Know About Load Bearing Walls and Load Bearing Structures

Common Approaches

There are two common approaches. Both rely on the addition of a bearing beam to take on the load that had been absorbed by the wall being removed.

The two approaches differ when it comes to the handling of the beam itself. The less ambitious and less expensive method involves leaving the beam exposed. You can paint the beam or box it in, but the discerning eye will probably notice it’s there.

More complicated, labor-intensive, and expensive is to conceal the beam so that it runs between, not beneath, the ceiling joists. This approach leaves behind no visible sign that the load-bearing wall has been removed, only a flat, smooth ceiling.

Photo: istockphoto.com

Photo: istockphoto.com

Video

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 Wide of an Opening Can You Have on a Load Bearing Wall?

  • An opening you can have on a Load Bearing Wall should be six feet or less. This creates a carrying point 1.5 inches wide.
  • Any open space more than six feet should have at least 2×4 no of beams under each edge of the floor.
  • We cannot have wide openings on any load-bearing wall as it is not well supported. Proper support varies depending on the weight of the load, the base under which it is supported, and the materials used to support it.
  • While constructing a building, one must need a civil engineer to inspect it and design that support.

Also, Read: Tributary Area | Tributary Area Examples | Tributary Width | Tributary Load | Tributary Area in Columns | Overview of Tributary Area

Is It a Masonry Wall?

A masonry wall would appear to be load-bearing since masonry is a solid, substantial, and exceedingly strong building material. But this may not necessarily be the case. Despite its substantial look, a masonry wall may or may not be load-bearing.

The position of the masonry may point to its load-bearing capacity (e.g., is it on the exterior?). One type of masonry called manufactured stone veneer cannot support loads. As the name suggests, it is a decorative veneer, very lightweight, and prone to crumbling under stress.

Foundation walls, which are typically built of structural masonry materials, are by nature load-bearing, as their primary role is to support the weight of the house. 

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Is a Partial Wall Load-Bearing?

If the wall is a partial wall, meaning it stops short of an adjacent wall, it may or may not be load-bearing.

For example, the builder may have installed a microlam beam to span across the opening and carry the load above. Therefore, you cannot assume that a partial wall is a simply a partition wall.

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

Conclusion

Whether your interior walls are load or non-load-bearing, most municipalities in the United States require you to have a building permit before putting up one. All walls, including interior walls, must be built according to the local building code

Check the codes in your locale to determine how to build your exterior and interior walls according to building requirements. But ultimately, the thickness of your walls is a matter of preference.

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