How to tell if a wall is load bearing

When a house is built, it will include load-bearing walls that support the weight of the structure. Load-bearing walls help to stabilise the building and gives your home the strength it needs to stay upright.

Because load-bearing walls bear most of the weight of your house, it is essential that no building or renovation works are done that could compromise the integrity of these walls.

In most cases, the external walls of your home will at least be partially load-bearing, so care must be taken when removing part of an exterior wall to add an extension or when creating a larger opening when adding a conservatory.

This is why you should bring in a professional to assess your property, identify load-bearing walls and develop sufficient support when you are planning some home alteration works. BeforeĀ removing or cutting into load-bearing walls can be done, a qualified structural engineer should be consulted.

Visual clues to help identify a load-bearing wall

If you are unsure which walls in your house are load-bearing, you can use these tips to help identify them. But if you are still unsure, make sure you bring in a professionally qualified structural engineer before you undertake any building renovations or re-modelling work.

  • Look at your roof: Look at the way your roof ridges run. Load-bearing walls will usually run in the same direction. Go into your loft space and look in the direction of span for your ceiling joists and rafters. The ceiling joists or rafters will usually run perpendicular to any load-bearing walls.
  • Look under the floor: If you have a cellar or crawl space under your home, then look at the walls to see if there is a wall directly above them. Any walls or joists with a wall above them running in the same direction will most likely be load-bearing.
  • Check the door lintels: If you have internal doorways in a wall, then the lintel that sits above the door will give you a clue. Doors in a load-bearing wall will have a substantial lintel compared to a doorway with a smaller lintel. Also, there may be some visible down-stands which may indicate presence of a structural element sitting atop wall.
  • Bring in a professional: You may have more than one load-bearing wall in your home, and it may not be apparent to determine these. This is why if you are in doubt, you should bring in a professional to check all the walls in your home to identify the load-bearing walls from the non-load-bearing walls.

Why are identifying load-bearing walls necessary?

All houses are built to a plan that uses load-bearing walls as the primary support for the structure. When you think about it, every horizontal supporting element in your home must be supported by a vertical structure, such as a load-bearing wall.

Your load-bearing walls are what hold up your floors, roof and are what stops your non-load-bearing walls from toppling over. Also, walls provide lateral stability to the building to resist imposed horizontal loads such as wind.

Removing a load-bearing wall without due care and attention or without following proper building safety rules could lead to your home becoming structurally weak and unsafe for you and your family to live in.

If you are planning any home renovations to your Croydon home, or you want to build a home extension, it makes sense to call in our team at GL Design Services to help out identifying arrangement of your load-bearing walls and design appropriate support measures for your home refurbishment projects.