If you’re thinking of making some alterations to the structure of your property which will involve removing walls, you’ll definitely need to know which ones are load bearing before you start.
Load bearing walls support the structural weight of a building unlike their counterparts, curtain walls (or non-load bearing walls) which divide areas into rooms but don’t bear the building’s weight.
Why is it so important to know which walls are load bearing?
Simply put, if you attempt to carry out an alteration such as an extension and you knock down a load bearing wall without ensuring that the weight it carries is correctly redistributed you risk a potentially life-threatening structural collapse.
These walls can be removed but the complexities involved mean that you should always seek professional advice from a structural engineer or architect, unless you have appropriate professional knowledge.
How do you identify load bearing walls?
You should hire a structural engineer to inspect your property. They carry out an invasive search, which generally involves accessing your property’s foundations, looking beneath floorboards and possibly cutting into drywalls to locate supporting beams.
They work upwards through the dwelling, having located the walls which link directly to the walls embedded into the foundation (which are load bearing) and which include the external walls. They locate the beams which transfer the building’s weight into the foundation – these can span through many floors forming parts of many load bearing walls.
By locating floor joists while working upwards, they find the wooden supporting beams on the underside of floors which support rooms above. They continue the process throughout the entire property until they know the status of each internal wall and can form a report. Your engineer might also obtain a building’s blueprints if further information is required.
If it turns out that the wall you want to remove is non-load bearing, you can proceed with removing it with care and the process is much cheaper and less hazardous.
How do you remove a load bearing wall safely?
As said previously, if it turns out that the wall you want removed is load bearing, this is a job for someone with specialist experience, normally working with plans made by a structural engineer or architect. Load bearing walls often contain electrical wiring and water pipes which create additional hazards where removal is concerned.
Before the specialist knocks a hole in the wall, they have to support all the weight which the wall currently carries, normally by fitting a lintel, which is frequently a rolled steel joist (RSJ). After they’ve fitted the lintel according to the specific measurements given by the structural engineer, they can then rebuild the masonry, cut the opening in the wall and then remove it.
How much does it cost to remove a load bearing wall?
As you can imagine, the cost of removing a load bearing wall varies considerably and you have to factor in all the aspects involved. These include inspection, producing plans/measurements for fitting a lintel and professional labour, parts (such as an RSJ) and even paying for a Local Authority permit. All costs increase as the wall size increases.
I examined quotes (current at publishing time) for removing a nominal 3m x 3.6m load-bearing wall was offered prices of £2,800 and upwards. All quotes, however, can alter, depending on the results of the full structural inspection.