How to Identify a Load Bearing Wall

Georgian House Street View with a ivy arch at the front of the house.

Identifying a load-bearing wall can be a tricky task. though for Structural Engineers, they can spot it almost straight away.


There are many different ways in which you can transform your home, from funky loft conversions to space busting house extensions.  And if you follow our blogs on a regular basis, you’ve probably noticed that we’re big advocates of home improvements.


It turns out we’re not the only ones, either.  Home improvements are more popular than ever-and there’s data to back this up, too!


According to a report conducted by Sky News, the number of planning applications for home improvements and renovation work has shot up in light of increasing house prices.


That said, home improvements aren’t without their drawbacks and your plans for a bigger kitchen or trendy man-cave can quickly fall through if you fail to seek guidance from a professional…


Hidden Dangers


We all hear stories of home improvements that go wrong – construction fails are all the rage on YouTube – most of which could easily be prevented.


Domestic structural engineers with over 50 years’ experience of helping clients realise their ideal home environment, we can’t help but shake our heads in dismay when we read that someone’s ceiling has fallen through or the front of the house has collapsed.


One of the most common issues home owners face is that of load bearing walls and the carnage that ensues when they are removed.


What is a Load Bearing Wall?


A load bearing wall is one that bears the weight of the floors above it.  Classed as an active element, they provide structural integrity by conducting this weight to the building’s foundations.


Outside walls are almost always load bearing as are some interior walls, although this is where problems tend to arise.


Oblivious to their purpose, home owners often remove them without considering the consequences – at the very least, the ceilings may start to sag in the middle; at the very worst, they could collapse bringing the rest of the upstairs with it.


Before you decide to take a sledge hammer to that erroneous looking pillar in the middle of the kitchen, you may wish to read on and learn how to identify a load bearing wall and what you need to consider before removing it.


Identifying a Load Bearing Wall


Partly demolished load bearing wall


The first step is to actually locate and identify which walls in your property are load bearing.  The chances are you won’t have your property’s original blueprints, so you’ll have to search for them.


Here are some quick tips to help you on your way: –


Start in the basement


The first place to start is in the lowest point of your house.  This will either be the basement or the first floor.  In any case, the aim is to locate what is known as the lower concrete slab.


Next, look for walls that feed directly into the foundation – these are the load bearing walls.


Check for floor joists


Floor joists are horizontal structural members that support floors covering an open area (i.e. basement).


Walls that are parallel to the joists are not considered load bearing, whilst walls that are perpendicular to the joists are usually load bearing.


Central Walls and Pillars


Any walls or pillars that are situated at the centre of the house are most probably load bearing, as much of the support of a house’s framework rests in the centre.


Always Seek Professional Advice


Ideally, walls that are load bearing should not be removed.  If you decide to go ahead and remove a load bearing wall, you will need to ensure that the weight bearing down on the wall is supported some other way.


This requires the guidance of a reputable structural engineer.  A structural engineer will be able to calculate the load bearing down on the wall in question, and determine a suitable solution, such as load bearing beams, as-well as the appropriate material (i.e. wood or reinforced steel).


If you have a home renovation project in mind that involves the removal of a load bearing wall, feel free to contact HLN Engineering Ltd for expert advice and a no strings attached quotation. Give us a call for free on 0345 375 3298 or email us

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