Finding Load-Bearing Walls

by April Reinhardt
(last updated March 13, 2020)

If you're anticipating a major home renovation, then you'll need to know the difference between load- and non-load-bearing walls. Why? Because a load-bearing wall is one that holds or transfers the weight (the load) from one section of the structure to another. If you remove part or all of a non-load-bearing wall, then the remainder of the structure will stay intact. But if you remove all or part of a load-bearing wall, then part or all of the structure will most likely collapse.

Identifying load-bearing walls is more difficult in newer homes than in older structures. Older homes use all of the exterior walls as load-bearing walls, while some newer homes use only the front and back walls to bear the load. How can you identify the load-bearing walls in your home? Try these tips:

  • If you're home has a basement, start there. If not, start at the concrete pad.
  • Look for the walls that sit on the foundation walls. They support the weight of the roof and are load-bearing walls.
  • Any exterior wall that rests on the foundation sill is considered load bearing.
  • While you're in the basement, look that the first floor joists. Find the walls that run parallel to those joists. Those are non-load-bearing walls.
  • On the first and second floors of the house, locate any wall that sits comparatively in the center of the house, and lays parallel above the center basement beam. Those are most likely load-bearing walls.
  • Most often, any wall that runs perpendicular to floor joists will be a load-bearing wall, while those that lay parallel to floor joists are not.

Another visual cue of load-bearing walls are those that end in large posts or columns. While the column might simply appear to be decorative, it probably helps support the weight of other walls and portions of the roof above.

If you have any doubt as to which walls are load-bearing walls, consult with a professional structural engineer before modifying your existing structure. Moving or modifying a load-bearing wall without proper bracing can cause not only structural damage, but the ensuing collapse could end your life.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

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