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How do you know if a wall is load bearing?


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#1 mikematt

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Posted November 01 2007 - 10:57 AM

My family room is in back of my house and living room is in front. They are same size and seperated by an interior wall. I would like to eliminate that wall and create a great room that runs front to back of the house. How do I know if this wall is needed to keep the house structurally sound? Thanks



#2 dogboy

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Posted November 01 2007 - 11:06 AM

don't take my word only for it before you start demolition, but most of the time you can tell it's a load bearing wall if the floor joists run perpendicular to it



#3 Kings over Queens

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Posted November 01 2007 - 11:12 AM

One way to check is to go in the basement and see if there are columns and beams under that wall. If so, it's pretty safe to say it's a bearing wall. Load gets transferred from the top down, or so I've been told.

Which way to the joists run for the room above it? If they are resting on that wall that you want to remove, that would also likely mean load bearing.

Just because it's a bearing wall doesn't mean you can't remove it, but it's going to take some engineering and construction to transfer the load that is/was carried by the wall, especially so if you want a flush ceiling.



#4 FishAgain

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Posted November 01 2007 - 11:32 AM

Knock the wall down, if the house collapses it was a load bearing wall.



#5 Wayne Tj

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Posted November 01 2007 - 11:52 AM

Not all load bearing walls run perpendicular to the joists. If you look the header of the wall and it's double 2"x10" or more, you can bet that it is a load bearing wall.


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#6 sandfleas

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Posted November 01 2007 - 12:18 PM

Agree with: Not all loadbearing walls run perpendicular to joists (although typically they do), all load bearing walls have either steel beam (I beam) or have 2x10/8 as headers, and often load bearing walls line up with posts on lower level.
Add: load bearing walls are situated to support the weight of roofing that is supported in turn by the inner tension of trusses, either directly or through static load (shear) bearing through a wall that lines up on the next floor. Trusses come in many varieties. The horizontal member (bottom chord) is one of the best things to look at to discern the load bearing nature of a lower stucture.
You may want to see if you can find plans for the dwelling and this is a sure shot to not make a mistake.
Even if the wall is load bearing, you can put in post and beam to allow for the wall to be taken out and then frame/box/drywall the post and beam. Lolly columns, sometimes called lally columns, can be used. Most codes in US do not permit permanent use of telescopic adjustable steel columns. Be sure to conform to code with this job as you may be voiding warranties, insurance coverage, and making a non-saleable improvement.



#7 sandfleas

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Posted November 01 2007 - 12:19 PM

Knock the wall down, if the house collapses it was a load bearing wall.

We'll be over to implement this hypothesis at your place.



#8 Ben Lippen

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Posted November 01 2007 - 3:47 PM

My family room is in back of my house and living room is in front. They are same size and seperated by an interior wall. I would like to eliminate that wall and create a great room that runs front to back of the house. How do I know if this wall is needed to keep the house structurally sound? Thanks


Two rooms, front of house to rear, seperated by one wall? Yes indeed, that is your main bearing wall. It's holding up your ceilings, and anything above them. It can be removed easily and replaced by a header of appropriate size (depends on the length of the opening, and what's above it) by simply building temporary walls on either side of the wall ya wanna remove, to carry the weight. Then you simply remove the wall and replace it with posts and a beam. Provided there is a bearing girder of some sort below, and the neccessary blocking is done between the floor joists below.
If you want a flush ceiling, like KOQ mentioned, it's a lot more work to cut the ceiling joists back on either side, slide the header into the ceiling, then re-attach the ceiling joists using joist hangers. Again, the weight transfer points below must be addressed.

I've done it both ways many times. The first way is simple, and wont require any ceiling sheetrock work. The sond way may require this, and is probably twice the cost based on the extra time involved.
Oh, btw, you'll also have to consider the electric running thru that wall that will hafta be moved, and also your floor coverings.



#9 mybeach

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Posted November 01 2007 - 3:58 PM

I had the exact same job - rooms 18w x 15. Had wiring, ac returns in the stud spaces and central vac plumbing in the bearing wall. Decided to leave a 4 foot section with the existing guts and had my contractor install 2 paralams covering the spans. One was 4' and one was 10'. Sunk them flush with the side walls, but left the beam at about 11 inches along the ceiling. It looked great when it was done. Avoided having to remove the wiring and stuff.

I then pulled up the junk carpet and 1 layer of subfloor in the back room and had a perfect height to install 3/4 hardwood to match the front room. I was very happy with the job. One contractor said a single paralam could carry the load across the 18 foot span, but I was not interested in losing the returns or central vac.

Contractor sistered in a number of short 2x10's in the basement to help distribute the loads above.