What are exterior bearing walls?

Step 2 – Check the Basement

If you don’t have your home’s blueprints or they don’t indicate which walls are load bearing, start looking in the lowest part of your home, the basement. If you don’t have a basement, start at the concrete pad.

Step 7 Check the Posts or Columns

Another visual cue of load bearing walls are those that end in large posts or columns. Some columns simply appear to be decorative, but it probably helps support the weight of other walls and portions of the roof above.

Video

Camper Wall Repair

Some people want to know if their RV walls are load bearing because they want to know if they can repair them on their own.

A camper wall is often easy for the DIYer to work on.  The easiest and most common RV wall to repair is the wooden one.  Often times, you’ll only need to replace a few boards.

If the outer skin is damaged, just cut out the section of wall that is damaged. 

Do a square or rectangle cut around the damaged area and then cut a new piece to match.  Just leave room around the support beams so that you’ll have something to mount to.

Since the wood you’ll be mounting onto is not very thick, it is best to just use staples or glue when putting it back on.  Screws can be used, but only if you pre-drill the wood first.

Fiberglass walls can be repaired with replacement glass and some Bondo.  Small patches can be done with any fiberglass automotive kit you can find.  For large walls, you may want to invest in some stronger fiberglass fabric.

One section at the time

I have been renovating a tiny camper and a slightly bigger RV. We were very careful to remove one section at the time and it went very well.

Just go slow and do small sections at a time. 

Fiberglass resin hardens quickly and if you try to do too much at one time, you’ll just end up wasting resin.

Aluminum wall repair can be difficult.

If the aluminum sheeting is held in place by rivets, you’ll need to drill these rivets out to remove the sheeting.  For actual wall frame damage, you may need to do some bending or even some welding.

Unfortunately, aluminum tends to be the most difficult metal to weld and it requires a more expensive type of welding machine.

If you’re looking for an excuse to learn to weld, repairing an aluminum camper wall may be the ideal project to start with.  However, I wouldn’t recommend investing in welding equipment just to fix a camper wall.

Aluminum welders will cost you at least $700.00 and you’ll have to spend many hours learning how to operate it.  In this case, it may be less expensive just to hire a person who specializes in working on aluminum framed campers.

2) Anatomy of a load bearing wall

Knowing what makes a wall load bearing is essential for locating them. Notice image 2 below. This wall has a base plate (a single 2×4 or 2×6), studs (single 2×4 or 2×6), and doubled up top plate (2-2×4 or 2×6). 

There should be 2 tops plates in order to support the floor joists and prevent sagging and failure.

Floor joists (typically 2×6 up to 2×12) are structural members used for transferring loads to vertical members. 

Image 2) Sketch of a wall with floor joists runnin
Image 2) Sketch of a wall with floor joists running perpendicular and stopping on the wall. 

The floor joists in this particular photo are running perpendicular to the wall and end on this wall which indicates that it is most likely load bearing. 

If the joists were continuous over the top of the wall, depending on the loads above and below the wall, it could be non load bearing. A structural engineer would be needed to determine this. 

Here’s a great video to help explain anatomy

How to Tell If a Wall Is Load Bearing From the Attic

If you don’t have a basement, or have a finished basement that offers no clues, move to the attic. Even if the attic is not directly above the room you are redesigning, you should still be able to learn which walls are load bearing.

In the attic, look down at the ceiling joists and ask yourself these questions:

Are the joists running parallel to the wall you’re looking to knock down? If yes, this is a good sign that the wall isn’t load bearing.
Are the joists running perpendicular to the wall you’re looking to knock down? If yes, it is most likely a load bearing wall.
Is there anything bearing down, like a roof brace or a beam, on the area directly above the wall? If yes, the wall is most likely supporting the structure of the house and is load bearing.
Blueprints can be used to identify load bearing wa

Blueprints can be used to identify load bearing walls.

3. Cavity Walls

It is a wall constructed in 2 leaves / skins with a space / cavity between them. A type of building wall construction consisting of an outer wall fastened to inner wall separated by an air space. Cavity walls helps to prevent the penetration of rain to the   internal surface of the wall.

8. Faced Wall

Faced walls has the facing and backing of two different materials are bonded together to ensure common action under load.

Interior Load-Bearing and NonBearing Walls Explained

The thickness of a nonbearing interior wall is determined by whether the wall transfers load from upper floors or roof load. A load-bearing interior wall will be 4-1/2 to 6-1/2 inches wide, including 1/2 inch drywall.I gathered information on the most common materials used for interior walls and their average thickness.

1. Load-Bearing Walls

Load-bearing walls transfer the weight to the foundation. These are the walls that make a house structurally sound. 

A load-bearing wall can be an interior or exterior wall. Interior walls running perpendicular to the ceiling framing are considered load-bearing. These are some of the interior and outer load-bearing walls to expect in construction and how thick they should be:

Wood Walls

Wood interior load-bearing walls will run perpendicular to the ceiling structure. Most load-bearing walls use 2×4 lumber, but builders also use 2×6 lumber in larger homes. Where required, 2×6 load-bearing walls (5-1/2inches nominal size) are 6-1/2 inches wide with 1/2 inch drywall on both sides.

Masonry Walls

Interior masonry walls can be as thick as 8 inches for less than three stories houses.

A masonry wall features materials cemented together using mortar. These are the most durable walls in any structure. The binding mortar restricts the cemented materials like concrete and brick, among others, from falling apart.

A load-bearing masonry wall typically features concrete blocks or bricks as the construction material. These walls should be at least 10 inches thick on a 35-foot wall. As the wall increases in height, so should the thickness.

Precast Concrete Walls 

These are walls constructed when concrete is cast in a wall mold and then cured to strengthen it. The precast wall is ready for installation in the house without the mess of mortar and laying concrete stones.

