This is a common question, and one that begs you to ask more questions.
To answer these questions you may need to pop your head up in the attic or take a quick look in the crawlspace.
Does the wall run perpendicular to floor joists, ceiling joists or roof rafters?
Climb into the attic and locate the ceiling joists. If they run perpendicular to your wall and rest on top of it you have a bearing wall. You can also look at your roof–Whichever direction the water falls will match the orientation of the roof framing. If you have a complicated roof system this trick will be less helpful.
Does the wall run long-ways down the center of your house?
It is common for walls that run down the center of a house to be load bearing. Especially in smaller, more simple homes two joists anchored at either exterior wall span across the living area to meet at the center where they rest atop a bearing wall.
Is there a wall directly above and/or below it?
Check upstairs and/or downstairs. If there is another wall directly above or below this wall It is most likely load bearing. Be careful–sometimes an opening with a beam carries load. If you’re not looking carefully you might assume a wall above an opening with a beam is non-bearing.
Does the wall have direct bearing over a piling, pier, post or column?
All of these are means of connecting the foundation to the framing members to support the home. If there is a foundation piling, crawlspace pier, basement post, or even a finished column in the living area directly below the wall, it is likely load bearing.
**If YES, you likely have a load bearing wall.
**If NO, you still might have a load bearing wall–contact a professional.before tearing it down.
These four questions can apply to bearing walls in most structures. They will help with early design ideas and renovation dreams, but they do not always apply to every home. Consult an inspector, engineer, builder or architect to be certain before removing any walls in your home.
Many modern homes are build with truss systems, as opposed to roof rafters and ceiling joists. A home built with manufactured truss systems and engineered beams will be much stronger. Rafter and joist homes are said to be “stick built,” which may inadvertently imply weakness. Trusses can span longer distances safely and require fewer interior bearing walls for structural integrity. Take this into consideration when planning your renovation.