We’ve all seen the reality T.V. home remodeling shows. Half way through, there’s what we call an ‘HGTV moment’ when it happens,
“We just discovered this is a load-bearing wall. That’s going to be another hit to your budget so we have to take something else out of your remodel or increase your budget to cover the cost.”
No-one wants to be in this position. It’s not good for you, it’s not good for your home remodeler. The reality is any qualified and experienced home remodeler should have figured out if there is a load-bearing wall in play well before anyone comes near your home with a sledge hammer. Undoubtedly, removing a load-bearing wall adds cost to your home remodeling plans because it requires alternate suitable support, but a little careful exploration up front should tell you at the outset of your remodel what’s really going on with that wall between your Kitchen and Dining Room.
Be prepared, your chosen or prospective home remodeler may have to poke a few holes in your drywall at the beginning of the process to see what’s going on behind. This is normal practice – but will require patching if you decide not to proceed with your home remodel.
So, what are the telltale signs that might indicate if a wall is load-bearing or not?
Disclaimer alert! ALWAYS get an expert’s opinion before you decide to remove ANY wall in your home!
Look at the Joists
Do the joists run parallel or perpendicular to the wall you’re thinking of removing? In general, if the joists run perpendicular to the wall, it’s a sign it might be a load-bearing wall. In this example, the red X shows what a load-bearing wall looks like behind the drywall. However, there are some instances when joists run parallel but the wall is load-bearing because the builder has aligned the wall under a single joist or the weight is being supported by blocking between two neighboring joists, so always get a professional opinion.
In the example below, our clients wanted to open up the entire first floor. The Entrance to Dining Room wall was removed as well as the wall between the Kitchen and Dining Room. As this was a structural wall, a load bearing beam was required. However, as you can see, removing both walls completely opened up the entire space.
Got an Unfinished Basement or Crawl Space?
If you have an unfinished basement or crawl space below your Kitchen (or other first floor room you want to remodel), take a peek in the ceiling at what is going beneath the room above. If there are any type of structures (such as columns, supports, beams, etc) that follow the same path as the wall above, it’s a sign of support needed for a load-bearing wall.
Don’t Make Assumptions About Knee-walls or Part Walls
Just because you have a partition wall, it doesn’t mean it’s not load-bearing. We’ve had this occur in quite a few home remodels over the years, like in the example below. In this case, the post seen in the ‘Before’ photo was load-bearing so a load-bearing beam was required when we removed it along with the knee-wall to create a more open concept between the Kitchen and Family Room. A load-bearing beam or other structure may be hiding behind the drywall of a part wall or column between two rooms, so due diligence up front will ensure you know exactly what you’re dealing with before construction starts.