How to identify a load-bearing wall

Sometimes we want to extend the rooms in our homes, make them appear bigger and more inviting by knocking through and creating an open-plan living area. It’s a common home improvement technique and one that, if done properly can really enhance a living space.

However if it’s not done properly you could end up costing yourself a lot of money, time and problems!

Many of the walls in our homes are there for a reason – they help support the structure of the building. If you want to take down a wall between the kitchen and dining room to create an open plan kitchen diner then that is great, but not if it causes sagging in the floor of one of the bedrooms, or worse; the bathroom, upstairs.

When undertaking a DIY project like this you first want to double check if the wall you want to knock down is load-bearing. This is the term used when a wall is holding the weight of the house above it, or is foundation to a wall or ceiling above it.

Its not always easy to tell if a wall is load bearing or not, especially not from just looking at it! Its best to carry out tests to double check the wall prior to doing any work on the house.

The easiest way to find out if the wall is load-bearing is by taking the time do understand the structure of the house. The outside walls will all be load-bearing and if there has been an addition/extension to the house its likely that the wall between the rooms where that addition or extension joins the main house will also be load-bearing.

The best place to check for load-bearing walls is in the foundations if you can get to them. A trip into your basement will help you determine the structure of the house as you will be able to see where there are beams going up into the house. If you’re house doesn’t have a basement locate the beams that go into the concrete slab under the carpets in the downstairs rooms.

You can also look for floor joists, at the point where a beam meets the ceiling, as most of these will be under the drywall or décor on the wall below you may have to lift floorboards up from above your chosen wall and look down on the structure underneath.

Of course the best and safest way to identify a load-bearing wall prior to removal is to consult an expert on the matter as then you will definitely know what you are letting yourself in for with removing the wall.

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