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Old 12-27-2009, 06:34 PM   #1
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how to determine if wall is load bearing


I live in an old house (102 years old) that I want to do some things to. One of the things is opening up the living room. There's currently a wall that runs parallel to the floor joyce (ok, I had to say it, I know it's joist :P. the wall actually does not sit on the floor joist, but next to it), and the ceiling joist above runs parallel as well. On the second floor, there is also a wall, that runs the same path, and sits above the 1st floor wall. But, the 2nd floor wall is merely hardwood planks with drypaper over it. The planks appear to be nailed to the side of the joist in the attic (again, running in the same direction).

Also on the second floor (picture not attached) is a wall that runs perpendicular to the ceiling joists, and in the midspan I might add (there are no supports under the joists that the wall sits on). I would think that wall should certainly not be load bearing, but that's not my question here :P (just had to throw it out there).

Back to my original question, I want to be damn sure that this wall isn't load bearing. The studs are unevenly spaced (from 16 inches to 24 inches or so). The floor joists are 2x6 spaced 24" oc, with the exception of a 32" center that is actually next to this wall. The ceiling joists are 2x6 (well, from the one that I was able to see), and runs the same direction as the attic joists and the floor joists. I know, hiring a structural engineer is the best way to go, but I'm cheap Here are some pics.

1st floor wall (red marks are joists, black are studs).



2nd floor wall. This wall appears to be just hardwood planks with paper over it.



Here's a pic showing the planks nailed to the side of the attic joist (this joist, unlike others, is underneath of the rafter, as opposed being attached to the side of the rafter):



Another view of the attic joist and wall:



The attic joist in the picture appears to be a 4x4. Perhaps it's not even a joist at all, who knows with the way this house appears to be have been built lol.

Anyways, what do you guys think?

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Old 12-27-2009, 06:59 PM   #2
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how to determine if wall is load bearing


I say it is not a load bearing wall. If it was my job I would suggest a double 2x12 header with 1/2" plywood sitting on a pony wall on each side about 2'.

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Old 12-27-2009, 07:26 PM   #3
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how to determine if wall is load bearing


It may not be a load bearing wall, but may have a beam pickup inside the wall. Does the other room have a completely flat ceiling? If it has a box out of some type, it may be a beam picking up the floor joist span. A lot of the older homes have that type of setup. If the wall was an add wall (partition wall) it may be different from the perspective of finish and trim etc.. If the wall is sheet rock it most definitely is not original.

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Old 12-27-2009, 07:39 PM   #4
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how to determine if wall is load bearing


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It may not be a load bearing wall, but may have a beam pickup inside the wall. Does the other room have a completely flat ceiling? If it has a box out of some type, it may be a beam picking up the floor joist span. A lot of the older homes have that type of setup. If the wall was an add wall (partition wall) it may be different from the perspective of finish and trim etc.. If the wall is sheet rock it most definitely is not original.

Kevin
The wall is indeed rock. In fact everything is (I'm guessing this was updated sometime during its long life). And yes, it's a horrible drywall job with nail pop everywhere. Yes, the other side in the living room has a completely flat ceiling. There's also an air vent in the corner in the other room. I had taken that and the small duct out so I could see the ceiling joists at that spot. From what I could see, there was nothing at all in the path from one side of the span to the other.

Pic from both sides:





Also robin303, I'm not sure why a header would be recommended. Can you please elaborate?

I forgot to add, the ceilings are only 7ft.

Last edited by Tonglebeak; 12-28-2009 at 07:11 PM.
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Old 12-27-2009, 08:47 PM   #5
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how to determine if wall is load bearing


Hmmm! 7 foot ceiling. Is that normal for the older houses in your area? Someone could have lowered the ceiling. It's possible you have original joists and add on's both. When you look up into that vent can you see the second story sub floor, or do you see an old plaster ceiling? The original joists will be rough looking darker wood. If the ceiling was dropped and reframed the joists will look more like traditional lumber.

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Old 12-27-2009, 09:04 PM   #6
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how to determine if wall is load bearing


Yup, the subfloor (which is just hardwood) is visible, and the joists that were visible are dark (just like the attic joists).

The floor joists, which are barely accessible (I had to cut out a trapdoor into the floor, and it's still only an 18 inch space, minus 6 inches for the joist width ), are painted so I have no idea if those are new or not. I do know they sit on rocks (the midspans are supported by stacks of rocks too. One of the stacks supporting a joist collapsed, so that part of the floor sags ), but that's a different story. There I go again getting off topic.

Anyhoo, when the house was inspected (and at the time, we were lied to about the type of foundation, which led to the inspector not getting access to the space under the main part of the house, as well as the 30" crawlspace under the bathroom), the inspector noted that the low ceilings were normal for a house built in that time (1907) for my area (western MD).
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Old 12-27-2009, 09:27 PM   #7
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how to determine if wall is load bearing


The reason I mentioned that is because we see from time to time where ceiling drop downs are run perpendicular to the original joists, which makes them parallel to the bearing wall. Around here (Ne) most of the older houses have higher ceilings. When we see a 7 footer most likely it has been modified.

In your case it would surprise me if that was a bearing wall, considering it is running parallel with both floor and ceiling joists. Besides, if it was a bearing wall the header across the wall opening appears to be way undersized.

good luck to ya,

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Old 12-27-2009, 09:46 PM   #8
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Quote Also robin303, I'm not sure why a header would be recommended. Can you please elaborate?

Yes it gives the house a definition and character. The 2’ pony walls on each side gives a place for plants, tables, ect ect. Arches for some reason here is a fad and real easy to do.

