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How To Tell if a Wall is Load Bearing - RenewVation Calgary Renovations

RenewVation Renovations. Basement Development, Bathrooms, Kitchens and Load Bearing Wall Removal


How To Tell if a Wall is Load Bearing

December 21, 2022by RENEWvation
Use the Control to View Before and AfterBearing Wall Removal for a Kitchen

HOW TO TELL IF A WALL IS LOAD BEARINGHow to Determine a Load Bearing Wall.

What is the Likely direction of joists?

One of the first things to do when determining if a wall is non-load bearing and can be easily removed with no worries, or a Load Bearing that would be catastrophic to remove is stepping outside the home first.

  • What direction does the roof run?
  • What are the Dimensions of the Home, short side and longer side?

A gable roof will typically rest on both outside walls (assume all exterior walls are load bearing) and require support along the direction of roof in the middle.

Also Joists will typically run the SHORTEST span of the building so right away from viewing it from outside you start getting a sense of the structure within the home.

So from outside by looking at both the roof build and building shape starts lending clues as to what walls would be load-bearing.  The reason is a wall running parallel to the joists are NON LOAD BEARING.  Walls Running across all the joists, floor or ceiling joists are POTENTIALLY Load Bearing Walls, that require an expert to remove.

Beam replacing the previous Load Bearing Wall
Beam That is placed to carry the load of a previous load bearing wall.

Where is the Structure in the Basement?

Next spot to look for clues as to if a certain wall is load-bearing is in the basement.  A load bearing wall can not simpley float with no support below.  Look in the basement for the following:

  • Beams
  • posts
  • walls.

if a basement is un-finished this is obviously easier, but if it is completed take a moment to look in the unfinished areas of the basement like the mechanical room.

Look for any Large Metal, or Wood Beam.  These beams will be often supported by posts, and usually nest into the exterior cement wall.  Look for posts within the basement.   Again this post may be hidden as a column behind drywall, or be hidden in a wall that runs through the support (as a good builder would do).

So essentially if there is a beam or posts directly under the wall you wish to remove it is MOST LIKELY LOAD BEARING and needs someone like RENEWvation here in Calgary to remove.  If there is a finished wall directly under the wall in question it is likely hiding the posts that support the beams.

Also often the beam is larger than the joists, or is actually placed beneath it so look for bulkheads as well.

Load Bearing Beam in Pocket
Load Bearing Beam in Pocket. Below is the post that moves the load downwwards

Look Under the Floor for Clues

Sounds strange doesn’t it.  But hvac does often run perpendicular to joists, but usually run within the joist space.  So again we are trying to determine and confirm the joist directions.

So how do you look under the floor to determine if a wall is load-bearing?  Though you would never ask!

Open the heat registers and look or feel which way the heat duct is getting there.  Again typically the source duct will run within the cavity between joists.

So again if the wall is Perpendicular to the Joists it could be Load Bearing.  If it is parallel it could be load-bearing.

Look Above the Wall for Clues

See what I did there, below, and now above.

how do you know if a wall is load bearing?  One of the clues is there is walls directly above and always below.  If you are on the top floor of the house, and you have an attic, I would suggest also going in to look directly above the wall.  If you find Ceiling Joists are ending just past that wall on either side.  Staggered.  If the ends terminate over top of the wall it is 100% guaranteed you have a Load Bearing Wall, and to remove it is best left to the experts.

Where is the Load Bearing Wall and its span

Another aspect to look at is the location of the wall.  You may have a wall that is perpendicular to the joists and is located 4 feet from an exterior wall, like a bathroom wall or a closet, this is almost certainly not a load-bearing wall, as structural walls tend to be found near the middle of the house, or near roof direction lie changes.  So location can also be a clue.  The span of bearing walls also tend to run longer so a short closet wall is likely not, but a long hallway wall could very well be a clue that the wall you wish to remove is holding the load of the upstairs and the roof and snow.

this is a structural beam under the post of another beam to allow wall removal.
this is a structural beam under the post of another beam to allow wall removal.

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