Determining load bearing wall

8 Replies

I'm working on my third flip and want to open up the living space. How do most people determine if a wall separating the living room and kitchen is load bearing in a traditional rectangle shaped home?

If this wall is load bearing, I want to cut out a pass through window. However, my first preference would be to take out the whole wall.

Attached is a pic I took during one a walk through. The wall behind the chair is my target and runs perpendicular to the trusses. Thanks!

I have removed several walls during remodels and there are a couple of ways I try to determine if a wall is bearing or not.  If there is an attic space above, you can look up there to see if the ceiling joists are lapped/spliced over that wall.  If the house has trusses then that wall would just be a partition wall.  Just looking at the picture and seeing you have a walkway at the end of the wall, I'm guessing that the wall is not load bearing.   If you have any doubts though, you should have an experienced contractor or an engineer evaluate it.  Good luck!

Thanks @Aaron Reynolds It does have some attic space above, I can climb up there in the morning and check it out. The wall in question is probably 12 ft wide from the door opening to the end wall.

Sometimes, not always, you can push on the top of the wall. If it moves it most likely is not load bearing. 

If you can see the cieling joist look to see if they cross with the walls below usually that is a good simple indicator that the wall is load bairing. Also is the length of the wall. Does the wall extend the entire length of the space. You can usually tell by looking at the door way and seeing if it has a header. In this case your picture does not show a header but construction can change in different regions.

Even if it is load bearing, you can still knock it out by installing a header beam and tucking it up inside the attic. Install a temporary load bearing wall on either side of existing wall, and put a header board up there attach some of those stainless hangers to put the cealing joists in and nail it all together.

The best solution here is to hire a structural engineer.  If there are trusses the usual method of looking for splices in the ceiling joists won't work.  But the wall may still be structural to support the trusses, depending on how they were sized.  I did this for a project last year (though just had final inspections last week).  It was about $350 to get him to come out and look at what I wanted to do and advise me.  He then inspected the work after it was done and wrote a letter for the city saying it was correct.  He could have made and stamped drawings but this was a cheaper approach.  My project was a bit more complex because I was moving multiple walls.  

This was money well spent.  He advised me how to put a beam over the joists where I was removing a bearing wall and then tie these together with hurricane ties. I had to add posts to support that beam.  The end result left the living area completely clear of beams.  No headers or anything in the living space.  And much easier than what I was expecting to have to do.

If you DIY'ing this project (I did) a pneumatic palm nailer is a lifesaver.  Swinging a hammer is impossible in tight spaces and a regular nailer isn't precise enough to hit the holes in the various hangers.  I was surprised, but the palm nailer will sink a 16d nail into a board like a hot knife through butter.  I think is was $25 or so at Harbor Freight.

Jon Holdman, Flying Phoenix LLC

Originally posted by @Jon Holdman :

If you DIY'ing this project (I did) a pneumatic palm nailer is a lifesaver.  Swinging a hammer is impossible in tight spaces and a regular nailer isn't precise enough to hit the holes in the various hangers.  I was surprised, but the palm nailer will sink a 16d nail into a board like a hot knife through butter.  I think is was $25 or so at Harbor Freight.

 I wouldn't have expected a palm nailer to have that much power. Thanks for the tip, Jon! Hmmm...Father's Day is coming up....

Assuming you are dealing with a small, single story house that is using a pre-fab truss, the loadbearing points are the points at which the truss sits on the wall. It won't be bearing on anything in between. A rafter could, but that's a different setup. A simple gable roof on a single story "box" house is usually oriented with the loadbearing walls being the front and back of the house. Assuming gutters are in the right places, if there is a gutter along that wall it is probably carrying weight. If you peek into the attic and only see the prefab trusses you should be able to take out any wall on the interior you want.

If you have rafters on the house instead of trusses then you are only going to be able to span whatever the capability of the wood or PLAM is and you could have a structural wall in the middle somewhere, but you would probably see some indication on the roof of a step or turn.

Also, that "doorway" does not have a header in it. A truss, rafter, or joist won't be spaced any more than 24"oc and most are spaced less than that so there wouldn't be support for the load across that 3'+ opening.

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