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Question DetailsAsked on 5/28/2015

Who do I need to contact to inspect a wall and let me know if it is a load bearing wall?

I want to remove a wall between 2 rooms. The span is a little over 11 ft. I do not think it is a load bearing wall, but I need to contact a professional to come and inspect it and let me know for sure.

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A good Carpenter or General Contractor should be able to tell you in most cases - but how are you sure he is competent ... ?

For true professional opinion, and to provide the plan you will likely need anyway both to get a building permit and for contractors to bid and build from, an Architect with structural certification or a Structural Engineer in what you need - typically about $250-350 for a certification that it is non-structural and non-load bearing and can be removed entirely, or more like $300-500 for a plan for replacement support.

Note that a wall can be "non-structural" - meaning not required to hold the building up and to resist wind and earthquake loads, but still be load-bearing. Also, a non-load bearing wall can still be structural.

Example - a non-structural intermediate wall between back to back bathrooms or bathroom and hall may not bear structural load, but may carry some weight from roof framing under snow load, so removal can commonly result in ceiling swaybacking and cracking as the load the wall was carrying now has to be csarried by the roof framing alone.

Another example - a non-load bearing mid-house hallway wall is commonly non-load bearing (carries no load from above) but is structural - needed to resist lateral loads and sway from wind and earthquake.

Another issue to consider - non-load bearing walls commonly carry at least come load from the floor above simply because they are there and the floor above was built so it touches them, so as the floor support above tends to bow down a bit under load the supposedly non-load bearing walls actually carries a substantial amount of the load. Take the wall out, and the floor joists now have to carry all the load, which can result in bowing and creep that is acceptable from a structural standpoint, but might not be from an appearance and drywall/plaster cracking standpoint. For instance, double the effective span of ceiling joists or trusses and the mid-span sag increases roughly by a factor of 4 - so for a say 30-40' clear span after removing a mid-house wall, the sag might go from around a barely noticeable 1/2-1 inch mid-span sag to several inches, with resultant cracking across the ceiling, even though technically the structure is safe.

This effect is particularly strong in houses with upstairs mid-walls like between bedrooms or back-to-back bedrooms that end up carrying part of the attic framing snow load (especially in homes with winter-long snow pack on the roof), but have no corresponding "non-load bearing" wall under them downstairs, resulting in substantial sagging of the upstairs joists. This effect may be unnoticeable under initial construction, but as the wood creeps with age, can get quite pronounced, even to the point it scares people into thinking their roof or floor is collapsing. My recommendation - never take out (without replacing the support) a wall under another wall, and generally do not allow (unless specifically designed to limit creep sag) full-house spans in flooring.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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