These days, open spaces are one of the hottest trends in home design. Having a kitchen that has sight lines to the dining room and living room can make a space feel more open and allows people in the kitchen the opportunity to socialize and observe others in these mingling areas. If you have purchased a home that has compartmentalized spaces, you may be thinking about opening up the space by tearing down walls. But before you do, you need to call in a structural engineer to determine if the wall is load bearing. However, this may leave you wondering how a structural engineer makes this call. Here are a few ways that a structural engineer determines if a wall is load bearing.
Looking at the Floor Joists
One of the first thing a structural engineer will do when determining whether a wall is load bearing or not is to look at the floor joists. These can be looked at from above in the attic or from below in a basement or crawl space. The majority of load bearing walls run perpendicular with the floor joists, forming a 90-degree angle that can support a large amount of weight. If a structural engineer notices the intersection of a wall and floor joist, there is a good chance that that is a load bearing wall.
Pulling Permits and Looking at Blue Prints
Another way that a structural engineer can tell if a wall is load bearing is by pulling construction permits on your home and looking at the blue prints for your home. This information should tell a structural engineer exactly where the load bearing walls are in your home. However, this information is only good if the person living there did not make unauthorized or unapproved renovations. If that occurred, this information may not be current or up-to-date.
Looking at the Beams in the Wall
If a structural engineer still has doubts about whether a wall is load bearing or not, they may remove some dry wall near the top of the wall. This will reveal the top of beam, or header, behind the wall. If the header is two 2x4s or larger, the wall is most likely load bearing. If the wall is not load bearing, the header typically only comprises one 2X4.
If you want to open up rooms in your home, you must first find out if a wall is load bearing. If you remove a load bearing wall, the structural integrity of your home could be compromised and it could cost thousands of dollars to repair. A structural engineer can spend time looking over blue prints, pulling building permits, looking at the floor joists, and peeking behind the drywall in your home to determine which walls you can blow out and which are load bearing.