Why Can’t I Remove THAT Wall?

It seems so easy. You’re tired of that small dark dining room, the cramped living room and the claustrophobic and hard to maneuver in kitchen. So you schedule an appointment with your local builder to show him your vision for a rejuvenated open multi-use space. He was enthusiastically on board…until you said you wanted THAT wall taken out. Want to know why? Keep reading!

What is a load bearing wall? 

According to Wikipedia: “a load bearing wall or bearing wall is a wall that is an active structural element of a building, which holds the weight of the elements above it, by conducting its weight to a foundation structure below it.” Now, did you just read that and go “what?” Let’s do that again in layman’s terms. A load bearing wall is a wall that is responsible for holding the weight of the house from top to bottom. This wall helps disperse the building’s weight from the roof down to the foundation, and its removal could cause the structure to collapse. For multi-story homes the walls generally are lined up on top of the other on each floor. A wall on the bottom floor should have a wall on the second floor in the exact location in order for the weight to be fully supported from top to bottom. 

What is a non-bearing wall? 

Often called a partition wall, this is a divider that is only responsible for its own weight. These walls are not part of the overall structural framing system and their main function is to divide an interior space into separate rooms. They can be removed with no danger of compromising the structural integrity of the residence. 

How do you tell the difference? 

That is a good question for your home builder or general contractor who not only has the knowledge and experience to determine if a wall is load or non-load bearing, and also if city/county building codes require a structural engineering inspection before removal. But if you want to make sure you understand what is going on, consider doing the following. 

  • Head up to the attic and check the ceiling joists. If the joists run perpendicularly over a wall or if there are rafter braces installed onto the wall, or if there are walls that have been spliced into the joists, then those are more than likely load bearing walls. Don’t just assume that all exterior walls are load bearing. They should be, but that doesn’t always happen. 
  • Dig out your original house plans. Load bearing walls will be marked on the blueprints. 
  • You should also be able to tell where the load bearing walls are from what’s under your home in the crawlspace. A continuous footer underneath a wall is a pretty good indication that wall is load bearing. 

Can a load bearing wall be removed?

The answer is yes but only under certain circumstances. A structural engineer or architect will have to be involved to ensure a supporting structure is designed so the load bearing wall can safely be removed. Proper temporary supports will need to be installed before and after the original wall is removed until the new structure is in place and inspected to ensure the home’s weight has been properly redistributed. 

Ready to have all your questions about removing a load bearing wall answered? Then reach out and connect with Compass Construction today by calling 864-627-8804. Or drop us an email at inquires@buildcompass.com, or simply fill out our safe online contact form and we’ll be in touch shortly.