When you are making changes to your home, you need to be sure that the changes you are making will not negatively affect the integrity of the structure. Sometimes when you make changes to a room, you will update the paint or wall covering, possibly put in a new floor, or replace fixtures. Other times, you might want to open a room to create more space. When you do this, you will consider removing a wall in your home. Removing a wall is no small matter. There are walls in your home that are inconsequential. They are considered a partition wall or non-load bearing. If the wall is removed, that has no effect on the rest of your home. What we will discuss is how to determine if the wall you wish to make changes to is a load-bearing wall. What is a load-bearing wall?
A load-bearing wall is a particular wall that supports the weight of something above it. It could support the roof or the floor above it. Previously, we mentioned the partition wall. This wall only affects itself. A load-bearing wall could affect how the house sits or the integrity of the floor above it. How can you tell if a wall is load-bearing or not?
If the wall runs perpendicular to the joists, it is most likely a load-bearing wall. Perpendicular means that the wall runs at a 90-degree angle to the joists. Additionally, you can have a wall that is considered an exterior wall. These form the perimeter of your house and are almost always load-bearing.
If there is a basement or crawlspace below the first floor, then you can go into the space and look to see if there are any beams, columns, etc. that run in the same direction directly below the wall. If there are no extra supports directly below the wall, you can figure that the wall is non-load bearing.
One of the trickier walls is the partial wall. You might have a wall that spans across part of the floor but stops short of connecting to the adjacent wall. While this wall does not appear to support above it, there could be a microllam beam within the wall. This type of beam is used for heavy structural support. The beam is made up of a micro-thin layer of wood that has been laminated together (micro + llam).
Another easier way to determine the load-bearing walls is to look in the center of the house. If there are many floors to your home, load-bearing walls will typically be one on top of the other. If you determine a load-bearing wall on a lower floor, look above it in the same place on the next higher floor.
A final way to determine where the load-bearing walls are is to look at the blueprints for your home. If you were not present when the home was built, there could be blueprints available at the local county records office. You just need to determine when looking at blueprints, if there have been changes or remodels done to the home since the blueprints were drawn up.