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What is a Bearing Wall?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 April 2014
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    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Sometimes referred to as a load bearing wall, the bearing wall not only supports its own weight within a building, but also the weight of other sections of the construction as well. These walls are usually placed at strategic points within the structure in order to assure the building is strong and stable. Along with exterior walls, they will help support a ceiling or roof and, in the case of edifices with more than one story, serves to support the floor of the next ascending story.

This wall helps to support the function of other building elements, such as floor joists and ceiling beams. While many types of buildings make use of those two elements to provide a degree of strength to the space, they are not considered to be enough for any building that occupies an appreciable amount of space. Even a small space of no more than 1,000 square feet (about 93 square meters) will be greatly enhanced by the presence of a bearing wall to help support a stable roofline and augment the stability afforded by joists and rafters.

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Without a bearing wall in place, the structure is likely to deteriorate at a much faster rate. Ceiling beams and rafters will slowly weaken from the increased stress, leading to a ceiling and roof that is far less likely to stand up to strong winds or prolonged periods of storms. In the case of a two story building, the absence one of these walls located on the first floor will almost ensure that the flooring for the second story will weaken very quickly and eventually fall through.

It is important to note that this structure does not have to be a solid expanse of wall, and it can include doors and other openings. Additional framing to support the overall structure is necessary to make sure the wall is capable of supporting its load, however.

When redesigning the interior of a home or other building, it is important for homeowners or contractors to identify the support wall. If at all possible, movement of walls should be limited to any section that is determined to be a non-bearing wall. If the new design does call for removing a bearing wall, however steps should be taken to shore up the structure until a new one is put into place and the support system for the structure is restored to full efficiency.

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Discuss this Article

anon38444
Post 5

How do I find out if the wall is a weight bearing wall? Do I have to call a professional, and if so, what is the range of cost to have someone stop by and tell me if my wall is weight bearing? I won't be able to have the actual work done by anyone until late February, but I need some idea of the cost of removing part of the wall in question, to add an island or shorter wall with a wider ledge. By careful research, I feel comfortable that I have a reasonable range of costs for each of the other kitchen improvements, but the quality of materials I choose depends on that wall. If it is weight bearing that may change some things. I'd also need to get a rough idea what it will cost to modify the wall. My home was built in 1949. Is there a way for me to get the original blue prints? Does a blue print give information like that? I'm just in the planning stages of what I hope will be a fairly reasonable financial commitment to help the sale of my home in the spring or summer. I'm attempting to open the tiny kitchen into the living room with a counter between the two rooms to give a feeling of added space to the "coziest" kitchen I've ever seen. Thank you for any input. I was pleased to find this website. --J. Zeyen

kjgregos
Post 4

We're considering putting in a granite slab shower. I'm concerned about the weight, as the stall is on the second floor, outside wall, above the lower landing of an open stairway. How do we make sure the weight isn't too much for this location?

anon25091
Post 2

The situation would likely be more dire if the 2X4s were anything other than steel. If they have been in place for several months or a couple of years and you have not noticed any settling or shifting that appears to have altered the roof line or caused the surrounding walls to shift out of sync, you are probably just fine. But since environmental factors could also be present, it would be a good idea to contact a different contractor than the one you used, but who is familiar with humidity levels, etc in your area. He or she could provide you with more of solid answer.

pat5756
Post 1

When our house was being built, I noticed some of the steel 2x4s were splayed after the tiles were placed in piles on top of the roof. I asked if this was normal or if it weakened the house and I was told it did not. By the time I was able to see it again, the walls were covered with sheet rock. Should we be concerned that these may not have been fixed or supported?

Thanks for your help.

Pat White

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