Should You Call an Engineer?

by 55+ Active Adult Community -Founders' Ridge 06/30/2019

If you’ve spent any time watching popular fixer-upper or remodeling shows lately, you've experienced the drama of suddenly discovering that the most critical aspect of your open floor plan is actually a load-bearing wall.

Stop the cameras! Hold everything! Call the engineer!

The engineer? Why do you need to call an engineer?

To you, and most homeowners (and potential homeowners) removing a wall that's in the way seems like a simple thing. In fact, it appears so prevalent in most on-screen renovations that it's an expected and accepted part of most designs. Then, you remember those instances where demolition began with tearing out cabinets and kicking in the drywall only to hear that "Uh-oh! Houston, we have a problem! Call the engineers!”

Leave the drama for your Momma!

All homes have load-bearing walls. Load-bearing means that it carries and distributes the weight of what is above it and resting on it. The home's designers should have engineered these walls to carry the load safely. So, if you have a roof, the walls holding up the roof are load-bearing. If you have a second floor, a stairwell, a basement … you have extra load-bearing walls. While it seems as if they are always surprised on those television shows, most of that is for dramatic effect. After all, television is entertainment, not real life.

When it comes to your home, learn how to identify load-bearing walls before you take the sledgehammer to them. You don’t want that house to come tumbling down around your ears (or on top of your head), or the roof to cave in. If you follow these pointers and you’re still uncertain if your wall is structurally necessary, call a structural engineer for advice.

  • Understand that most exterior walls are load-bearing. Even if they don't hold anything else up, they hold the roof up. If your home was remodeled in the past so that an outside wall became an inside wall, it remains a load-bearing wall.
  • Look at ground level and determine the lowest point. If you have a basement, the lowest point is in the basement. If you have a slab, the lowest point is the slab. If you have a raised foundation, the lowest point will be any pillars under the house. Once you’ve found the lowest point, look for any walls whose beams attach directly into the foundation. Assume these carry a load. Do not remove them without advice from an engineer on alternatives to carry the weight.
  • Look for beams or joists. These may be wood or metal and run the length or width of your home. You will find them under the floor and above the highest ceiling (in the attic). They are also in-between floors, but more difficult to see. If beams or joists span across a wall, that wall is bearing the load of the beam or joist. Do not remove it. Unless the room is unfinished, drywall or other wallboard or paneling covers most interior load-bearing walls making it difficult to find them.
  • If beams or joists are perpendicular to a wall, that means they use the walls to transfer the weight of the floor above (a second floor or attic, for example).

The walls you may safely remove are non-load-bearing. Often, referred to as “curtain walls,” their purpose is to divide rooms and create the floorplan around the load-bearing ones.

If you are unable to see the beams or joists, refer to structural plans filed with your municipality's building department. If those aren't available ... call the engineer!

About the Author
Author

55+ Active Adult Community -Founders' Ridge

Set on a picturesque hill and centrally located in the desirable Westfield Section of Middletown, Founders’ Ridge is a New 55+ Condominium Community of up to 75 Ranch and Cape Style detached homes.  Named for the Founding Fathers and Mothers of Middletown, each model bears the name of one of our town’s founders – The Allen, The Martin, The Cornwell, and The Whitmore to name a few. 


Attractively priced from $289,900.00, our homes range from approximately 1200 Sq. Ft. to 2250 Sq. Ft.  Our models offer 2 – 4 bedrooms, attached 2 car garages, natural gas heat and AC, city water and sewer and all underground utilities.  Standard features include wood kitchens with granite tops, stainless steel appliances, tiled laundry and baths, hardwood in living areas, paver patios or decks, paved driveways and professional landscaping.
Founders’ Ridge offers a unique agreement with adjacent Ascentria Care’s Luther Ridge, private apartment living for residents age 62+.  Residents of our community have access to meeting and game rooms, and even dining opportunities (for a small fee) all of which are accessed via quiet, peaceful walking trials connecting both communities.


Centrally located on the Connecticut River, the City of Middletown boasts amenities for any lifestyle.  Residents may take advantage of The Institute for Lifelong Learning at Wesleyan University as well as various other university community activities.  The active Middlesex Historical Society offers additional programs such as museum exhibits, walking tours, and re-enactments among its many events.  Wadsworth Mansion offers a summer concert series and our river and parks offer a wonderful opportunity to explore the outdoors.  Also located in the downtown area is Middlesex Hospital, affiliated with the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, Middlesex offers quality medical care and world class technology.  


We would be remiss if we did not mention our thriving Main Street, famous for award winning cuisine at over 30 restaurant locations, and a Downtown Business District boasting over 40 shops for unique purchases and window shopping and a calendar full of events, performances and more.  Don’t forget about the newly opened RJ Julia & Wesleyan Bookstore alive with frequent happenings and book signings by famous authors.  Our community truly offers something for everyone!