Whenever you're doing any kind of construction or remodelling work on your home involving your walls, it's important to know the effect your work may have on the building's structural integrity. A load bearing wall is one that helps to carry the load of upper floors or roofs. In a traditional one-story or split-level ranch style home, this is usually limited to roof support -- if you inadvertently compromise a load bearing wall, that roof could come crashing down. As such, determining the function of the wall you're working with is not just a matter of structural integrity, it's also for your own safety.
- Skill level:
Search the basement of your home, if the house has a basement, or the concrete slab the wall sits on for the location of the foundation edges. Any wall that sits atop the edge of the slab or that rise from the edges of basement walls are load-bearing walls, as they support the roof of the structure.
Look for a central beam in the basement that spans the width of the house. Mark its location then go to the first or second floor of the home where the central beam runs beneath. Any wall running the width of the house parallel above this central beam is likely to be a load-bearing wall.
Examine the way the floor joists run throughout your house. Locate any walls that run perpendicular to the direction of the floor joists. These are also likely to be load-bearing walls.
Locate any large posts in your home running along a wall. The posts likely aid the wall in supporting the ceiling's load. As such, the wall it runs along is likely load bearing.
Mark the locations of your suspected load-bearing walls. Show them to a structural engineer before modifying any of them to verify your findings.
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