How to identify and remove/replace a load-bearing wall

Oftentimes when brainstorming ways to really make a room pop or to increase its appeal and functionality, the best solution is to remove a wall. The biggest challenges with removing walls in your home are figuring out if the wall is load-bearing and knowing how to replace a wall if it is load-bearing. Here, we wanted to tackle those issues, helping you plan your next DIY remodel project.

What Is A “Load-Bearing” Wall?

Load-bearing walls do just that—they hold the weight of the floor or roof structure above it. For this reason, removing one improperly can be extremely detrimental.

How To Know If A Wall In Your Home Is Load-Bearing:

The first thing you can do to find out if a wall in your home is load-bearing is contact a professional, like Carlson Projects Inc., to come and take a look at your home. In addition to helping you determine if the wall is load-bearing, we can help brainstorm how to remodel to make the most of your space—no matter how challenging or awkward. No need to be embarrassed, sometimes even we professionals have to contact an architect to know for sure.

If you’re dead-set on figuring it out on your own—we respect that! Kudos to you and we hope this information helps.

Especially in older homes, we tend to see an excess of walls, which close off the house, making it more claustrophobic. Open-concept homes are not only more in-style, but they’re also typically a lot more functional than the maze-like houses we’ve encountered.

If you’re lucky, you might have blueprints to consult. Load-bearing walls will be annotated with an ‘S,’ meaning “structural.” In that case, you won’t have to do much seeking and searching in the walls or attic because you’ll have the original plans. One other thing to keep in mind is that all exterior walls are going to be load-bearing. 

The first thing to do if you don’t have blueprints is to start at the foundation. If you can see the floor joists, you’ll get a good idea of how the weight of the home is being distributed. Next, you should look to see if you can find any major beams in the ceiling. This can look like a framed-in beam, or if you can access the space above the ceiling, you’ll be able to see the actual beams that indicate a load-bearing wall.

A helpful hint from Tom Silva of This Old House: “To determine if a wall is a load-bearing one, Tom suggests going down to the basement or attic to see which way the joists run. If the wall is parallel to the joists, it’s probably not load-bearing. If the wall is perpendicular, it’s most likely load-bearing.”

How To Replace A Wall That’s Load Bearing:

Once you’ve determined that the wall you want to get rid of is load-bearing, you’re not out of luck, but getting rid of it will include a few more steps than pulling out the sledgehammer and starting demo.

The first step is to build a temporary wall either by using lumber or by using the lumber and an adjustable jack post. This will allow the home to rest on the temporary wall and jack so you can start removing the wall.

While you work, keep in mind that the temporary wall and jack post will be holding the weight of the home, so make sure they’re secure and not in jeopardy of being knocked out. Typically, replacing the jack stud is a good idea, especially in older homes, since you don’t always know the condition of the previous framing. The jack stud is then nailed to the king stud.

Next, you’ll get the wall ready for the new header beam. The header beam will hold the weight the wall previously held. Depending on the size of the wall being removed and how much weight is above it, you might need anywhere from a 2×8 to a 2×12 for the header beam.

Once the beam is cut to size, you’ll attach the beam to the jack stud and frame out the new beam – or leave it exposed for a more organic look.

Where Do We Come In?

Depending on your comfort and experience level, you might want to avoid a DIY remodel and simply hire a remodeling professional for your next project. That’s where Carlson Projects Inc. comes in! When it comes to home remodeling in Lincoln, NE, we are your trusted experts. Whether you’re looking to transform your kitchen or bathroom, want an addition or to knock down a wall and open up your home, we love what we do and we’re ready to help!

Contact your Lincoln, NE home remodeling scholars for your free quote today!

And for more on what we do here, read our blogs How to Rebuild a Staircase…The Right Way, Historical or Modern: Which Would You Prefer In Lincoln, Remodeling or Starting New?, and 5 Deck Trends for 2022.

Originally published 4/14/2020, updated 4/20/2022.

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