Are all exterior walls load bearing?

1) What is a load bearing wall?

Image 1) This image shows a beam resting upon a lo
Image 1) This image shows a beam resting upon a load bearing wall. The load is transferred from the beam, down the column, and onto the joists below. 

Load bearing walls are structural elements in the home that help to transfer weight from the roof, through the floors, and down to the foundation.

If you remove a load bearing wall without replacing it with the proper supports, you remove a vital part of the structural system working to keep your home standing.

Since loads are transferred from one level of the home to the next, it is common to find load bearing walls directly over one another on each floor. Notice I said common, but not absolute. 


How Far Apart Are Wall Studs?

Stud boards appear 12 to 24 inches along the wall, with 16 inches the most common spacing. They are measured from center to center between the top and bottom of the wall.

Studs hold up the drywall on your interior walls. They are also used on exterior walls to hold up wood sheaths.

If you are looking for a stud, check your electric box or receptacles or the sides of your window.

6. Panel Wall

Panel wall is generally made of wood and is an exterior non-load bearing wall in framed construction. It is used for aesthetics of the buildings both inside and outside. It remains totally supported at each storey but subjected to lateral loads.

Is a Partial Wall Load-Bearing?

If the wall is a partial wall, meaning it stops short of an adjacent wall, it may or may not be load-bearing.

For example, the builder may have installed a microlam beam to span across the opening and carry the load above. Therefore, you cannot assume that a partial wall is a simply a partition wall.

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Disadvantages of Load Bearing Structure:

There are some disadvantages of load-bearing structure which reduced the application of it in building industries such as:

  • This load-bearing structure is best suited for up to 3 stories buildings.
  • Load-bearing masonry structures demand more man-hours to be constructed and are a slower procedure than other construction methods.
  • Masonry units don’t provide adequate thermal insulation against the weather.
  • After the construction, it is not possible to alter the position of the walls.
  • The total weight of the masonry walls is high, which ultimately increases the self-weight of the building.
  • There is poor resistance of masonry walls or do not perform well against earthquake loads, because non-reinforced units cannot withdraw the high tensile and shear stresses when compared to frame structures.

Load Bearing Structure Details:

The following is the load bearing structure section and some structural criteria which has to be considered while constructing the load bearing structure:

Load Bearing Structure Section
Load Bearing Structure Section

  • The load bearing structure or building is the structural system where loads of buildings like the weight of the building itself and the live loads get transferred to the subsoil foundation through walls and this structure ensures the performance and stability of the building.
  • A load-bearing structure takes and transmits the load to the subsoil foundation safely and is a component of a building. Walls resist the self-weight of building or structure, the load of roofs, and floor.
  • In this structural system, the most constructive use of load-bearing is seen, and it performs a range of functions from supporting loads, subdividing the space, providing thermal and acoustic insulation to structure, etc.
  • In a load-bearing structure, you cannot punch holes in a wall to connect two rooms – you would damage the structure if you did so.
  • The immense weight of the walls helps to hold the building together and stabilize it against external forces such as wind and earthquake.

3. Cavity Walls

It is a wall constructed in 2 leaves / skins with a space / cavity between them. A type of building wall construction consisting of an outer wall fastened to inner wall separated by an air space. Cavity walls helps to prevent the penetration of rain to the   internal surface of the wall.

3) What to Expect

Before we dive in and provide you with the steps required to get a general sense of the load bearing walls in your home, we want to prepare you for what’s to come. 

Be aware that most cities will require you to pull a permit for remodels, especially if you plan to alter structural components. 

Even if you or a skilled contractor has experience

Even if you or a skilled contractor has experience determining load bearing walls, the city (in nearly every situation) will require a structural engineer to sign off on the plans. 

Although this may feel like an obstacle stopping y

Although this may feel like an obstacle stopping you from progressing with your project, it’s really for a good reason.

For example, most people would look at image 2 and assume that because the joists run perpendicular to the wall and because they end on that wall, the wall is load bearing.

However, if a structural engineer looked at that sketch (image 2) they would tell you, “it might be load bearing, but an onsite inspection to look at your attic, foundation, and your structure  is a must.”

There are no sure bets. 

Structural defect
Structural defect

Opening up a wall can be like a pandora’s box of anomalies! 

Structural engineer’s are trained to find things like undersized members (building elements) which could mean: 1) tons (literally) of deflection or “bounciness” or 2) understrength or insufficient framing elements leading to structural failure or building collapse.  

Structural Engineers can also provide you with documentation that your wall was inspected which can protect you.

If the wall is load bearing, many engineers will provide you with a scope of work that your contractor can use to perform structural alterations correctly and to meet required building codes. 

What Is The Average Wall Height For A House?

In the United States, the average wall height for a house is 8 feet. Older homes can be as low as 7 feet or as high as 12 feet or more. On the other hand, luxury and custom homes may feature higher walls because they have higher ceilings. 

Is It a Masonry Wall?

A masonry wall would appear to be load-bearing since masonry is a solid, substantial, and exceedingly strong building material. But this may not necessarily be the case. Despite its substantial look, a masonry wall may or may not be load-bearing.

