Is my wall a Load Bearing or not ?
Updated: 5 days ago
Many houses were built with many more walls to our liking now a day. In many instances reducing the living spaces or limiting them and/or separating them. In addition to the fact that some older houses have really smaller kitchens than what is becoming a new standard kitchen size where many people would like to have an island in their kitchen.
Many of these challenges can be solved by removing walls separating the rooms so they can accomplish their open concept.
The challenge comes whether the wall is load bearing or not, then if it's a load bearing what would be the next course of action.
So here are some thoughts with our readers:
If the wall determined to be load bearing wall then a load bearing beam should be installed replacing the wall. The beam should be designed to support a continuous span (both for strength and deflection), carry the load from upper levels properly then pass it on to the lower support system while maintaining the proper load path and lastly determine whether any reinforcements are needed on the lower levels.
The process discussed above typically requires hiring a structural engineer to evaluate and calculate then to provide a stamped drawings to apply for the permit as this type of the change considered a structural modification and most jurisdiction will require a permit/stamped drawings and licensed and qualified contractor to perform the work.
While determining a wall being a load bearing wall or not is an easy task in people mind because they can follow the joist orientation, it is important to note that often times we see a wall that is parallel to the joist layout and still end up being a load bearing wall because it is supporting the floor from 2 floor above it especially when the house 3rd floor "attic space" has joists switching their direction/orientation (running front to back instead of left to right).
Few things to note during the process:
- It is critical to keep in mind that when adding heavier load (Island in the kitchen space) to verify the floor below will have sufficient capacity for that added load. Most older homes joists are over spanning the current standard by a 1 or 2 feet and when you add heavier island/load that will cause a significant sag that most people won't see until few months and sometimes up to a year past the construction work is completed.
- When adding a load bearing beam, verify that your posts were also design properly as they are equally important to transfer the load. Depends on the design load/weight in your beam, using (2) 2x4 may not be equivalent to using single 4x4.
- Lastly, the old and fatigued wood beam in your basement needs to be verified to make sure the point load added from that single post above is not beyond its capacity (That is more critical if your basement is wet and doesn't have the humidity controlled). Yes you are not changing the load but you are redistributing from being equally spaced over that length to be located at specific part of its span.
Call us today if you need any further assistance: 724-949-0004
Written by Firas Abdelahad, P.E.
Firas Abdelahad has been practicing structural engineering since 2005 working with teams of consultants, architects, investors, homeowners, contractors and subcontractors to come up with solutions for challenges may arise during design and construction phases.