How do we know if the wall we are removing is load bearing or not load bearing? This blog post will offer some insight on how a structural engineer would determine if the wall is load bearing or not.
First, we would have to see what the framing is like above the wall to be removed. We would open a hole in the ceiling near the wall to expose the rafters or roof framing to see if they are perpendicular or parallel over the wall to be removed.
If the framing is perpendicular over the wall, we would check to see if there is blocking between the framing over the wall. Blocking over a wall is a sign that the wall is a shear wall and is bearing. If there is no blocking between the framing, we would check if there is a beam splice over the wall. If there is a beam splice, the wall is bearing. Sometimes the beam could be continuous over the wall and we would measure the distance between the parallel walls or supports to the right and to the left of the wall to be removed. Then we would determine if the framing can span between wall to the left and right of the wall to be removed.
If the framing is parallel over the wall to be removed, we would check to see if the framing is aligned over the wall, If the framing is aligned over the wall and has metal angle clips attached from the framing to the top plate of the wall, we can conclude that the wall is bearing and possibly a shear wall. If the framing is not aligned with the wall, we would check to see if there is horizontal blocking attached from the bottom of the framing to the top of the wall. If there is no horizontal blocking, the wall is not bearing and can be safely removed.
During removal, the contractor should always check to see if there are grouped studs (multiple 2X studs grouped to form a post) or posts that are 4X or greater. Usually grouped studs and posts greater than 4X mean that there is a concentrated load in that area. If there is a concentrated load, a beam would have to be designed by a structural engineer to support the load.
This picture shows a sagging ceiling after a bearing wall is removed. Always consult a structural engineer if you are unsure if the wall you are removing is bearing or not.
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