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Don’t Let Load Bearing Walls Block Your Renovation

20150810_095244.jpgWhenever homeowners decide to make modifications to their home, questions regarding load bearing walls are in ample supply. 

It becomes an essential consideration during the planning phase of a remodel.  

In general, loads that act on building structures can be divided into two groups: those resulting from weight caused by gravity and those resulting from other natural forces.

Gravity loads can be further classified into two groups: live loads and dead loads. 

Building live loads include people and most movable and moving objects within or on top of the structure. 

Snow is a live load. So is a grand piano, a safe, or a bed.                                                                                   

20151202_144555.jpgDead loads, on the other hand, generally include the immovable objects in a building. The walls (both interior and exterior), floors, mechanical and electrical equipment, and structural elements are all considered dead loads. 

The focus of this article is on load bearing walls.

What are load bearing walls (bearing walls)? 

These are walls that hold up the weight of the roof or upper floor. In addition, they also carry the weight from people and furniture (live weight). Remove these walls carelessly, or compromise their integrity, and you are likely to experience sagging and cracks … or even worse. 

Buildings have completely caved due to compromised load bearing walls!

Where are load bearing walls located in the house?

Finding load bearing walls in the home can be somewhat challenging if you aren’t sure what to look for. It is best not to guess or assume. 

Load bearing walls are typically located wherever the roof reaches its lowest points. 

For example, if you have a standard exterior with four walls, two of the walls will be load bearing. Interior load bearing walls are usually perpendicular to the floor joists, but not always. 

When trying to determine where the load bearing walls are in your home, the smartest thing to do is have a professional contractor take a look

When does it make design sense to remove load bearing walls?

In terms of space, if you would like to adopt a more open floor plan or bring additional light into the home, then eliminating a load bearing wall can make sense -- as long as is it done with care. 

Again, consult with a professional contractor first, and always put safety and structural integrity before aesthetic preference. 

Is a building permit necessary when removing a load bearing wall? 

In short, yes. You will be required to obtain the necessary building permit. And plans will need to be professionally drafted and presented with any and all supporting documentation to the proper authorities for approval. 

California homeowners can visit the Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State Licensing Board for city-specific information relating to building permits. 

While every remodel is unique and comes with its own set of considerations, load bearing walls don’t have to block your renovation plans. Additional support beams and well-placed columns could provide a workaround solution.

With the help of a qualified expert, some time, and a little patience, dealing with load bearing walls is a walk in the park.


Topics: Open Floor Plan, Exterior, Additions, Interiors, Whole House