Load bearing & non load bearing walls: Know the difference

by Roy Warfield 10/08/2023

If you’re remodeling your home, it’s important to know the difference between load bearing and non load bearing walls. While you can usually assume that interior walls are non load bearing, every property is built differently.

Consulting a professional is always recommended and a great way to determine where your load bearing walls are; however, this basic guide can help you identify and provide some information on safe removal of non load bearing walls for your remodeling project:

Examples of load bearing walls

A load bearing wall is any wall that supports the weight of the roof and upper floors. Load bearing walls are specifically built to distribute the weight evenly all the way down through the foundation of the house.

How to determine whether a wall is load bearing

Most exterior walls of a building are load bearing. However, a load bearing wall can also be an interior wall. To find out if a wall is supporting the structure, check if it is perpendicular to the joists. If it’s perpendicular, it’s likely load bearing. If parallel, it is likely a non load bearing wall.

Consult blueprints or building plans to get a better understanding of the wall placement. However, it’s best to hire a professional contractor or inspector to help you identify the load bearing walls in your home before you make any major changes.

How to safely remove load bearing walls

The safest way to remove a load bearing wall is with professional assistance. Not only will you need an inspection and building permit, but you may have to cap off or reroute utility lines in the wall. This might include electrical wiring, pipes and HVAC ductwork. It’s also likely that you’ll need to remove and relocate things like light switches or outlets.

A professional structural engineer will take necessary steps to create support for the weight above the wall once it is removed. There are a few methods for creating temporary supports, including use of steel columns and 2×4 studs. A contractor can help you determine which method is best for your particular situation.

Load bearing walls are essential to a structure and can be difficult to remove. If you’re planning major remodeling in your home, keep these tips in mind before making any major changes.