how to tell a load bearing wall?

MoccasinNovember 9, 2010

Some of my house planning could be made easier if I knew how to tell a load-bearing wall from one that could be just ripped out with no bad consequences.

How can I tell?

It will help me understand the effect on the whole house of the plan I am drawing up now for the kitchen remodel. I won't go into this plan, except to say I envision taking out MOST of the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, and want to know if the top portion of that wall will remain, or if it will be replaced by a long and heavy header to hold the house up.

And then the back wall of the house, which WAS the exterior wall between the kitchen and the back porch, will be torn out as well when we rip off the back porch to rebuild that space as part of the kitchen remodel. That porch now has a lower floor, and a very low shed roof, which will be taken out as well. I see an extension of the roof gable to give us a full and high open-to-rafters new portion to the kitchen. But, will the surface which is presently the exterior of the end gable have to be taken out too? All I want to do there is put a 12' beam across the old wall location, keep the gable finished as is, but cover/insulate over the vent which is in that gable. Or else put in an attic access set of pull down steps there and remove the set currently in our hallway between the bedrooms. I think that one reduces the efficiency of our hvac unit.

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Easiest way is to go up in the attic and see if a truss or rafter end sits on that wall.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 10:46AM
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Marti, I will check that out when we go back south.
I'm thinking now that the wall between kitchen/dining is NOT a load bearer. But by definition, the back wall of the kitchen is probably load bearing. After all, that end gable is held up by SOMETHING.

When they removed the exterior wall in our new bathtub bumpout, they installed a doubled up 2-inch thick pair of 10" wide long headers across that 6'6" opening. After discussing the structure of the closet bumpout, we decided to leave the closet doors with a divider between them as the pair of windows that came out already had headers above those holes. It was simple to remove the bottom of the window casing and make those holes two closet doors instead.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 11:04AM
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Remembering your roof pictures on bath remodel that wall would have been load bearing. The gable end usually is not unless you have a hip roof. Then all four outer walls are load bearing. You still need proper brace/supports when tearing out walls. In our house being manufactured I know a couple of walls certainly could come down all the way as they are just partition walls. Still there are headers over the doors.

Just thinking your bath remodel showed the rafter placement. and the outer edges of the rafters sit on load bearing walls as Marti said. You might be able to tell from your old pictures.

Also some center walls can be load bearing because the center of the truss or rafter needs support. Not on a scissor truss the center is a point.Doubt you have those in your house.

On the run last sunny day before big storm hits and I have yard work to do.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 12:44PM
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I've always been told that load bearing walls are the ones that run parallel to your roof line. That being said, I'd still talk to a professional, before I removed ANY walls :)

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 4:09PM
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I think it's the reverse, actually---parallel to the roof line and floor joists is unlikely to be load-bearing (exterior walls excluded---those are all load-bearing!) When we did a seismic retrofit, the engineer mentioned that for many older homes built in neighborhoods, walls parallel to the street are unlikely to be load-bearing because they usually ran the ceiling joists parallel to the street (because of the roof line, I imagine). Perpendicular interior walls are more likely to be load-bearing. But that's just a rule of thumb---some parallel walls may be load-bearing for other reasons. You can tell by looking at the floor and ceiling joists to see where they're attached.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 7:14PM
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(Oh, unless roof line means the flat part of the roof along the sides, which it probably does. I was thinking of it as the angled lines of a traditional roof. :)

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 7:16PM
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