7' ceilings AHHHH
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Old 12-27-2009, 10:45 PM   #9
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how to determine if wall is load bearing


In the fourth pic of the first group, it appears the drop ceiling runs with the wall and the real ceiling joists run perpendicular, hence it is load bearing.

If unable to picture of the wall on first floor from underneath (looking for a doubled joist or positive bearing) could you picture the second floor wall from 6' away in the attic? Check the tails outside, load bearing run perpendicular to the rafters, along with the ceiling joists. Unless it's a 4-square.

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Old 12-28-2009, 05:44 AM   #10
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how to determine if wall is load bearing


if you cut it with a saw zaw and it pinches the blade. its load bearing
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Old 12-28-2009, 07:06 PM   #11
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how to determine if wall is load bearing


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Originally Posted by GBR in WA View Post
In the fourth pic of the first group, it appears the drop ceiling runs with the wall and the real ceiling joists run perpendicular, hence it is load bearing.

Be safe, Gary
There is no drop ceiling. What you see are the actual joists. Under the insulation is the ceiling.
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Old 12-29-2009, 09:20 AM   #12
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how to determine if wall is load bearing


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if you cut it with a saw zaw and it pinches the blade. its load bearing
Not necessarily. It could just mean that the stud was too long and someone used a hammer to make it fit.

If you've found the floor joists, and the wall runs parallel to them but not on them, then it can't be bearing much of a load.

If you've found the ceiling joists by looking up through the ceiling, and they run in the same direction too, then the wall isn't holding up the 2nd story floor.

If you've found the attic joists and they run in the same direction as the wall too, then you seem to have run out of things for the wall to potentially be holding up.

If your home inspector had found your crawl space, he probably would have written that floor joists should not be supported individually -- you should put a beam down there (maybe a PT 2x6 or two) and support it as necessary. That's what my home inspector wrote, anyway.
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Old 12-29-2009, 10:51 AM   #13
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Not necessarily. It could just mean that the stud was too long and someone used a hammer to make it fit.

If you've found the floor joists, and the wall runs parallel to them but not on them, then it can't be bearing much of a load.

If you've found the ceiling joists by looking up through the ceiling, and they run in the same direction too, then the wall isn't holding up the 2nd story floor.

If you've found the attic joists and they run in the same direction as the wall too, then you seem to have run out of things for the wall to potentially be holding up.

If your home inspector had found your crawl space, he probably would have written that floor joists should not be supported individually -- you should put a beam down there (maybe a PT 2x6 or two) and support it as necessary. That's what my home inspector wrote, anyway.
Thanks, for giving a breakdown like that. Makes me feel even more comfortable about removing it.

I guess while I'm here, I do want to ask an off-topic question.

Part of the 2nd floor is supported by 2x6 24"OC joists that span 14 feet. The other part is the same, except it spans 16 feet. Without putting a beam under the 2nd floor joists, is there a way to better support the midspan? Would bridging the joists do the job? I highly doubt they're bridged (the floor joists certainly aren't).

And I do agree with the floor joist support thing, except the space is only 18" high, and by the time the 2x6 joists come into play, there's only a foot of space to squirm around. Putting a beam under all joists will cut off one side's access

Last edited by Tonglebeak; 12-29-2009 at 10:56 AM.
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Old 12-29-2009, 06:02 PM   #14
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Part of the 2nd floor is supported by 2x6 24"OC joists that span 14 feet. The other part is the same, except it spans 16 feet.

That must be like walking on a trampoline! My ground floor was 2x8, 14ft, on 24 inch centers and they had massive bounce.

Bridging will help, but not much.

If you take out the ceiling you could go in and put bigger joists midway between and/or sister the ones you have.


Quote:


And I do agree with the floor joist support thing, except the space is only 18" high, and by the time the 2x6 joists come into play, there's only a foot of space to squirm around. Putting a beam under all joists will cut off one side's access
I can relate to that. My existing undersized joists came down to within six inches of the dirt when we moved in.

One foot is still enough to squirm under, and how often do you really need to go there anyway? It's better than structural failure, right? In the case of my house, I've had to dig trenches under the house to get access. It's a lot of work, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
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Old 12-29-2009, 06:50 PM   #15
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how to determine if wall is load bearing


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That must be like walking on a trampoline! My ground floor was 2x8, 14ft, on 24 inch centers and they had massive bounce.

Bridging will help, but not much.

If you take out the ceiling you could go in and put bigger joists midway between and/or sister the ones you have.




I can relate to that. My existing undersized joists came down to within six inches of the dirt when we moved in.

One foot is still enough to squirm under, and how often do you really need to go there anyway? It's better than structural failure, right? In the case of my house, I've had to dig trenches under the house to get access. It's a lot of work, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
Good idea on sistering, or perhaps knocking them down to 12" centers. There's actually very little bounce; sometimes I wonder just how much stronger the old wood is compared to modern day steel .. but god forbid if I jump on the floor up there: any and all glass objects will be broken lol (ok that's an exaggeration, I just felt like saying it).

And yup, I can squirm under the joists, barely. I drag my back on them and always fear of knocking it out somehow. But someday I may need access to the other side in case I decide to do some rewiring, plumbing, etc...BUT, I also plan on having a basement installed later on down the road, so I could probably hold off on all the fun stuff til then. Still...when I can barely move around down there...and seeing what I saw before (it's a very creepy spot, and yes I have a picture of a snake posing along the rocks down there), I'm always, extremely worried about getting down there.


Last edited by Tonglebeak; 12-29-2009 at 06:53 PM.
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