Blog
March 17, 2022

Is Your Basement Wall Load Bearing? Understanding Load Bearing Structures


835:full

Does your Utah home have a basement? Consider yourself lucky. Basements let you increase usable indoor space without breaking a sweat. You can turn them into a storage room, a recreational cave, a guest suite, or a bedroom for the kids. The possibilities are endless! 

There are plenty of ways to remodel a basement. And, for some renovations, you may need to knock down a few walls. But before you swing your sledgehammer, it is vital to stop and check if the wall is load-bearing.  

Basement load-bearing walls support the weight of the floors above. Demolishing them can quickly impact the structural integrity of your home. 

That said, if your home sits on top of a basement, you may think that all the walls are load-bearing. But this isn’t the case. While it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes, there are some general rules you can follow to separate bearing walls from non-bearing walls.  

In this post, we’ll dive into five ways you can locate a basement load-bearing wall. But first, let’s understand load-bearing structures and why they’re so significant to your home. 

What is a Load-Bearing Wall? 

By definition, a load-bearing wall (also known as a bearing wall) is a structure that supports vertical load along with its own weight. Unlike partition walls, they separate internal spaces and transfer loads from other parts of the building to the foundation. 

Load-bearing walls date back to the earliest forms of construction and were widely used between the mid-1700s and mid-1900s. Today, they’re found in buildings with multiple stories (think high-rises and skyscrapers). 

Generally speaking, there are six types of load-bearing walls. 

  • Standard 2×4 or 2×6
  • Pre-cast concrete walls 
  • Retainer walls 
  • Masonry wall 
  • Brick wall
  • Stonewall 
  • Pre-panelized load-bearing metal stud wall 

Is It Safe to Remove Basement Load-Bearing Walls? 

If a basement load-bearing wall is getting in the way of your underground open game room, we have good news for you. In most cases, it’s entirely possible to remove a load-bearing wall. In fact, load-bearing wall removals are all we do here at Load Bearing Pros! 

But to knock down a load-bearing wall, you must create temporary supports on both sides and install permanent beams to hold up the weight of your home. Otherwise, you will start seeing unsightly cracks on your walls signaling structural integrity has been compromised.  

Also, you will need a permit to remove a load-bearing wall in Utah. Load-bearing wall removals count as a structural change in most municipalities, which is why you cannot initiate them without a green signal from the authorities.

Here are a few other things you should know about taking down a load-bearing wall

  • Your walls may be hiding several dangerous substances, such as mold and asbestos. Handling them without proper precautions can lead to devastating consequences. 
  • Bearing walls also house air ducts, plumbing lines, gas pipes, and electrical wiring, to name a few things. You’ll have to work around these obstructions and relocate them as necessary.

For these reasons, load-bearing wall removal should not be a weekend DIY project. It takes considerable skill and labor to replace these structures, which is why you should always hire professionals for the job. 

Homeowners in Utah can get in touch with us when they need their load-bearing walls knocked down. Having been in the business for years, we know exactly how to remove bearing walls safely and efficiently. We’ll be in and out of your hair quickly- and what’s more, we’ll clean up behind ourselves! 

5 Ways to Identify a Basement Load-Bearing Wall 

How you identify a bearing wall in your basement will likely depend on a few tell-tale signs. Here are five helpful tips to follow when searching for load-bearing structures. 

  1. Look at the Floor Joists 

If you’ve ever been to an unfinished house, you’ve probably noticed a series of long wooden boards that run lengthwise on the floor above. For example, if you are in your basement, the boards will span the length of the first floor. These are known as floor joists. 

When a connecting wall runs perpendicular to the floor joists, it may be load-bearing. Of course, in finished basements, the floor joists can be covered by drywall and ceiling panels, so you may have to remove them to sneak a peek. 

  1. See if the Walls Run Through Multiple Floors 

Generally speaking, a significant amount of a house’s weight (especially the roof) is concentrated in the center. As a result, many load-bearing walls are situated in the middle of the home. And, since the weight is transferred from floor to floor all the way to the foundation, load-bearing walls are built on top of each other. 

Check if you have walls built in the same place on each floor, including the basement. They are most likely load-bearing. Bear in mind that these walls may have door frames, shelves, or other functional/decorative elements. But the key is to note if the walls sit on top of each other across the floors of your home.  

  1. Take a Look at the Roof Ridge 

The roof ridge is the meeting point of two opposing roof planes. Here, the intersection creates the highest point of the roof, also known as the peak. It is the pinnacle of the building, from which the weight begins to disperse downwards. 

Interior bearing walls often run parallel to the roof ridge to support this load. Use the roof ridge as a reference point to see whether a basement wall is a bearing. If it runs in the ridge’s direction, chances are it holds up some of the house’s weight.

  1. Refer to The House’s Original Blueprints  

Consult your local records office to obtain a copy of the house’s blueprints. Once you get it, check out the framing and basement floor plan to get a clear picture of the joist directions. The blueprints may also label your load-bearing walls. 

Additionally, if you’ve bought the home second-hand, check the original house blueprints to see if the previous owners added/removed any new walls. The ones set up post-construction are least likely to be load-bearing.  

  1. Consult a Professional 

Working with load-bearing walls is no easy feat. One wrong blow can bring your entire house down. Under such circumstances, it’s best if you leave the identification to a specialist.

Professional load-bearing wall removal specialists like Load Bearings Pro have a wealth of experience up their sleeve, meaning they know their way around basement load-bearing walls. Hence, they are your best bet for a clean, safe, and efficient removal job that will protect the integrity of your home.

The Bottom Line 

While basement renovations rarely top the charts, it’s safe to say that they have a ton of potential. You can turn your basement into anything: from a personal hideout to a home office. But, in this regard, remember to be careful about taking out basement walls. We hope this post has given you some insight into establishing if a basement wall is bearing. 

Need help knocking down a basement load-bearing wall in your Utah home? Give Load Bearing Pros a call. Not only can we tell you if a wall is bearing, but we can also provide a free estimate on what it’ll cost for us to remove it safely. For more information, reach out to us today!