Are there ways to determine if a wall is load bearing?



Other than looking up blue prints, which many homeowners may not have, are there ways to determine if a wall is load bearing?

Methods I can think of might include:

  • Going up in the attic to check if ceiling trusses run perpendicular to the wall
  • If the wall is an exterior wall

Any others?


Posted 2010-07-21T19:16:23.863

Reputation: 12 659

491) Remove the wall, 2) If the house falls down, it was load bearingMark Henderson 2010-08-14T05:24:04.547

5Also in earthquake country another question needs to be asked. Is it a shear wall?Fiasco Labs 2014-04-28T02:39:10.930



The methods you describe are probably the best, but if you can actually see the wall, a load bearing wall will generally have a double top plate but a non-load bearing wall usually won't.

Eric Petroelje

Posted 2010-07-21T19:16:23.863

Reputation: 8 593

In my area all walls will have double top plates (aside from basement energy walls and walls added later). Is your answer suggesting that two different lengths of studs are used there?isherwood 2016-02-11T21:50:59.520

@isherwood - it may be the case that in newer construction they always use double top plates. Maybe because the ease of using the same pre-cut studs everywhere outweighs the cost of using more 2x's for a double top plate? I just know that in the homes I've lived in double top plates were only used on load bearing walls.Eric Petroelje 2016-02-12T16:08:29.383

2in addition, the roof trusses will be sitting directly on top of this double top plate.dave thieben 2010-11-11T15:24:58.130


Without looking at blueprints, all you can do is make an educated guess. Possible methods include:

  • If it's an exterior wall, it's almost always load bearing.
  • If the joists are not continuous over the wall (they are cut short and meet on top of the wall) it is load bearing.
  • If there is a load bearing wall or beam directly above or below this wall, it is likely load bearing.
  • Check the direction of the joists (as you mention). If a joist is running perpendicular to the wall, or happens to fall directly above/below the wall, it can be load bearing.
  • If there's a single top plate, the wall most likely isn't load bearning.
  • Expose the wall over a doorway or pass-through. If it's a solid 2x6 or greater turned vertically going from the jack stud on one side to the other, there's a good chance the wall is load bearing. If there are only cripple studs on a flat 2x4 to give you something to attach the drywall, it likely isn't load bearing.
  • Look for signs that the wall was added after the house was built, newer wood materials, drywall or finished flooring that extend over/under the wall, etc. If the wall was added, then it isn't load bearing.
  • Calculate the span from the known load bearing walls on either side of the wall you are removing, look at the type, size, and spacing of joists above the wall, and calculate if the joists can support the load above the wall without the wall being in place. If the joists can't support the load without the wall, then by definition, it's load bearing.
  • When removing the wall, cut the studs with a sawzall. If the blade begins to bind in the middle of the stud, then there's load coming down from the ceiling through that wall and there's a good chance it was load bearing. Stop what you were doing and sister a stud to the one you were cutting.
  • After you remove the wall, if your home collapses, it was load bearing.


Posted 2010-07-21T19:16:23.863

Reputation: 38 597

The last one is not a sure-thing. There are many other reasons your home could collapse. For example, removing a wall with small explosives could cause a house to collapse; doesn't mean it was load-bearing.Scribblemacher 2017-07-07T13:21:48.747


For many houses, a wall running down the middle of the house, parallel with the roof ridgeline is nearly always load bearing. You also may have easier access to the basement to check joist direction.

Josh Goldshlag

Posted 2010-07-21T19:16:23.863

Reputation: 826

2Unfortunately, the basement option is out. I've got a one story on a slab.Doresoom 2010-07-21T20:30:10.537


If the wall is above a basement or open crawlspace, you can look from below to see if it is on a bean or above a support post. If it is not, it still does not mean it is not load bearing, but it can help to understand the structure.


Posted 2010-07-21T19:16:23.863

Reputation: 4 819