How can I tell if a wall is a load bearing?

Answered by Brendan ~ January 11, 2011 ~ Comments

We are looking at buying a house that needs a little help in the kitchen. I would like to be able to create a pass through & counter from the kitchen to the dining room which would require knocking out the top half of an interior wall. The wall now has cabinets attached to it and is a partial wall which stops at the doorway from the kitchen to the dining room. Wanted to know if there was a clear way to tell if part of a wall can be taken out when we go back to look at the house. Many thanks!!!

Jennifer ~ Bedminster, New Jersey

Brendan Fowler

Load bearing and engineered walls are not always easy to spot. Some walls are engineered but not for compression load but for shear value. An interior shear wall is a critical structural element of a home and should not be removed without consulting with a structural engineer first. To identify the kind of wall it may be I would first crawl under the house and see in there is anything that would alert you to the fact that the wall may be bearing some kind if load. A footing or piers under the wall, a girder under the wall, blocking between the joists under the wall, or even double joists under the wall may be indicators that this wall is structural. Next, I would have a look up into the attic. If you see an obvious break in the ceiling joist over the wall, any roof supports spanning down over the wall or if the wall continues up into the attic, these can all be signs that the wall is structural. Some newer lightweight trusses will have multiple bearing points between the outer walls and it can be difficult to determine if an interior wall is bearing without seeing the engineering for the trusses. Usually it is obvious but it is always a good idea to consult with a contractor and or engineer when it comes to removing walls from a home. Good luck with your home purchase!

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