Locate Load-Bearing Walls to Open Up Your Unfinished Basement
Hi, Caleb with Dansie Design Build here. Today, I wanted to talk to you about existing basement walls, particularly the load-bearing ones in your unfinished basement. We are here in a basement in Herriman, Utah, looking at the load-bearing walls. Knowing how to locate load-bearing walls would be helpful for you if you are considering opening up your basement space, removing an existing framed wall, and getting an idea if that’s load-bearing. Let’s jump right in on telling which of the walls are load-bearing and which ones are not in your basement.
Step 1: Identify Your Floor Joists
The first thing that we’re going to be looking at is the floor joists. They typically run from the front to the back of the house. That is because they will want to install those in a short span. Typically, and this house is that way, it’s more shallow from the street to the backyard than from the left side of the lot to the right side, so these joists span a shorter distance.
Now, to get them to span all the way across, you’re going to need a load-bearing wall near the center of the house to help those long joists be supported somewhere in the middle.
3 Ways to Tell if a Wall is Load-Bearing
This is an existing wall and is indeed load-bearing. You can tell a few ways, but the first is these little supports here. Those are stiffeners that help the wall hold considerably more weight per size for the size of the lumber, which is 2×4. That’s one way you can tell if a wall is load-bearing.
The other way is if the floor joists span across the home and a load-bearing wall is in the middle of the house like we talked about earlier.
Then the third way you can tell is in any door opening like this one here; there is a header at the top. This header shows that these joists are going from the front of the home through to the back. The big header and stud support the load weight by transferring it down both sides of the door. So the weight of these two here mainly is coming in, out, and down. This wall is load-bearing.
What Size is the Lumber Used for a Load-Bearing Wall?
There was another wall here, which could be tricky to tell whether or not it is because it’s also a 2×6 wall, which, I mean, is a lot stronger. You may be wondering, well, why did they use a 2×4 wall to be the load-bearing one and a 2×6 to be the non-load bearing one? You can tell that this one is not load-bearing because it does not have a header. The one next to it does have a header because it’s intended to be the load-bearing wall. And this one is designed not to be; it is just a partition wall.
What happened here is that there was extra lumber from the original construction, and it just happened to be 2×6, so that was what got used down in the basement, which is excellent. It’s fantastic, actually. But yeah, this one is not a load-bearing wall here. So those are some ways that you can identify load-bearing walls in your basement if you’re trying to get a wall moved.
How Does a Support Beam Versus a Load-Bearing Wall Work?
The other thing I wanted to talk about is what it looks like to have a beam installed instead of a load-bearing wall. The same things are going on with the joists. They span across the top of one beam over to the next one. This option is not as great of a span of distance as was in the other room, but with what’s above it, we do need to have a beam here or a load-bearing wall either way. This room will be a theater room, so they want to keep it open. All the weight from these different joists comes into the beam and is supported. Behind the insulation mesh, you can see wood holding that beam up. We have that on each side.
So that is how a beam would function. It would work the same way a load-bearing wall would. It carries the load from each of these joists out to either side.
How to Remove a Section of the Load-Bearing Wall
If we wanted to take out a section of this load-bearing wall, hypothetically, you would want to do the same thing. We’ve pretty much already done that with this door. You can see that the door has the same idea; it’s just a shorter beam. You could lengthen that beam and make it wider and taller so it can hold more weight, maybe use LVL instead of dimensional lumber, and whatever that needs to be; it’s specific to each home and engineering that needs to happen there. But that’s the same idea.
Basement Finishing in Salt Lake County
That’s how you can tell which walls are structural and which ones aren’t. If you need help with your basement finish in the Herriman area or Salt Lake County of Utah, you can reach out to us by leaving us a voicemail located on the right-hand side of your screen or requesting a consultation; we will reach right back out to you. Thanks. Have a great day!