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Question DetailsAsked on 11/11/2015

I need to know what walls can be removed from my house without structurally damaging it.

The house was built in 1975. It has a steel main beam and posts in the basement. The roof is trusses. I can't seem to identify and main bearing wall and the trusses do not seem to have enough support to be able to be self supporting or open truss design.

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Bearing walls typically will run perpendicular to the main joists/support beam. If you are not 100% sure which walls are load bearing, hire someone (structural engineer) who can tell you what you can and can not remove.

Answered 4 years ago by DriverNerd


Structural Engineer is the Search the List category to find a professional to determine this for you. Have thoughts in mind in advaqnce regarding what areas you want to open up and priorities so he/she can most efficienctly concentrate not only on which can be taken out because they are load-bearing, but also which load-bearing ones might be economic to put wide openings in - with or without structural beam or truss replacements or strengthening.

Bear in mind also that even non-structural walls generally end up bearing some load from above - so taking them out can result in structurally acceptable (sometimes up to 3-6 inches) but aesthetically unacceptable center-span sags, so in some cases you still need to provide some support for the non-structural walls you take out as well.

Very brief residential wood-frame house rules-of-thumb info for your preliminary thinking - though there are always exceptions so you still need the engineer to confirm these:

1) any wall carrying the end of a beam or truss is almost always load bearing (end meaning the structural portion, NOT including a possible short top chord stick-out to support a roof overhang). An exception - walls carrying the joists and framing that support architectural features like soffits and dropped kitchen ceilings and such may or may not be "load bearing" if you take the architectural detail out.

2) load-bearing walls will tend to be evenly spaced from the ends of the joists or trusses - usually central to the span, but sometimes equally spaced on both sides of a central hallway

3) trusses that have vertical or diagonal members intersecting right over a wall commonly depend on it for support - those which have only horizontal bottom chords passing over the wall usually mean it is non-load bearing UNLESS the bottom chord is a highly deepened member - like 2x12 or a wood girder or such, or a heavy (typically 6" deep or more) metal member for steel trusses

4) if a wall on an upper floor does not have supporting wall or carry beam (which may also serve as an opening header beam on the floor below) directly under it on the floor below, likely to be non-load bearing

5) outside walls (including former outside walls now made interior by an addition are almost always load-bearing - obviously more so on the walls that directly support beams or trusses or girders, but to a lesser extent gable or end walls also are load-bearing, carrying roof and some house materials and usually a share of floor loads.

6) some non-load bearing walls in the traditional sense (carrying roof or floor loads) may still be acting as shear walls and need to stay in place or be structurally replaced. Especially true in hurricane and high seismicity zones, but potentially true in all areas for certain types of construction - especially open floorplan and glass curtain-walled houses.

Bear in mind - load-bearing walls can commonly be replaced with beams or arches carried by a limited number of columns or stub-walls, so a load-bearing wall does not always mean that it cannot be converted into a substantially open floorplan, at least up to within a foot or so of the ceiling. This sort of nuance is where an architect comes in, so if you are looking at a major remodel which will likely require architectural plans for building permit, bidding, and contractor use to build to, start with a residential specialty Architect - he/she will use a structural engineer (sub-consultant or in-house) for the structural aspects as needed.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


A clarification on what DriverNerd said, in case it confused you - the load-bearing walls generally run crosswise to the attic framing and floor joists (which may run different directions in different areas in houses with complex or multi-level construction). When he talked about crosswise to joists or beams he meant the primary load-carrying members in the flooring/ceiling, not the main support beams (typically running down the middle of the house) which the floor joists or beams are supported off of (Tee'd into or sitting on top of) - those "carry" beams are crosswise to the floor support structure, and the load bearing walls are generally PARALLEL to them.

Google the following search phrase where you can see many images of typical house framing details to get a clearer picture of what you may have, and of how it is commonly (though not always) done in wood frame houses -

images of typical house supporting framing

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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