Precast walls make soundproof interior walls in offices, hospitals, apartment buildings, and hotels, among other places, 

Precast concrete walls fall into three categories:

  • Solid
  • Thin-shell
  • Sandwich

Solid precast concrete walls should have a typical thickness of 4-12 inches. Thin-shell walls should be 5-12 inches thick, including 1-4 inches of insulation.

Sandwich precast concrete walls should also be 5-12 inches thick, including the 1-4 inch insulation. 

5-8 inches in thickness applies to interior precast concrete walls and 8-12 inches to outer walls. 

Stone Walls

Stone Walls are typically considered stone structures. They are usually thicker than other walls and extremely hard.

But, you can install a thin stone wall system of between 3 and 8 inches as interior walls. The thinner the wall, the less load it can bear and vice versa. 

If you want the interior stone wall to be load-bearing, use more robust material. Even if the wall is thin but features strong material, it can take a certain amount of weight.

For example, granite stone is more robust than limestone. 

Exterior stone walls have traditionally been as thick as 18 inches. But it can be just as effective with a thickness of 12 inches.

2. Non-load Bearing Walls

An internal wall partition divides a more prominent space into individual rooms. That means they do not carry the weight of the beams, slabs, or floors above them, so they cannot be used as outer walls. They include:

Aggregate Concrete Walls

Aggregate blocks walls feature concrete and aggregate. They can be hollow or dense, ultra-lightweight, or lightweight. 

Interior walls featuring aggregate concrete should have a thickness of 3 inches. This material makes affordable and durable partition walls that offer acoustic insulation, secure background for fixtures, thermal insulation, and impact resistance.

Wood Walls

Wood interior non-load-bearing walls will run parallel to the ceiling structure. Wood-framed nonbearing walls require a minimum of 2×3 lumber (2-1/2 inches nominal size). However, most nonbearing partition walls are 2×4 lumber, 3-1/2 inches wide. Add 1 inch for 1/2 inch drywall on each side.

Non-load bearing walls that contain plumbing pipes can use 2×6 lumber (5-1/2 inches wide); 6-1/2 inches wide with 1/2 inch drywall on both sides.

Glass Walls 

Glass walls are a favorite because they are visually appealing and effective as interior walls.

Many people love glass because it allows natural light to flood your space, enabling you to experience the benefits of daylight.

A flat glass that works as an interior wall should be 3/8 to 1/2 inches thick. You can go as wide as 5/8 inches for a heavier partition.

Ensure that it is architectural glass which is allowed as a building material. Any other glass is not structurally sound to work as a partition wall. 

How Far Apart Are Wall Studs?

Stud boards appear 12 to 24 inches along the wall, with 16 inches the most common spacing. They are measured from center to center between the top and bottom of the wall.

Studs hold up the drywall on your interior walls. They are also used on exterior walls to hold up wood sheaths.

If you are looking for a stud, check your electric box or receptacles or the sides of your window.

Is an Exterior Wall Load-Bearing?

Exterior walls are walls that form the perimeter, or outer footprint, of a house. Exterior walls are almost always load-bearing. Where there are windows and doors, the walls include beams, or headers, spanning across the tops of the openings. Posts on either side of the openings support the beams. 

A house will rarely have an entire stretch of an exterior wall that is non-load-bearing. It is possible to build a house this way, but it would come at a high financial cost since I-beams or large laminated structural beams need to be used.

Often, homes that appear to have no supporting exterior walls still do have support in the form of steel or wooden columns interspersed between the windows. Because window glass and the exterior view take visual precedence, it is easy to miss the fact that substantially sized columns are in place.

© by Martin Deja / Getty Images

Considerations for Removing Walls

In general, non-structural walls can be removed without any reinforcement to the building’s structure or the floors and roof above.

For load bearing walls, in order to remove or cut a hole in the wall, you must transfer the load around the proposed gap. This is usually achieved by installing a header below the joists or roof structure and running supports on each end of the header down to the load-bearing member under the floor below.

In some installations, you can avoid having a header at the top of the doorway by installing the header in-line with the joists using joist hangers. This installation is more complicated and only works if the header (rim joist) to be installed can be the same width or less that the size of the lumber used for the joists. This decision is affected by the span distance of the gap and the unavailable space on the floor above.

Either of these latter two operations we would reserve for a licensed contractor under the supervision of a structural engineer.

Exterior Load Bearing Walls

Your RV’s exterior walls are load bearing.

However, this just means that the walls hold up the structure of your RV.  Essentially they were built to be strong enough to hold the roof up.

What this means is that your RV isn’t necessarily built to bear the load of anything else you may want to put on your RV. 

It also means that you may not be able to mount any additional items to your load bearing walls either.

An RV is not built to the same standards as a house.

In fact, an RV’s walls may only consist of 2″ x 2″ thick pieces of lumber.  A 2″ x 2″ board simply wasn’t designed to hold up a camper roof as well as your 50″ television screen.

RV walls might not be able to support the weight of a person on top of the roof either.  Some RVs can support a person on top and some cannot.  Also, even RVs that were originally built to withstand someone walking on the roof will not always function as they were meant to.

All it takes is a small amount of water to leak into the ceiling for a roof to become too soft to stand on.

The best piece of advice I can give you is to never treat an RV’s load-bearing walls in the same manner that you treat a home’s load-bearing walls.

Summary of how to determine if a wall is load bearing:

  1. Inspect your home using our guide to help you formulate questions for a structural engineer
  2. Hire a structural engineer to inspect the desired walls, determine load bearing walls, and provide you with a scope of work that your contractor can use to perform the work SAFELY
  3. Obtain a building permit using paperwork from the structural engineer
  4. Give the contractor the greenlight to start the work and have them follow the structural engineer’s scope of work!

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