Is Your Column Load Bearing? How to Determine Quickly

Are you buying a home for the first time? Are you considering remodeling your house? Before you tear down walls or replace columns, you should know the difference between load-bearing and decorative columns.

Taking out a load-bearing column without investigating first could profoundly impact your home’s structural integrity and safety.

You can quickly determine whether or not the column you are looking at is a load-bearing column using a couple of crucial methods. If you are removing columns inside or outside your home, you should consult a professional.

Tips To Determine If A Column Is Load-Bearing Or Decorative

Taking out columns and tearing down walls without a thorough investigation upfront can undermine the stability and safety of your home.

It is possible to determine whether interior and exterior columns are load bearing using a few simple methods.

Using your home blueprints or building plan, you should be able to complete the project within an hour.

Here are some tips to help you determine whether the columns are load bearing or if you need to consult with a structural engineer.

1. Check Out the Building Plans

Check Out the Building Plans

There are a lot of variables in a home, which makes it nearly impossible to accurately determine which columns will be load-bearing or not. Starting with any building plans or original blueprints you have is the best idea.

There should be a sign indicating whether your interior columns or exterior porch columns are load-bearing or just decorative. The “S” mark usually denotes structural walls and columns.

A decorative post or column may not be included in a design since it carries no weight and may have been added after the fact.

Before tearing out or replacing a column, you should take the time to study your construction plans to determine whether it is decorative. 

It is a good idea to never remove a column until you’re confident that it is not load-bearing or unless you are also supporting the header in another way.

You can typically obtain your home’s original blueprints from the county clerk’s office, the original homeowner, or your original contractor or builder.

Follow these steps if you need additional confirmation of the structural support of your porch or home if you cannot obtain your home’s blueprints.

In many cases, decorative columns are not included in the plans because they are not weight-bearing and may have been added later.

2. Look For Any Visible Seams

Look For Any Visible Seams

When it comes to identifying load-bearing porch columns or decorative columns, it can be a little trickier than identifying load-bearing walls. Identifying visual cues is difficult due to the limited number of visual cues.

Nevertheless, some signs can provide you with a better indication. There are several ways to detect a seam, but the easiest is to observe a column seam. Search for seams running lengthwise along opposite sides of the column shaft.

The two halves of a decorative post or column are often twisted and fastened around a structural or load-bearing post by “splitting” them in half.

After they’re joined back together, these seams are almost impossible to conceal. It is important to realize that a column may look decorative, but it could actually be doing much more work than what meets the eye.

3. Pull Back The Capital

Pull Back The Capital

Trying to pull the capital from the top of the column away from the header might solve the seaming problem. You can save time by taking this approach if you consider removing or replacing porch columns.

4. Inspect the Column’s Material

Finally, looking at the column’s material is essential to determine whether it is a load-bearing or decorative column.

The load-bearing characteristics of fiberglass polymer, fiberglass, wood, and aluminum columns cannot be diminished if they are not split.

However, the increasingly popular cellular PVC columns don’t have any support mechanism that makes them load-bearing unless they have an internal support mechanism.

5. Look For A Visible Foundation

Look For A Visible Foundation

Load-bearing columns require a stable foundation to bear the load of your home’s structure. Take note of the area around the bottom of a porch column or other exterior post when you’re inspecting it.

Columns may be load-bearing if plates are screwed into the flooring or if it sits on a concrete block.

It is worth noting that these foundational elements might be painted or covered. The same signs should be visible in your basement or crawlspace when inspecting an indoor column.

In the crawlspace, there are metal, stone, or concrete piers that rest on concrete footings or bedrock, so it’s a straightforward matter of measuring where the piers are positioned and looking at the wall above.

6. Look For Signs Of A Ground Installation

Check to see if the column enters the ground directly if there is no noticeable foundation above the ground. Occasionally, a hole needs to be dug to install a column in the ground with a cement base buried below.

7. Look For L-Brackets

Look For L-Brackets

A support bracket can also indicate the presence of a load-bearing column. Around the top and bottom of the column, these L-shaped brackets can be bolted into the ceiling or floor.

L-brackets are not the only mounting brackets you may see. A post-to-beam mounting bracket may also be used instead. Columns can be bolted directly to ceiling beams and floor joists using these metal brackets.

8. Hire A Structural Engineer

There may be no signs above, which means the column is just decorative. Nonetheless, if you are still unsure, you should consult a structural engineer before beginning any project involving the removal of columns or walls.

There is a potential cost of $200 to $700 for a load-bearing column inspection, but you’ll have peace of mind knowing that removing the component won’t cause any significant structural damage.

Despite whether we are sure a wall is load-bearing or not, structural engineers are always needed.

The official report that the issue is not only helpful in passing building inspection but can also be used by the homeowner selling the house so the buyer’s inspector can question the validity and value of the remodeling project.

Final Words

There are also many wooden posts and decorative columns that may not be load-bearing columns, based on the above signs.

However, if you’re still unsure, you should speak to a structural engineer or the experts. It can be helpful for you to review the structure of your column before you begin any home improvement work.

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