How to know which walls you can knock down and which need to stay standing

So you want to open up some space in your home – exciting stuff.

But if you’re planning on removing any walls from your house, you’ll need to be very careful about making sure the load-bearing ones – aka, the walls that maintain the structural integrity of the building – either stay put or are replaced with another suitable structural support like beams or columns.

First of all, Thomas Goodman, construction expert at, says you should always get an expert involved before you go tearing down walls.

He tells us: ‘You should always consult with a professional such as an architect, carpenter, or structural engineer to confirm whether or not a wall is a load-bearing wall or non-load bearing wall.

‘Even if you feel sure that a wall isn’t load-bearing, it’s always safest to get a second opinion.’

With that very important information in mind, if you are intending to put some big DIY plans in place, here are some things you should be thinking about the walls so you can at least draft up some ideas before you call the pros in.

Is the wall parallel or perpendicular to the joists?

If a wall runs parallel to the floor joists above, this tends to be an indication that it’s not a load-bearing wall.

‘However,’ Thomas adds, ‘if the wall runs perpendicular to the joists, this means there is a good chance that it is a load-bearing wall.

‘There are some cases where a load-bearing wall does run parallel to the joists.

‘In these cases, the wall may be aligned directly underneath a single joist, or it may bear on blocking between two neighbouring joists.’

Is there a support structure beneath the wall?

If you’ve got access to a crawlspace or basement, you might be able to use that to check for indications that your walls need to stay put.

‘You can check that lower level to see if there are any supports underneath, such as another wall, beams, columns, piers, or jack posts,’ explains Thomas. ‘If these are directly below the wall and follow the same path as the wall, this is usually an indication that it is a load-bearing wall.

‘If there is no support structure located below the wall, it may not be a load-bearing wall.’

Is it a masonry wall?

Even though masonry walls look big and strong, they may not necessarily be load-bearing.

‘The position of the masonry may be a good indicator of whether it is load-bearing,’ explains Thomas. ‘For example, exterior masonry walls are likely to be load-bearing.

‘One type of masonry named manufactured stone veneer cannot support loads. This is a decorative building material as it’s very lightweight and prone to crumbling under excessive weight.

‘Foundation walls are typically built with structural masonry materials. These walls are load-bearing by nature as their primary role is to support the weight of the property.’

What about external and partial walls?

Partial walls can still be load-bearing, so make no assumptions there.

‘An example of this is where the builder has installed a microlam beam to span across the opening, helping to bear the load above,’ warns Thomas.

‘With this in mind, you can never assume that a partial wall is not wall bearing.’

And as for external walls, Thomas says that most of the time, these are there to support the structure of your home.

‘It is extremely rare that a house will have an entire stretch of exterior wall that is non-load bearing,’ he explains.

‘It is possible to build a house in this way, but it would be extremely expensive to do so as I-beams or large laminated beams will need to be installed.’

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