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How Do I Know If It’s a Load-Bearing Wall?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Charlie in Tennessee is on the line and looking to do some renovating at his money pit. How can we help you today?

    CHARLIE: I have a small kitchen that – I’m trying to knock out the walls to increase space, to make my kitchen and my dining room one big room. My dilemma is the fact that I don’t know whether the wall that I’m knocking down is a load-bearing wall or not.

    LESLIE: Well, step away from the project and don’t knock it down just yet.

    TOM: OK. Well, first of all, what kind of house do you have, Charlie? Is it a ranch? Is it a Colonial? Describe it to us.

    CHARLIE: It’s a wood-frame home.

    TOM: OK. One story or two?

    CHARLIE: One story.

    TOM: And the roof peaks in the middle? Goes up from the front, goes up from the back, peaks in the middle?

    CHARLIE: Kind of. It’s L-shaped.

    TOM: OK.

    CHARLIE: And where the wall would be would be pretty much right where the two meet.

    TOM: Yeah. So you’re in the middle there; you’re not quite sure. And the dining room and the kitchen are side by side? Is it aligned front to back on the house or is it aligned end to end, so to speak?

    CHARLIE: It would be – that wall would be parallel for the front to back.

    TOM: So, it’s aligned front to back. OK. I would say that in most cases, that is a bearing wall. That doesn’t mean you’re dead in the water; it just means it’s a little more complicated for you to open this up. Because if it’s a bearing wall, you have to support the structure while it’s disassembled and then you have to put a new beam in to carry that load in the new open-plan design.

    It’s not something that you would do yourself. It’s not like – I don’t want to you like, “Hey, I’ve never done home improvement but today, I’m thinking about tearing down a bearing wall.” Bad idea, OK?

    CHARLIE: Right.

    TOM: So you need to know what you’re doing or get some people to help you to know what you’re doing or hire a pro. And get a building permit.

    And basically, the way it works is temporary walls are built on either side of the bearing wall and this holds up the structure that they’re supposed to be holding. Then the bearing wall is taken apart. The bearing wall is reconstructed but now you would use a girder. And it could be a wood girder, it could be a metal girder, it could be a combination wood/metal girder that goes the whole span. It could be a girder that sits below the ceiling or it could be a girder that’s actually flush with the ceiling so when it’s all done, it’s invisible.

    But one way or the other, you’ll need this beam to carry the load above that. And then once it’s all put back together, you know, you’re really not going to know that it’s there. But you’ve got just to do it right so that you don’t damage your house in the process, OK?

    CHARLIE: Yes, sir. Thank you. I appreciate it.

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