Last edited 13 May 2021

Load-bearing wall

A load-bearing wall, (sometimes referred to as a 'bearing wall'), is a wall that supports vertical load in addition to its own weight and is an active structural element of a building. Load-bearing walls typically provide separation between the internal spaces of a building and transfer loads from other parts of the structure to the foundations.

This is as opposed to a partition wall, which provides separation between spaces, but is not load-bearing. See partition for more information.

The use of load-bearing walls date back to the earliest forms of construction. Gothic architecture introduced the flying buttress which allowed much larger interior spaces to be created by transferring the majority of the weight to the buttresses rather than the load-bearing walls. The development of high-rise buildings and particularly skyscrapers, which utilised a skeleton frame construction, removed the limitations placed on building design by load-bearing walls.

The loads that are usually supported by a load-bearing wall include those from the roof, any wall that sits directly above it, and floors, which can sometimes be built into or sit on top of an internal wall.

Load-bearing walls are commonly constructed using concrete, blockwork and/or brick. The thickness of the load-bearing wall is gauged according to the building type, the number of floors requiring support, the materials used to construct the wall, and any other imposed loads.

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