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How do you tell which internal walls are load-bearing?

(25 Posts)
flow4 Sat 20-Apr-13 12:43:39

Does anyone know? I'm considering making an offer on a house which has loads of potential but a very odd downstairs layout... Specifically, an entrance hall bigger than the kitchen, and a dining room that's had a slice taken off its side to make a utility area. It's just an average-sized semi, so the kitchen and dining room are left pretty small and strangely proportioned (3.7x2.2m and 3.8x2.8m respectively)... So I'd want to knock down some walls and open things up, particularly to get a bigger kitchen.

Can I tell which walls are structural/load bearing without getting a builder/structural engineer to check for me?

I'm going to try to post a photo, so if you fancy suggesting what you'd do with the space, and where you'd knock down walls, feel free! smile


VivaLeBeaver Sat 20-Apr-13 12:56:11

Are the walls plasterboard or brick? If its plasterboard then its not load bearing. If its brick then I think you need a builder to confirm whether it is or not.

How old is the property?

flow4 Sat 20-Apr-13 13:08:24

Thanks Viva. It's 1940s/50s.

VivaLeBeaver Sat 20-Apr-13 13:09:39

Could be either way then. Not sure when walls started been plasterboard but you'd know if it was more modern it has a higher chance of been plasterboard.

flow4 Sat 20-Apr-13 13:12:43

Sorry, didn't answer your first question... The walls between the sitting room and dining room, and the dining room and utility, are definitely plasterboard (the vertical ones in the plan I've uploaded). There's an odd stone/brick arch between the kitchen dining room - a bit wider than a doorway but not much. I forgot to check the walls of the hall. blush

flow4 Sat 20-Apr-13 13:14:09

Yes, that's part of my puzzle. I think that, before plasterboard, there were internal walls made of brick that weren't in fact load bearing...

Tizwozliz Sat 20-Apr-13 13:32:55

Our house in 1950s and all internal walls are brick whether load bearing or not. Our built in cupboards are also built in brick. Our hallway was also larger than our original kitchen :-)

From the plan you've uploaded I would imagine the joists run front to back so the walls between hallway and lounge and kitchen and dining room will be load bearing. Is there anyway to lift a carpet on first floor to see which way the floorboards run, the joists will run perpendicular to the floorboards?

Tizwozliz Sat 20-Apr-13 13:36:04

That's just what would be more usual btw, no hard and fast rules.

GuffSmuggler Sat 20-Apr-13 13:46:14

But you can remove load bearing walls can't you? Just costs a bit more to do.

flow4 Sat 20-Apr-13 14:06:54

Thanks Tiz and Guff.

No way to lift carpets easily Tiz - seems a bit too cheeky!

Yes, I think you're right Guff... I'm doing a budget to try and work out potential value/offer. The house is on a bit high I think. I'm in an bit of a strange position... It's a house I ruled out last summer, because it needs so much doing to it; but 9+ months on, it is still one of the most suitable I've seen. In the meantime, I made an offer on a similar house that is in much better condition (with new kitchen and bathroom) but the vendor and I can't agree on a price. I'm trying to work out how cheap the 'scruffy' house needs to be to make it worthwhile, and how much work/money it would need to bring it up to the standards of the other one...

flow4 Sat 20-Apr-13 14:18:26

Sorry, that was waffle that no-one actually needs to know! blush

The wall/arch between the kitchen and the dining room is very strange - it's about 15" thick - really thick for an internal wall. And in such a strange place, right in the middle of the house so to speak. I don't know what to make of it...

CreatureRetorts Sat 20-Apr-13 19:58:36

Are the houses on your road similar? Can you scope them out eg talk to neighbours or look At any for sale to check layout?

nocake Sat 20-Apr-13 21:03:48

Compare the floor plans for upstairs and downstairs to see which walls go all the way through the building. It's not a definitive way of identifying them but it can give you a pretty good idea.

annalouiseh Sat 20-Apr-13 21:22:56

The up stair floorboards run the same direction as the supporting wall.
98% of most houses only have one where this would be the case, but the odd few have more supporting wall.
see if there is a way to see this.

flow4 Sat 20-Apr-13 23:16:58

I've been inside severl houses on this street, and they're all quite different Creature, so no help there...

Nocake, there don't seem to be any that are in the same place upstairs and down, apart from the wall between the sitting room and dining room, which - confusingly - sounds like plasterboard. But maybe the plans are badly drawn... I guess I may have to go back and actually look again...

Thanks annalouise, that's good to know.

Childrenofthestones Sun 21-Apr-13 07:53:01

Is there a chimney breast in the room?
Sometimes fires and chimneys are in the walls in the centre of the house as opposed to the usual way in adjoining party walls.
The result (if they are blocked up and unused ) can be an unusual confusing 18 inch deep wall in the centre of the house.
Generaly if the floor boards are running in the same direction as the wall you want to remove then the wall will be load baring as the joists run at right angles to the floorboards carrying the load.
I have just removed a ground floor brick wall between a kitchen and dining room that wasnt load baring, so there are many possibilities and i would recommend getting a decent builder to have a look at it.

flow4 Sun 21-Apr-13 11:01:50

Thank you CotS, that's v useful. I'm now wondering whether that odd arch in between the kitchen and dining room is actually what's left of a fireplace... confused

(Your name, btw... I'd forgotten that prof! I used to terrify my little bro by saying 'Happy day' to him, and giving him a deranged smile!)

flow4 Sun 21-Apr-13 11:02:19


Pendeen Mon 22-Apr-13 15:46:29

"If its plasterboard then its not load bearing. "

Dangerous and wholly incorrect statement.

VivaLeBeaver Mon 22-Apr-13 17:28:51

Really? I admit I'm no expert but Kirsty Allsop is always tapping walls and saying its plasterboard so get the sledgehammer out.

This website says load bearing walls are always made from either brick or breezeblock.

I can't imagine plasterboard been strong enough to support a big load.

flow4 Mon 22-Apr-13 17:52:10

Can you explain more please Pendeen? I thought that was a rule of thumb too, and I can't imagine a plasterboard wall holding up a house...

VivaLeBeaver Mon 22-Apr-13 17:54:56

A plasterboard wall ime can't hold up a kitchen cupboard full of plates.

Pendeen Tue 23-Apr-13 10:38:16

A "plasterboard wall" is not just plasterboard but what is known as a 'stud partition' comprising timber members - typically 100mm x 50mm joined together and clad both sides with plasterboard.

Correctly designed and constructed, such walls can support floors, point loads (for example water tanks) or act in conjunction with ceilings and / or floors to restrain adjacent walls.

Even apparently non-loadbearing brick or blockwork walls may actually be structural members, providing lateral support to other parts of the building.

Incidentally, relying for structural advice on a TV show is to say the least rather risky especially, when most of the self-proclaimed 'experts' are actually nothing of the sort.

FishfingersAreOK Tue 23-Apr-13 11:07:59

Also in a modern house the cardboard plasterboard walls may appear flimsy but think of the house like a wine box. Just the box is as stable as...well..a cardboard box...if you put in the wine bottle criss-cross divider things the whole thing becomes waaayy more rigid. Take one or two of those away and get wobbly bits.

PigletJohn Tue 23-Apr-13 11:17:45

tapping a wall will tell you if it is plasterboard, but (especially in modern houses) plasterboard is often put on a blockwork wall with an airgap to make it sound hollow

Not keen on it myself but it needs less time and skill.

BTW if you want to fix anything heavy to a plasterboard partition, you have to screw to whatever's behind the plasterboard, usually timber studwork.

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