How to Tell if Part of a Wall Can be Removed

Answered by Jeffrey ~ March 2, 2010 ~ No Comments

I would like to expand my kitchen in Danville, IL, and in order to do this I need to remove half of the wall. How do I find out if it's load bearing?

George O. ~ Danville, Illinois

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi George, Figuring out what is a load bearing wall can be a little tricky if you don't have framing or engineering experience. A general rule of thumb is that if it is an exterior or outside perimeter wall, it is probably a load bearing wall.

If it is an interior wall, if it has a framed wall directly above it, there is a possibility that it is a load bearing wall. The wall you are are thinking of removing, if it has any doorways in it, cut a small hole several inches above the top of the door. Load bearing walls should have a double 2 x 6 or larger above the door as a header. They will be on edge, so you can see the full 6 inches of the header. Depending on the width of the door opening, there could be a 2 x 8 or 2 x 10 up there instead. Non-load bearing walls will have a 2 x 4.

Non-load bearing walls sometimes have a single horizontal top plate when they are framed, where load bearing walls will have two top plates. Non-load bearing walls will sometimes be framed on 24 inch centers, where load bearing walls are usually framed 16 inches on center or closer.

These are all general rules, but I have seen good builders frame interior non-load bearing walls the same way they framed load bearing walls, because they felt it provided a better framing job. To be absolutely sure, you ought to locate a building inspector around Danville, Illinois, and have them take a look at it. You would hate to not do the expansion, and find out that it wasn't a load bearing wall, but even worse would be to do the expansion, and discover over time that it was.

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