How do I know if this is a load bearing wall?

21 Replies

New to real estate. Reviewing my inspection report. How can I find out if this is a load-bearing wall? I looked at our city's website for construction permits and didn't find anything re: this wall removal.

Thank you!!

Can you get in the attic to see what if anything is landing there?
(I’m looking at a tiny thumbnail photo I’m on my phone and there is no real way for anyone to evaluate from the photo you posted)

Load bearing walls that have been compromised or removed will display some obvious signs of deflection in the ceiling depending on the loading of the roof trusses. Grab a 8ft level and check the ceiling planarity perpendicular to the removed wall. If it has bowed or sagged, you likely have a load-bearing problem.

Also, the gable end of your roof (assuming you have a typical roof arrangement) is a indication of the direction the roof trusses run. If you can’t figure it out, stick your head in the attic to figure out the direction. If the roof trusses run the same direction (east-west or, north-south) as the removed wall, in other words they are parallel with each other, the removed wall is likely non-bearing. I am assuming this is a single story house. 

If it's a load bearing wall, it's either going to have a trust running parallel to it right on top of the wall, or it will most likely have the end of a trust sitting on it. Also, if it's load bearing, it will have a beam underneath it in the crawlspace. So check under the house and see if there is a beam right under that spot or go in the Attic and see if anything is sitting on the wall

Originally posted by @Melissa Weller :

New to real estate. Reviewing my inspection report. How can I find out if this is a load-bearing wall? I looked at our city's website for construction permits and didn't find anything re: this wall removal.

Thank you!!

Doesnt look load bearing to me but there is not enough info on it. Need pictures of the attic in that spot and also the exterior. If it is a truss there is a 90% certainty it isnt load bearing. A truss will usually clear span from outside to outside walls. You can go 40 feet span with a 2x4 truss (if its built right by an engineered company). Over 40 feet you start to get into 2x6 trusses but thats for the engineer to decide per your floor plan. It only looks to be around 16' or so so if your joist is 2x8 (with no second floor) and the rafters run in the same direction it is probably OK. 

I feel what has happened is this. A wall was taken down there. Since the top plate and double top plate are three inches and the sheet rock is 1/2" they didnt know what they were doing and left the double top plate and took out the top plate only. Then covered it in drywall. If that "beam" is exactly 1 1/2" I am 90% sure that is what happened. OTOH, if it is load bearing you could add a beam above ceiling to fix it for little money. Probably dimension lumber will work if it is a shorter span so no need for an LVL. 

Can you post pics of the attic? That inspector should have been up there too or he isnt worth the money that was paid to him. 

Originally posted by @Sean Walton :

Can you get in the attic to see what if anything is landing there?
(I’m looking at a tiny thumbnail photo I’m on my phone and there is no real way for anyone to evaluate from the photo you posted)

Excellent point that the picture was really too small for anyone to evaluate the situation. I am so new to real estate and construction, that I didn't know what would have been helpful to post. I'm learning a lot from reading others' advice. Thanks!

@Tyler Resnick , Thanks for explaining the basics. I appreciate it! I'll have to go back in with a level to double check, but I didn't see any obvious bowing or sagging. The trusses run perpendicular to the wall that was removed, so it's possible it's weight-bearing. Good assumption on the single-story house. :) 

@Clancy Catelli , I can't access the crawl space. Looks like I need to go in the attic! Thanks!

@Mike Reynolds , Thank you, too, for explaining the basics. I'm trying to sort out rafters, trusses, joists, etc. You're right that it's less than 40' across and there is no 2nd floor. I need to go back in the attic now that I kind of know what I'm looking for. I will also measure that "beam" to confirm or disconfirm your suspicion. 

Here are some other pictures if that's helpful. 1st: Outside the home. If we had xray vision, and looking at the left side of the home, we'd be staring straight at the missing wall in my original post. So, the left wall in the 2nd picture is the gable end of the roof. The 3rd picture is of the attic, although without more context, idk if it's helpful. Thank you again for your explanations and thoughts. I really appreciate it. I'm quite humbled/embarrassed to have so little knowledge about construction, but I have to start somewhere.

Generally, load bearing walls will run perpendicular to floor and ceiling joists. If your saying the “missing” wall parallels the ridge, then it may bear some weight of the ceiling joists. But, it looks like 2x6 joists, and the “missing” wall is not in the center of the house, and it's not sagging, and there’s no cracked drywall, I personally wouldn't give it another thought.  

