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I’m trying to determine if a column in my house is load bearing. It’s at the corner of 2 pony walls and if it isn’t we might take out the column and the pony wall. There’s an extension of the 2nd floor hall above it, and it looks like directly above it is the doorway to the room above. This seems like it would make it load bearing. enter image description here

A contractor cut a hole in the column and it’s hollow, although it has stacked 2x4 in it. 2 contractors have said that since it’s hollow it’s not load bearing, but I’m skeptical. enter image description here

I was able to get the relevant part of the blueprint. Looking at the foundation plan, it looks like there’s a concrete footing under it in that spot. enter image description here enter image description here

Any insight appreciated, and I know this doesn’t replace a structural engineering reviewing it. Thanks in advance.

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    It does look weak, but they do not use footings for the fun of it. Footings are a very good sign it is load bearing, so you will need a structural engineer to okay the removal/design of extra supports. It looks very close to where load bearing wall/beam would be.
    – crip659
    Oct 9, 2023 at 23:32
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    If there's a concrete footing, I'd bet the mortgage (if I had one) that it's load bearing.
    – Huesmann
    Oct 10, 2023 at 12:54
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    Fantastic question, well explained and with good pictures! Welcome to the stack!
    – Conrado
    Oct 10, 2023 at 14:59
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    I'd be careful with the two contractors who gave a definite (and possibly dangerous) answer without consulting an engineer. That's a textbook location for load-bearing support, even if it doesn't look as expected.
    – Tim M.
    Oct 11, 2023 at 17:10
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    You can't always trust contractors, I had them pull all kinds of stuff trying to get out of building things the way I designed them. I specified double 2x12 as a beam to support an upper deck and the contractor put in a double 2x4 then tried to convince me to decrease the required size. He ended up having to turn it into a flitch beam by bolting a steel plate on both sides of the 2x4s. Some contractors know nothing about structural design. Oct 11, 2023 at 23:03

3 Answers 3

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We can never be certain from pictures but I'm going to stick my neck out a bit and say "yes", it is load bearing.

Given the open design of both the lower and upper floors, it would be surprising if the architect or builder placed a non-structural column in that location.

Furthermore, if that is not load-bearing, the design of the framing above it would have to be an expensive feat of engineering, and it would be equally surprising if the builder invested the money and effort in that and then placed a decorative column (that is not particularly decorative) underneath it.

Regarding the construction of the column, there's no reason why about 8 (hard to see) 2x4s couldn't be used there to provide the right amount of support that is part of the design.

Since you'll have to replaster and paint the wall that was cut open, why don't you cut similar holes at the top and bottom? If the 2x4s, arranged in a large square, are all supporting something above, it will be fairly clear to see. OTOH if they are only there to support the drywall that is on them, what you'll see is that the 2x4s, at least some of them, are being supported at the top by whatever is there. That is very unlikely.

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    Putting that another way,..... If it were not needed, then not having the column would leave more open space which is normnally desirable and makes the room feel even bigger. Architects would generally not add columns unless required.
    – Criggie
    Oct 11, 2023 at 8:48
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    My feeling is that the concrete footing is conclusive. It made the build cost extra and wouldn't be there if there wasn't a heavy load on the pillar.
    – nigel222
    Oct 11, 2023 at 11:22
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    The footing is strong evidence. The only conclusive thing would be a close inspection of the framing above. But I think we all agree that OP should park the sledgehammer.
    – jay613
    Oct 11, 2023 at 13:19
  • One of the very few times an answer to "is this load bearing" is even legitimate here. Well done. +1
    – FreeMan
    Oct 12, 2023 at 14:16
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Semi-retired structural engineer here (but caveat emptor anyway)

The column is almost definitely load-bearing (though to my eyes it looks pretty flimsy even if it has stood the test of time). The loads that it is carrying are from half the span of the floor (incl. dead and imposed loads) over the NOOK area, the dead load from the wall on top (incl. possibly some roof loads - hard to say from the information supplied) and the self-weight of the beam that I presume is spanning over the opening.

The length of the span of the opening between the FAMILY room and the NOOK seems to be 13' 2" and the location of the column is designed to reduce this span thus reducing deflection of the supposed beam.

If you really needed to remove the column, it would be possible to introduce, for example, a steel structure in the form of a goal post to frame the opening but this is a rather large undertaking and might not be aesthetically acceptable.

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You would be surprised to discover how much load a hollow rod can bear.

In general, even if the load on something is compressive, something under load will break under tension in the central part, not under compression.

That's the reason we build car frames with metal and not with stone: stone has poor tensile strength. You can build columns with stones, but it is difficult to build them higher than a certain size: the column will open up due to its own weight. Wood is not that bad, because it has a quite good tensile resistance (think of the ships' masts).

That's why metal chairs have hollow metal legs. Wooden chairs have solid wooden legs because they are cheaper to do so, but then they have also the side stretchers (the horizontal beams) to counteract the tensile forces arising from the load spreading open the four legs. If instead of wood you use bamboo, it will resemble metal usage.

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    Wooden chairs have solid wood legs just because they're way easier (and thus cheaper) to make than hollow wooden legs. But bamboo does exist and isn't particularly weak.
    – TooTea
    Oct 12, 2023 at 10:33
  • @TooTea thanks for the comment, I included it in the answer. Contrary to common knowledge, bamboo should not be categorized as wood, but a grass.
    – EarlGrey
    Oct 12, 2023 at 10:42
  • @EarlGrey I mean, I guess it does kind of grow like grass...
    – Michael
    Oct 12, 2023 at 17:17
  • Any column or rod that is subject to compression loading tends to buckle when it fails. See skyciv.com/education/the-importance-of-a-buckling-analysis
    – Solar Mike
    Oct 13, 2023 at 11:29
  • @SolarMike I do not disagree, I tend of thinking of columns under loading as first bulging, then if withstanding the excess stress and not opening in tensile mode, they will fail in buckling. See this publication: arxiv.org/pdf/2101.11142.pdf page 6 and 7 (the pictures and a bit of the accompanying text ;) )
    – EarlGrey
    Oct 13, 2023 at 12:40

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