bearing one? Read on to find out.
How to Know If a Wall Is Load Bearing?
You can tell whether or not a wall is load bearing by checking how the floor joists and ceiling joists are positioned.
Simply head to your basement or crawl area and check if the floor joists are visible. If you see a heavier beam beneath the wall, you can be sure it is load bearing.
You might have to tear down the dry wall to access the ceiling joists and check for multiple joist ends that may be intertwined atop the wall. This means that that the wall is carrying the weight of those joists, while supporting the roof (or the upper floors of the home). Without adequate support, the joists can collapse. This is why taking down a load bearing wall is extremely risky.
When it comes to the outer walls of a home, know that they’re all load bearing as they support the edges of the roof.
How Much of a Load Bearing Wall Can Really Be Removed?
It is only natural for homeowners to look for ways to expand and optimally utilize the space available in their house. Sometimes, load bearing wall removal may be the only way to get there. Through prior planning, you’ll be able determine whether you need to remove the entire wall or just a part of it.
The simple fact is that in most homes, you can remove as much of the load bearing wall as you want to. But you’ll have to first consider what’s inside the wall and how its weight will be redistributed once it is taken down.
Of course, you’ll need to consider the consequences of the load bearing wall removal. Here are a few things to be mindful of:
- Does the part of the wall you want to remove include electrical lines and light switches? Does any electrical wiring run through it? If yes, where will they be relocated?
- Will new electrical outlets need to be added between adjoining rooms to meet the codes applicable in your town?
- Are there any gas lines or water pipes running through the wall? Where will they be moved?
- Does your baseboard heating stand to be affected?
- How will new floor transitions take place?
- What is the span of the wall that’s to be removed?
- Will you need to install vertical beams to support the ceiling? How many other support walls or structures will be needed?
When in doubt, call load bearing wall removal experts for answers to these questions, and holistic guidance. They’ll prove to be your most dependable ally in this endeavor.
What’s Inside the Wall?
If some of the above points have left you perplexed, allow us to explain.
Load bearing wall removal is a complex job that involves more than just erecting support beams and tearing down a standing structure. You’ll need to know exactly what’s inside the wall because many a time, they contain heating, plumbing, and electrical wiring. These will have to be properly rerouted, which can be problematic.
For instance, it can be extremely difficult (and expensive) to reroute a main drain running through the wall from the bathroom on the second floor. Similarly, HVAC ducts tend to hide behind the walls of our homes, and can be particularly tricky to move.
Overall, you’ll do well to check for pipes, ducts, and cables running through the wall. If you discover any wiring, and aren’t sure how or where to shift them without violating codes, you should call in the experts. Only experienced load bearing wall removal specialists will be able to provide you with an estimate of the work involved along with the cost to replace load bearing wall.
Load bearing walls keep your home standing, which is why they’re critical to its structural integrity. Without these walls, the weight of the home will remain unsupported, resulting in a potential collapse. Load bearing wall removal is, therefore, a task that comes with great responsibility and calls for expertise.
Performing a DIY load bearing wall removal is never recommended. Instead, you should consult a seasoned expert, who can gauge the load affected. Based on their professional analysis, they’ll advise you on the wall removal strategy and help keep your home upright.
Load Bearing Pros have been managing load bearing wall removal projects for years. We get the job done in a quick, hassle-free, and safe manner. Give us a call at (385) 300-8322 to talk to our load bearing wall removal experts or fill out our online form for free quote.