How to Tell If a Wall Is Load-Bearing?

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How to Tell If a Wall Is Load-Bearing?
Load-bearing walls are a major structural feature of a home. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Load-bearing walls enforce a home's structure by bearing the weight of upper levels and/or a roof plus additional snow load -- similar to the way large bones support a body. All exterior walls are load bearing, but typically, only some interior walls support weight; the rest simply separate interior spaces. A building inspector has the final say on whether a wall is load bearing or not, but it is possible to scout out possible load-bearing walls yourself by looking at a few of your home's structural features. However, there are many variables, including previous remodelling and additions to a home, leaving no sure-fire way to be certain without a professional's help.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Look inside the attic space to see which direction the ceiling joists go. Load-bearing interior walls typical run perpendicular to joists. Walls running parallel to joists usually are not load bearing.

  2. 2

    Determine a basement or crawlspace support beam's direction by locating the upper beams running along the ceiling, or on the underside of the above floor in an unfinished lowest-level space. Metal telescoping posts, or wood or concrete posts or blocks support upper levels and typically are braced between the beams and the basement or crawlspace floor. Load-bearing walls in the levels above often run the same direction as the lower level's beams.

  3. 3

    Read your home's blueprints if you have them. As long as the contractor did not make any changes in your home's structural construction, the load-bearing walls will be evident in the prints.

  4. 4

    Pull up floorboards or take down a section of ceiling as a last resort to determine your home's structural supports and load-bearing walls. To determine is an interior wall is a load-bearing wall, you need to see the full length of the home's structural skeleton.

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