Homeowner’s training: how to identify load-bearing walls from partition walls
This is an article in a series, where we intend to train homeowners to do basic inspections. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, safety and social distancing is a must. However, that does not mean your construction requirements must be overlooked or paused.
Together, we can remotely manage your construction and engineering design work while adhering to social distancing and government safety guidelines without delaying or halting your remodeling requirements.
Many times, you may wish to expand a room, kitchen or bathroom. But you cannot just grab the sledgehammer and tear the wall down, as it could potentially bear part of the load of the roof or upper floors, and removing the wall could lead to a disaster.
Usually, you would need an experienced structural design engineer to inspect the wall and tell you if it is a load-bearing wall or just a partition wall which can be safely removed.
But because of the pandemic, we need new ways to solve this problem. At S3DA, we have successfully managed to handle these problems remotely; by guiding our clients to do the work themselves.
As a result, the work becomes cheaper (since there will be no price for inspections), faster (since there is no need for commuting) and more expanded (see the many places we have served).
Here, we are sharing that experience.
Step 1: Check the plans
The first step is to find the plans and drawings of your home. That is the easiest and least expensive route. The maps can easily point out load-bearing walls; just send them to a structural engineer and they can take care of the rest.
Here is a guide on how to obtain the plans and drawings of your home.
Step 2: Inspect the floor or ceiling
A load-bearing wall supports floor joists. As such, the floor joists are perpendicular to the wall and rest on it. This means that if the wall is installed parallel to the floor joists or if the joists continue over the wall, that wall is most likely a partition wall.
To check this, simply raise a part of the plywood from the floor above or the plasterboard from the ceiling and look at the direction of the joists and how they are seated.
Step 3: Inspect the wall
Another step is to remove the drywall. A professional can easily determine the nature of the wall once the drywall is removed, and restoring it is fairly inexpensive. Simply separate the pieces at the drywall joints and send photos or videos of the wall to your structural engineer.
This is also an important step for inspecting the wiring, plumbing or heating ducts as they sometimes pass inside the wall.
Step 4: Inspect the basement
If your house has a basement or crawl space, you can use it to check directly under the walls. If there are support beams directly under a wall, you can expect that wall to be a load-bearing one. Support beams are naturally found at the sides of the house as well as in the center.
We hope this guide will help you determine the nature of the walls you wish to alter. As you can see, many times it is easy to handle these issues remotely. It’s important to have a professional engineer looped in to consult you or assist you during the process to ensure the project’s success, but that can also be done via online communications.
We wish you the best of luck with your projects. Stay safe.