The position of the masonry may point to its load-bearing capacity (e.g., is it on the exterior?). One type of masonry called manufactured stone veneer cannot support loads. As the name suggests, it is a decorative veneer, very lightweight, and prone to crumbling under stress.

Foundation walls, which are typically built of structural masonry materials, are by nature load-bearing, as their primary role is to support the weight of the house. 

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Are All Exterior Walls Load Bearing? – Learning More About Your Home

41 related questions found

How big can an opening be in a load bearing wall?

Any opening that’s 6 feet or less can have just one 2×4 under the beam. This creates a bearing point 1.5 inches wide. Any opening wider than 6 feet should have a minimum of two 2x4s under each end of the beam.

What kind of foundation is required for a structure with non-load bearing wall?

Non-load bearing block partition requirements In the case of non-load bearing partitions built on the ground-bearing slab, the slab acts as the foundation. The external foundations of low rise housing with ground bearing slabs will typically carry loads of between 20 and 50 kN/m run of wall (2 to 5 tonnes/m).

Are ceiling joists load bearing?

Walls that run perpendicular (at a 90 degree angle) to the ceiling joists are load-bearing. Walls that run parallel (in the same direction) as the ceiling joints are non load-bearing. Ceiling joists are spliced over the wall.

What happens if you remove a load bearing wall?

Removing a load bearing wall may create structural problems in a home, including sagging ceilings, unleveled floors, drywall cracks, and sticking doors. … Removal of load bearing walls without properly supporting the load they’re carrying may occasionally result in a structural collapse and even injury.

Do I need a structural engineer to remove a load bearing wall?

Walls which are load bearing can be removed but it is a complex and expensive process which you need a structural engineer to oversee therefore you should always take professional advice before doing so.

Who can tell you if a wall is load bearing?

Assess your basement — Look in your basement or crawl space for steel beams or joists. If you do spot joists in your basement and there is a wall that runs perpendicular, this wall is most likely load bearing. If the wall is parallel above the joists, it’s most likely not a load-bearing wall.

Can I knock down a wall in my house?

The simple answer to your question is yes, the walls can be removed. … You need to determine what’s inside each of the two walls and whether one or both are bearing walls. A bearing wall is a support wall that transfers load from above down through the structure to another wall, a beam, and/or a foundation.

Can you take out part of a load-bearing wall?

You can remove either type of wall, but if the wall is load bearing, you have to take special precautions to support the structure during removal, and to add a beam or other form of support in its place. … If you’re not sure, hire a contractor or structural engineer to help you figure it out.

What's considered a bearing wall?

A bearing wall, also called a load-bearing wall or structural wall, bears the weight of the house from top to bottom. This wall helps disperse the building’s weight from the roof down to the foundation, and its removal could cause the structure to collapse.

What are the two types of walls?

Generally, the walls are differentiated as a two types outer-walls and inner-walls. Outer-walls gives an enclosure to the house for shelter and inner-walls helps to partition the enclosure into the required number of rooms.

What are 4 common column problems?

List 12 common column problems. Missing, settled, crushed, leaning, buckled, rust, poorly secured at top and bottom, mortar deterioration, spalling concrete or brick, mechanical damage, rot or insect damage and heaved.

Can a 2×4 wall be load bearing?

If it’s a solid 2×6 or greater turned vertically going from the jack stud on one side to the other, there’s a good chance the wall is load bearing. If there are only cripple studs on a flat 2×4 to give you something to attach the drywall, it likely isn’t load bearing.

How much does it cost to knock down a wall between two rooms?

Removing a wall can cost anywhere between $300 and $10,000 depending on the scope of the entire project. Non-load bearing walls run between $300 to $1,000 according to

How much can a ceiling joist hold?

If you have another floor above your garage, the ceiling\floor structure can usually support up to 40 lbs/SqFt (including the weight of the floor above it). If you do not have another floor above, the ceiling trusses may only be able to hang a maximum of 10 lbs/SqFt.

Which direction do ceiling joists run?

An important thing to know about joists is that they usually run in the same direction throughout a house. If the visible joists in a basement or attic run east to west, for example, you can be fairly certain the invisible joists under the bedroom floor also run east to west.

How can you tell if its a supporting wall?

The direction of floor joists can give an indication of whether a wall is load-bearing or not – a load-bearing wall is usually perpendicular to the floor joists. You should be able to see these floor joists either from the basement looking up to the floor above, or from the attic looking at the floor below.

Do walls need foundations?

For a new wall at the ground storey of a typical house, the support needed will depend on the existing floor construction. … A new foundation is also likely to be needed even if the floor is of concrete construction, unless the floor can be shown adequate to carry these new loads.

Do all walls need foundations? The most important part of any wall is its foundation, and if these are out of true, you will have a hard job producing a good wall. The foundations need to be at least 3 times the width of a half brick wall (i.e. 34 cm/13.5 inch) or at least twice the width of a one brick wall (i.e. 45 cm/18 inch).


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