How do you know if a wall is load-bearing?
Load-bearing walls support the heavy weight of the floor or roof structures that sit on top of them. They are designed differently from walls that serve only as a division between the rooms of a building.
If you have a renovation project that involves demolishing or modifying a wall, you first need to determine whether the wall is load-bearing or non-load-bearing. This is essential since any part of a load-bearing wall that is removed must be replaced by an appropriate structural support, such as a beam and/or columns that can support the same load as the wall was supporting.
In this article, discover 5 ways to find out if a wall is load-bearing if you don’t have access to the construction plans for your home.
1 – Knock on the wall to test its resonance
The first thing to do if you want to know if a wall is load-bearing is to gently tap its surface. If the wall sounds “hollow”, it is probably serving simply as a division and not as a structural element. Load-bearing walls tend to make a muffled sound when they are struck because the vibration of the strike is absorbed by the entire structure of the building.
This simple test is very practical since it doesn’t require opening the walls to see what’s hiding inside. On the other hand, it is not 100% reliable and assessing a sound is not always easy.
2 – Measure wall thickness
Generally speaking, load-bearing walls are thicker than other types of wall partitions such as prefabricated wood walls. If your wall is less than 15 cm thick, it is unlikely to be a load bearing wall.
Again, you will still have to open the wall to confirm your hypothesis.
3 – Look at the layout of the wall in relation to the beams and joists
Generally, load-bearing walls will cross floor joists and beams perpendicularly. This means that you can go into your basement to see the position of the wall in relation to the joists. If the wall is aligned with a joist, it is probably not load-bearing.
Most of the time, load-bearing walls are also placed perpendicular to a building’s roof beams. You can go to your attic to see the orientation of the roof trusses. If the wall is aligned with a roof truss, the chances of it being load-bearing are pretty slim.
4 – Check if the wall has columns
Although decorative columns are not uncommon, some serve a very specific function and should not be removed without taking precautions.
If the wall you want to knock down or modify is decorated with a column, be sure to check to see if the column plays an important supporting role in the structure of your home. If so, the wall is load-bearing.
5 – Analyze the position of the wall in relation to the outside walls
On the majority of buildings, the exterior walls are part of the building framework. However, for the framework to be strong enough, it needs to have central pillars that will distribute the weight of the elements evenly.
As the name implies, these central pillars are often hidden behind drywall partitions in the middle of the house. If you are about to demolish a central wall of your house, expect to have to review certain elements of your project.
UsiHome: your partner for renovation and construction projects
In conclusion, before thinking about knocking down a wall in your home to clear the space, you need to make sure that it is not a load-bearing wall. You can do this by using one of the 5 methods presented above.
But for peace of mind, you can also count on our experts in wood framing components to assess the feasibility of your project. As soon as you send us the plans for your project, we can review them. If we notice any problems, we will recommend solutions tailored to your needs and budget.