Originally posted by @Bryce Kujat :

Generally, load bearing walls will run perpendicular to floor joists. If there’s a basement or crawl space, see which way the joists run. 

 Unfortunately there's no basement and there's no access to/no crawl space.

Updated 7 months ago

and thanks for your thoughts!

If the wall on the left side of the picture(second picture) is the outside wall, that is not a load bearing wall.

@Mark Holencik Thank you! The wall on the left in the 2nd picture IS the exterior wall. Would you mind explaining why that means the "missing" wall is non load bearing?

@Melissa Weller Well you dont have trusses its conventional frame. if the left wall is the gable then you probably do need a beam in there. It should fit i the attic just fine then. 

Originally posted by @Melissa Weller :

@Mark Holencik Thank you! The wall on the left in the 2nd picture IS the exterior wall. Would you mind explaining why that means the "missing" wall is non load bearing?

The load bearing wall on this house would be in the center of the house. The missing wall is not in the center.

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Melissa,

This house is a cape with the roof line you have, the roof rafters run front to back on the house and from the picture of the attic it shows the ceiling joists run the same direction. now if the room with the ceiling fan is in the front of the house and the kitchen is in the back with the side exterior wall to the left, then that opening was a bearing wall and was removed. not necessarily a bad thing, i figure the house is probably 24' wide ? if you look in the attic, do the ceiling joists run complete from front to back? or do they join together in the center? if front to back you should be ok, if they join in the center then a supporting header will need to be installed, either below, flush with hangers, or above in the attic and strap the joists to the beam.

@Mike Reynolds , I appreciate you sharing your knowledge. We probably will have a beam added after hearing from the BP community and doing my own research. I appreciate your help--thanks!

@Patrick Liska , Thanks! Your conceptualization of how the house is laid out is correct. I plan to go back in the attic to do more research. I'll check if the joists run complete from front to back or if they join in the center. We will likely add a supporting beam given what I've since learned and others' input and knowledge.

Typical ranch, that wall is the load bearing wall.

With that said almost every single one I have been in the dining and living room are open as shown. My current house has the living room and dining room open exactly as you see, original to 1959.

The true answer before you start to stress about adding a beam, is to confirm what is in the ceiling, supporting the ceiling joists above that opening. It appears to have been renovated, and if the person doing the work was smart, they would have put the proper beam/LVL/Gluelam, etc above the ceiling. 

Are you the buyer or the seller? Who was the Inspection done for? It looks like the inspector is just guessing. Someone with a little structural understanding needs to look in the attic. Simple as that.

@Brian Pulaski , Thank you for sharing your experience. It's helpful to know that this is a common renovation. We do plan to investigate what is above that opening. Thanks!

@Shawn Clark , I would be the buyer. The inspection was done for me. I was surprised the inspector didn't elaborate, but the inspection report was full of disclaimers and legalese re: what he could and could not say. Given he's not an engineer, it appears he wasn't allowed to say more than he did. Thanks for your insights!

@Melissa Weller keep in mind, had there not been that are down in the ceiling there, I'm willing to bet the inspector wouldn't have said anything about it. At this point though he has made it so you "need" to bring in an engineer. Hopefully one can do it cheap.

Originally posted by @Melissa Weller :

@Brian Pulaski , Thank you for sharing your experience. It's helpful to know that this is a common renovation. We do plan to investigate what is above that opening. Thanks!

@Shawn Clark, I would be the buyer. The inspection was done for me. I was surprised the inspector didn't elaborate, but the inspection report was full of disclaimers and legalese re: what he could and could not say. Given he's not an engineer, it appears he wasn't allowed to say more than he did. Thanks for your insights!

 Since you are the buyer, I don't think you necessarily need an engineer. You at least need someone who can look at it with the right eyes. A good GC would be fine if you have one. If you were selling it to someone else as it sits now, I would say you might need to have an engineer just so you can have a more official "sign off". But I've signed off on structural stuff as a contractor for other agent's real estate transactions. It should be simple enough to figure out.

If the beams above are sitting on that wall in such a way that they can't stay there without any walls below them, then it was load bearing. It's a matter of whether they are spanning the entire ceiling, or only spanning from outside wall to inside wall. The only other question, IF it is load bearing, is whether anything was left in place above the ceiling to support it.

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