How do you know if you are dealing with a load-bearing wall?

And even if it is not a load bearing wall, should you still "prop up" the ceiling thereabouts before working on replacing it?
Wife and I are considering replacing the wall between the kitchen and living room, as it has had a slow leak for some time, and the sill plate for that wall is thereby compromised and moldy. Have already removed the sheetrock on the kitchen side and sprayed all with 10% bleach-water, which seems to have killed the mold, but the studs ands sill plate are still severely compromised. Want to replace that whole wall, but don't want to start something I can't finish or compromise the integrity of the house itself. Would really appreciate some comments from someone in the know here. Would like to consult a specialist, but don't know where to look for such or who to look for.
Thanks much,
Dave
PS: fixed the leak, BTW, and everything is now dry. It just doesn't look some something I want to leave in place...
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Sounds like you're going about it in the right way, and I'm glad you're asking questions beforehand. You'd be amazed how many times people get hip deep into trouble and then start asking questions.
It's not solely a question of whether it's a bearing wall or not. If you have a tiled bathroom on the second floor, removing a wall that is not technically a bearing wall could cause things to settle and crack tile.
As far as determining if it's a bearing wall or not, poke some holes in the ceiling on either side of the all - they don't have to be big - and see which way the joists run. If they cross over the wall in question it probably is a bearing wall. You can also check in the basement (if you don't have one you can skip this step!) and see if there is a beam supported by posts under that wall, or if the floor joist under that wall is a single or not. If it's a double joist, it might be a bearing wall, if it's a triple it definitely is.
Shoring up the ceiling on either side of the wall can't hurt, but it might not be necessary. Do your homework and see what the framing indicates, then, if you want a test to see what load that wall is under, cut one stud with a reciprocating saw. If the saw blade binds when the cut is almost all the way through - I mean really grabs the blade, then it's under load regardless of whether it was designed as a bearing wall or not and it would be wise to support the load above.
R
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sat, 15 Oct 2011 07:06:32 -0700 (PDT), RicodJour

The above advice is all good. One other clue to whether it may be load bearing wall is does the wall have a top plate AND a cap plate. If it has both it is a load bearing wall.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 10/15/2011 11:21 AM, Gordon Shumway wrote:

Gordon, I would not consider this a true statement. Many homes are built with all studs the same length. The double plate is used to tie corners and intersections together. If a wall were installed after the fact, it could have longer studs with single top and bottom plates.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

And even then, it's not uncommon for people adding walls to attach the upper top plate to the bottom of the joists, build the wall on the floor with one top and bottom plate, stand it up and shim between the two top plates.
R
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

If your structure is in a condition where removal of a non-load bearing wall causes the issues you described then the structure needs to be examined by a professional builder who can figure out where the structure that _should_ be carrying the load has failed thus causing the other walls which should not be doing anything but supporting themselves to carry any of the weight of the other parts of the building...
~~ Evan
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Of course it could be a problem, but a binding blade in the situation I describe does not mean the house is coming down. It means 'pay attention'. It has to do with deflection.
Deflection is unavoidable. Not all things deflect at an equal rate. Stiffness attracts loads. It's rare that a designer actually takes the trouble to design walls that will shrink uniformly.
If you pay attention to what the building is telling you, you'll rarely run into serious problems.
R
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

If the wall is directly over another wall that goes to foundation, beam, or a structural footing then it is likely a load bearing wall. A wall "usually" is not load bearing unless the wall in question is also over a system that solidly transmits the load all the way to a footing or foundation. If the wall is on top of spanned or catelevered joists then it is not a good load bearer and would not pass a structural inspection and is probably not holding up anything. But a non-load bearing wall could happen to be over a system that is connected to the footing and still not be load bearing simply because that was where the wall needed to go.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.