What does a load bearing wall do?
A load bearing wall conducts the load (or weight) from the roof and upper floors of your home, as well as any extra weight added by people and furnishings (otherwise known as ‘live weight’). It provides structural integrity and makes your house safe to live in. If a load bearing wall is damaged or removed, you are likely to experience sagging floors, cracked interior walls or even worse, your house may collapse.
How should a load bearing wall be constructed?
In standard light-frame construction, most walls these days are prefabricated elsewhere, and trucked are built while lying on their side. The wall studs (vertical pieces of timber or metal) of a load bearing wall have a ceiling plate (horizontal element) bolted across their tops, and a matching floor plate bolted into place across their ends. Once walls have been assembled, they are erected and attached to sill plates. Wall sill plates are secured to the foundations and assist in conducting weight.
Where are load bearing walls typically located?
Any guesswork about the location of your load bearing walls is extremely dangerous, as you risk structural collapse if you accidentally take out or compromise the wrong wall. Renovators usually want to know where their interior load bearing walls are, so that they can remove or modify interior walls. Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast guide to identifying these walls - load bearing walls can appear anywhere in your home and often don’t look any different to other walls.
Interior walls which run perpendicular to your floor joists are also often (but not always) load bearing, and some walls may not be load bearing but act to conceal load bearing support beams. The best ways to locate your interior load bearing walls are to consult a structural engineer or have a builder look at the original building plans for your home.
Are there any regulations regarding load bearing walls?
According to Australian building regulations, any removal or modification of a load bearing wall needs to be supported with a steel lintel or beam, or a laminated veneer lumber beam. The size of this beam will depend on the amount of weight it will carry. This must be calculated before the original load bearing wall is demolished or modified. Consult your builder for more information about the regulations that apply to renovations involving load bearing walls.