Load-bearing walls and remodel fears

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Q: I want to take down the wall separating my kitchen and dining room. How do I find out if its a load-bearing wall and if it would be OK to do this? Who should I call to answer this question at a reasonable cost? Should I call an expensive structural engineer or a licensed remodeling contractor? Hopefully not an architect … they cost a small fortune!

A: An architect is not required and a structural engineer is probably overkill. An experienced licensed remodeling contractor should be able to provide this information.

If you’re going to do the job yourself, plan on compensating him for his time. If you’re planning on hiring the job out, your question will be answered as part of the bidding process.

Bill's kitchen before the remodelA bearing wall supports the weight of the structure and activity above it. In a single-story home with a stick-built gabled roof, the bearing walls are the exterior walls where the rafters rest. The load from the roof is transferred from the rafters to the walls and down to the foundation footings.

In addition, there may be one or more interior walls that support the ceiling joists. Ceiling joists are typically 2-by-4s. They will only span so far without sagging under the weight of plaster or drywall. Interior walls reduce the span and prevent sagging.

As a general rule, if the wall you wish to remove is parallel to the ceiling joists, the wall is nonbearing. If it is perpendicular to the ceiling joists, it bears the load of the roof or floor above it.

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If the roof structure is built with prefabricated roof trusses, the bearing walls are typically only the exterior walls as the trusses are engineered and constructed to bear the load of the roof and the finished ceiling. …CONTINUED