A load bearing wall is an important feature in the home, or in any building. It’s important and needs to be treated with extreme care. Failure to do so can lead to severe problems, even as extreme as the building collapsing. When doing any building work it’s important to know which are the load bearing walls in a building and treat them with proper care and respect when doing any other work.
What Are Load Bearing Walls?
Every building needs to have what’s known as structural integrity. This is given by the load bearing walls. They support the weight of the roof and the upper storeys of the building.
The outside walls of a house will always be loads bearing, for instance, as they distribute the weight of the roof. Within a house there will be at least one load bearing wall that supports the weight of the floor above it and helps to spread that weight.
Identifying Load Bearing Walls
Apart from the outside walls, which will always be load bearing, it’s important to identify load bearing walls before doing any work. If you look in the basement and see a beam above a wall, that wall is load bearing. Elsewhere, if joists run perpendicular to the wall, that wall is load bearing.
If you’re not sure which walls are load bearing, cal in a professional, a structural engineer who can investigate and give definitive answers.
If you plan on putting in a staircase, for instance, it will mean cutting into joists. That means weakening the integrity of the structure. To give the strength necessary to keep the integrity you’ll need to put in what’s known as a trimmer joist that runs from the outside wall to the load bearing wall. This will give the strength necessary to keep proper support to the floor above. When doing anything that can affect a load bearing wall you need to be sure that the same level of support remains.
Working On Load Bearing Walls
As a general rule you should never make any alterations to a load bearing wall. Its position is set for a reason and altering that or lessening its strength is something you should never do without professional approval.
All buildings are carefully designed. Altering one thing has effects all through the building and everything needs to be considered, with compensation made for the stress level. Putting in new French doors, for example, requires a lintel that can help distribute the weight that would otherwise cause problems.
When working on or around load bearing walls, only do so after talking to an engineer or architect and keep close to the plans that have been made. Never begin any work without professional guidance and always wear appropriate safety equipment, especially a hard hat. By making ample preparations and being aware of what needs to be done and where you’ll minimize any problems that can occur when working around a load bearing wall.