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– [Jeff] Hi everybody, it’s Jeff here again. Today we’re gonna show how to tell if a wall is load-bearing or not. This question comes up a lot especially with first time remodelers, people who are remodeling a house or flipping a property, is, before you go tearing into a wall in a kitchen to make it an open concept or something like that, how do you tell if it’s a load-bearing wall? And what is a load-bearing wall? Well first of all, a load-bearing wall is a wall that is supposed to carry the weight of say, the rafters above it or the ceiling, or a second floor even above that.
So, the best way to show you how to find one is to first show you the anatomy of what a load-bearing wall looks like. So this is, we’re looking at one right now. And, let me just first show the components of your typical wall and I’ll show you right here. So your average wall starts with the bottom plate, some people call it the base plate, then you have studs that go all the way up to the top, and then you have a top plate okay. Now there’s too much mud for me to show you on there ’cause they had some termite damage that we’re gonna be repairing there but let me go and show you over here. There’s your top plate on this one, and if you closely, right above the top plate, you’ll see that there’s another two-by-four that’s on there. You’re probably wondering, “Well hmm, why is that?” Well, the reason why we have those up there is for building safety. When you build a building, theoretically, your rafters, which are these right here, no sorry these are joists, we call these joists, the rafters are the ones that are way up high, that run along the roof line. These joists here, should theoretically, be straight over every one of the studs so that your point load, they call it, the point load comes straight down the stud, and it goes all the way down to the ground, and it gets pushed into the ground. Now this is a cement slab below us, if there was a basement below us, I’m willing to bet, you would go straight down to the basement, and you should see poles or something right below this point to carry that point load all the way down to the slab. That’s another way you can tell if your wall is a load-bearing wall. So, in this case here, method number two to tell, is we always send people up to the attic to look, well do you have any floor joists that are running perpendicular to the wall? And if they are, that usually means it’s a load-bearing wall. Now if you look back over here to this wall, 90 degrees out of phase, this is the side wall to the bedroom, you can see the floor joist is running parallel to it. And there’s another one here. So there’s no load really resting on top of this wall here, so this is not a load-bearing wall, even though it has that second cap plate. So let me reiterate here, why do we need that second cap plate? Well, in many cases, in fact almost all cases, we know that the joists are not spaced evenly over the stud, and so if they’re not spaced evenly over the stud here, what would happen is, like these are pretty close to the stud, that’s not too bad. But what if it was in the middle? And if you didn’t have that cap plate, what do you think would happen to that joist? It would tend to bow down and put a lot of pressure on to that top plate here, which is this guy right here, on top of the studs. And it could theoretically break under the weight of whatever’s up there. So that’s why they put that extra cap plate up on top there, the upper plate there. It makes it a lot thicker, so now you’re dealing with a four-by instead of two-by, so it provides a lot more strength and resistance to shearing. Now some of the builders, there are some home builders that are getting really good and technical and making their home building more efficient, and they’re coming with ways of, for example, doing 25-inch spacing instead of, these are 16-inch spacing between the studs, but they gotta use a thicker dry wall to do that. Some builders have come up with a way, that if they know they can guarantee every one of these joists will go right directly over a stud, they don’t need to use that second plate up there, that cap plate. So that will save them a lot of money over the course of one house, and then many houses across a neighborhood that they’re building at once, if they don’t have to keep putting all of these cap plates up. So those are things that they’re able to do. But for you in your house, your house is probably going to look like this. Now here’s something that people are probably going to do. You have a load-bearing wall here, and you’re going to probably cut into the studs and put a doorway here, this is exactly what the builder did here, and this is a textbook scenario, what you see here. So, but in order to do that, if you cut this stud, this is a cripple, they call this, this cripple was meant to go all the way down to the floor, like a regular stud. But if you cut that, that means you have to still provide a way for the load, to make it back down to the ground. So they way they do this, is by adding this header plate here. So you see how you get this header here? And the header plate is supported by this jack stud, some people call it a trimmer. But this is a jack stud and this tall stud here, is called the king stud. So if you think about, you’re playing cards, the big main one is the king one and then this is the secondary one, the jack stud. But this jack stud performs a very important function for you, and that is, it holds this header. So if you look at the header here, see how it rests right on that jack stud and then it rests on top of this other jack stud. And then you have another plate on top of that header as well. So any load that’s right there at that point, comes down the cripple and transverses to both sides of the header and at the same time, both loads, probably divided in half, comes straight down the jack stud to ground. So that’s how you are supposed to cut a hole in the wall.
And that’s why, it’s very dangerous, and that’s why there’s permit requirements. The building codes require that you know what you’re doing here. And, a lot of times the building department at your city, will reject your design because it’s gotta be signed off by an engineer or an architect that knows what’s going on, and knows whether this is done properly or not. ‘Cause you can’t just go cutting into a wall. And what if there was a huge span going 10, 15 feet across? Then you may have to have a special LVL beam made, some people have metal beams made, and you can’t just say, “Well, I’m gonna throw a couple of, you know, “pieces of wood up there. ” That’s all gotta be calculated, all those load are calculated by the engineer and the architect. So this is what a load bearing wall looks like. Now we can see it because it’s all naked, we’ve pulled off the dry wall. So how do you tell when the dry wall’s up? Well that’s your main method up there, is looking in the attic above it if you can get to it, and see if there’s any members, like these floor joists here, resting on top of the wall. And if you have a basement, go down in the basement and look at underneath your wall. Underneath, there should be continued support ’cause the entire load has to carry from there, all the way down to this floor, and all the way down to the floor below it. And so let me just point out a couple of things to you here. So this builder did it correctly. See how the header’s resting on top of this member? I’ve seen a lot of stupidity folks, I mean a lot of really dumb people out there that they side shoot the nails into the header here, instead of it resting on top of the jack stud, it’s nailed in like this, so now, only the nails are holding the load, and that’s not allowed. That’s a violation of building codes, and if your inspector came in and saw you doing that, they’d probably issue you a stop work order immediately, on the spot. So anyway, we hope this helps you answer the question here, and I hope I’ve given you a good education here on this, and if you have questions, just leave them here in the comments. And please share to my channel, we’ll be putting up a lot more helpful blogs for you. .