Ignite FB Tracking PixelWhy do I Need an Engineer? - Jennifer Eberhard

Why do I Need an Engineer?

by Jennifer Eberhard 06/16/2019

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

Jennifer Eberhard

Jennifer’s fun & bright positive energy shows up in everything she does. This positive energy makes accomplishing highly detailed tasks required when buying or selling a home truly enjoyable for her clients, as she partners with them on their journey to their dream Colorado home. She believes in helping guide the process with her excellent communication and negotiation skills, taking much stress off her clients.

As Colorado native, she is excited to work with those looking for their dream homes throughout Colorado. Her first-hand knowledge of the Denver metro area stretches up Hwy 85 and even follows the I-76 corridor and its unique real estate market. Interested in all people and walks of life, she enjoys learning about clients current needs, as well as their past, to help them get to their future. Wherever your Colorado dream home is, no matter if it is a condo in Denver to helping purchase acreage on the plains, or even stretching up into the front range mountains, she will be excited to assist your search.

Excellent service starts by taking the time to listen and genuinely care about people.