Load-bearing walls explained: Plus how to tell if a wall is load bearing

A builder swinging a sledgehammer and knocking down a blockwork internal wall
How to tell if a wall is loadbearing is not simple (Image credit: Getty)

Load-bearing walls can present a challenge for homeowners looking to open up adjacent rooms or enjoy open-plan living, but how can you tell if a wall is load bearing? A good starting point is to understand that any wall can be load bearing — even if it is made up of studwork and feels flimsy.

When I began renovating a house, the previous owners had assured me a dividing wall in the sitting room was "definitely not load bearing" as they'd had it installed themselves underneath one of the historic timber beams of the house that appeared to be holding the load instead.

Paul Hymers
Paul Hymers

Paul has been a building control officer since 1984 and written eight books on home improvements and building homes.

Amy Willis
Web Editor

Amy spent over a decade in London editing and writing for The Daily Telegraph, MailOnline, and Metro.co.uk before moving to East Anglia where she began renovating a period property in rural Suffolk. During this time she also did some TV work at ITV Anglia and CBS as well as freelancing for Yahoo, AOL, ESPN and The Mirror. When the pandemic hit she switched to full-time building work on her renovation and spent nearly two years focusing solely on that. She's taken a hands-on DIY approach to the project, knocking down walls, restoring oak beams and laying slabs with the help of family members to save costs. She has largely focused on using natural materials, such as limestone, oak and sisal carpet, to put character back into the property that was largely removed during the eighties. The project has extended into the garden too, with the cottage's exterior completely re-landscaped with a digger and a new driveway added. She has dealt with de-listing a property as well as handling land disputes and conveyancing administration.