Is this the year that your living and dining rooms finally become one large area? According to some experts, an emerging trend in home design is wide open interior spaces -- especially if you're single or a couple with a newly empty nest. That means many interior partitions could soon end up in local landfills. But prior to swinging that sledge hammer, it might be a good idea to determine if you're about to remove a load-bearing wall.
While the walls in your home might seem to just serve as separations to create rooms or hallways, some have an additional function: to carry a structural load. A house's exterior walls almost always support the roof framing or trusses and depending on the floor joist layout, a portion of that weight as well.
In addition, some interior partitions may help provide support for structural components with long spans. An example of this would be when a floor joist can't reach from the front to the back of the home without interior bearing points to prevent deflection.
The good news is that many load-bearing walls can be altered or even removed. However, in almost every situation a substitute means of support such as a header or beam must be installed. Their sizing is determined by the distance spanned and weight being carried.
Load-bearing walls always have double top plates, but many partitions that don't carry any weight do as well so that isn't a reliable indicator.
Always determine if a wall is designed to carry weight before doing any demo. You may not notice any immediate changes to your home when a structural wall is removed, but over time the damage often becomes very apparent. And while removing the wall may be DIY-friendly, the sizing of the new support header or beam should always be done by an architect or engineer.