With the open-floor layout gaining increasing popularity, you may want to consider removing walls in your house too. This simple move will help you open up floor plans and boost your property’s value.
But not all walls are made equal. Removing the wrong wall can compromise the structural integrity of your house, which may result in its complete collapse.
To prevent such a disaster, it’s super important to determine whether a wall is load bearing or not before removing it.
Let’s find out more about this kind of wall and how to tell if a wall is load bearing.
What Is a Load Bearing Wall?
Before taking down a load bearing wall, it’s important to know what it is. Only then will you understand as to how to determine if a wall is load bearing.
Load bearing walls are structural walls that support the weight of your home. They’re built specifically to transfer the weight of the house from the roof, through the floor, right down to the foundation.
These walls have a point load, like the bottom of a support beam, where the weight of the load shifts over to the support structure. Walls with a uniform load spread the weight equally along the structure.
Then there are non-load bearing walls too, which are built simply to divide up a space into rooms. These walls are also called partition walls. Their removal usually doesn’t affect the structural strength of a house.
Sometimes, however, partition walls may have support beams installed. So, it’s best to always have your walls examined by load bearing wall removal experts before tearing any structure down.
How Do You Know If a Wall Is Load Bearing?
As load bearing wall removal specialists, one of the most common questions we get is “how can you tell if a wall is load bearing?”
While only professionals can ascertain if a wall is structural, here are a few ways you can try yourself.
1. Does the Wall Sound “Hollow?”
In some cases, you may be able to tell if a wall is load bearing by putting your ear to the wall and gently tapping on the wall’s surface. If it sounds “hollow,” it’s likely non-load bearing and is merely serving as a divider.
Because load bearing walls are structural elements, they tend to make a muted sound when struck. The vibration of the strike is absorbed by the entire wall.
However, as simple as this method may sound, it’s not reliable. Making sense of a muffled sound isn’t always easy and may lead to the wrong conclusion. Fortunately, there are other ways to tell if the wall is load bearing. Keep reading.
2. Consider the Wall’s Thickness
Here’s another answer to how to tell if a wall is load bearing. Load bearing walls are, in general, thicker than other types of walls that may be installed to simply divide up space. So, if your wall is less than 15cms in thickness, it is likely non-load bearing.
However, it’s best to have experienced load bearing wall removal professionals examine the wall with a trained eye to confirm this hypothesis. They’ll help you make the right decision.
3. Check the Direction of Floor Joists
More often than not, load bearing walls cross floor joists and beams at a 90-degree angle, indicating that the joists sitting on it are supported by it. This means that floor joists need to run perpendicular to your house’s roof beams for the wall to be load bearing.
If they run parallel, they’re probably non-load bearing walls. To be sure, check the position of the roof trusses in your attic. If the wall is running parallel with a roof truss, it is unlikely to be a load bearing wall.
4. Examine Floor Joists in Your Basement
If you live in a two-story or multi-storied house, you might have a hard time examining your floor joists. You’ll do well to head to your basement or crawl space and take a good look at the exposed floor joists.
You’ll see all the floor joists running in one direction. Bear in mind, walls that run perpendicular to these joists are load bearing ones, and those which run parallel to them are likely non-load bearing.
5. Is the Wall Attached to the Foundation?
Most of the time, external walls are load bearing and attached directly to the foundation of the house. But if your house has additions, you may mistakenly think that these external walls are interior walls.
So, if your house has additions and you find that the wall in question is fixed to the foundation, it was probably an external wall and, therefore, a load bearing one.
Of course, it’s a better idea to entrust the job to the professionals, who can explain more about how to determine if a wall is load bearing. Thanks to their expert wall removal skills, you’ll have the peace of mind that your home’s structural integrity isn’t compromised in any way.
4 Key Factors to Consider When Adding Support Structures
After understanding how to know if a wall is load bearing, you should also consider what needs to be done if it is, indeed, load bearing. Certain hidden components of the home may need to be analyzed to enable sound decision-making. Existing structural defects, undersized beams, foundation cracks, water leaks, and similar issues can also impact your wall removal plans.
The truth is, once a wall is found to be load bearing, several factors will immediately come into play. You’ll need to consider them when determining the replacement support structures to be installed. Here they are.
1. Load Path
The load path refers to the direction in which each load (structural support element) of the house will pass. The distribution of the load helps determine whether or not a wall is load bearing. It also helps in determining what kind of support structure will be needed during the wall removal.
2. Uplift Force
This is an upward pressure applied to any structure to raise it higher than its surroundings. If the wall being removed is fighting the wind uplift on the roof, then the replacement structure will also need to resist it by providing a constant load path to the foundation. Hence, the foundation weight will also be able to resist the uplift.
A load bearing wall removal expert will be able to shed more light on this. They’ll consider the connection of the beam to the post, and other connections necessary for securing the various members running through the floor system.
Blocking is the short pieces of lumber in wood-frame construction used for filling, spacing, linking, and supporting members. It may be used to create an even load path to the foundation, thereby reinforcing your home’s structure.
4. Strength of the Slab
When designing a support structure to replace a load bearing wall, you’ll need to consider the strength of the slab, i.e., the foundation created using a block of concrete. This is crucial if you’re only dealing with gravity loads.
If the wall you want removed is fighting the uplift, a footing will be required. If the slab is strong enough to hold the post, the footing can be skipped. If it isn’t strong, a portion of the slab will need to be cut, and you’ll have to manually install the footing.
Call Load Bearing Wall Removal Specialists to Open up Your Floor Space
Load bearing walls support the entire weight of your house. That’s why they’re designed differently from the other walls erected to divide up the space inside your home.
While load bearing walls are important, it is possible to remove them safely, provided proper precautions are put in place beforehand.
If you’re still wondering how to determine if a wall is load bearing, the team at Load Bearing Pros will help you with the answers. We’ll also be happy to provide you with a free estimate of the costs involved. Feel free to call us at (385) 300-8322 or fill out our online contact form. We will get back to you at the earliest.