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Why do I Need an Engineer?

by Anadalys De Armas 02/11/2019

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
Anadalys De Armas

Originally from Cuba, Anadalys De Armas has been a resident of Miami-Dade County for over 20 years. Raising a family in Miami has given her insight into the many amenities and lifestyles each neighborhood offers. Her ability to make good judgments and quick decisions as well as her extensive knowledge of Miami-Dade areas provides buyers and sellers with the facts they need in order to make informed and accurate decisions. She also lived in several other countries like Russia and Sweden, where she acquired international experiences and perspectives. She is fluent in English and Spanish, and understands quite a bit of the Russian language.

Anadalys became a Real Estate Agent in 2004. Her real estate specialties include sales in both the Commercial and Residential fields, along with Commercial Leasing. She truly enjoys the opportunity to help people realize their real estate dreams. To this end, she provides complete loyalty to each individual; from home buyers and sellers, to project developers and investors, the ultimate goal remains the same: complete satisfaction and a lasting relationship.

Her hobbies include running, yoga, horse riding, charity, travelling, jet skiing and scuba diving. Her love of reading keeps her up with current events, the latest in technology, and market trends. The result in personal growth is a benefit to her, as well as to her customers. She is very active in the local community, participating in many events. She supports multiple charities, including the One Child Matters, the Children’s Miracle Network, and others. Supporting charity “gives me self-confidence and spiritual strength, and also helps me remember what really matters in life,” she says.