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.
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.