Are you buying a fixer-upper and want to remove load bearing walls? Maybe you’re buying a renovated property and want to know what to do if a load bearing wall has been altered. If so, this is the article for you!
What are Load Bearing Walls?
Load bearing walls are vitally important to the structural integrity of your home. Simply put, load-bearing walls usually support second story floor structures or roof areas whilst evenly distributing the load where required (eg. to a solid foundation base). Removal of a load bearing wall can be disastrous if not professionally undertaken. The incorrect removal of a load bearing wall could contribute to sagging and deflection of a roof structure or even possible structural collapse.
How Can You Identify Load Bearing Walls?
The best way to confirm whether a wall structure is load bearing is to physically access the roof space above the specific wall to determine whether any roof load has been transferred directly onto this wall. A building inspector undertaking a detailed inspection could provide this information for you. Alternatively, if you can acquire the original construction plans, they will usually indicate walls that are load bearing. This is of great benefit when you are wanting to remove a wall where there is no access directly above (eg. a downstairs wall in a two-storey construction).
When purchasing a house, it is important to establish which walls are load bearing and which walls are not load bearing, particularly if you intend to undertake significant alterations as this could affect the overall cost of the alterations. Sometimes simply installing a larger window to allow more light into the kitchen or expanding an existing opening into a wall can prove to be a costly process if those walls are load bearing.
Is Building Approval Required if Removing a Load Bearing Wall?
Cosmetic alterations and modifications to non-load bearing walls do not require building approval. However, the removal of load bearing walls and structural alterations do require building approval and subsequent building certification. The removal of load bearing walls must be undertaken by a licensed builder and in some cases under advisement of a structural engineer.
When purchasing property, it is essential to utilise the services of a good lawyer or conveyancer. The same must be said for engaging the services of a quality independent building and pest inspector.