Providing a Stable Foundation
Bathroom walls come in two different assortments: walls that simply divide the interior spaces in your home into partitions (or rooms) dutifully named partition walls and walls that bear the brunt of holding up the entire structure of your home, dubbed bearing walls.
Bearing walls help distribute the weight of upper stories of your home all the way down to the ground providing stability.
It is very important that you identify whether or not the wall that you want to move or change is a bearing wall or simply a partition wall, because removing a bearing wall can weaken your entire house’s construction, making your home unsafe to live in.
So how can you identify a bearing wall? A general rule of thumb is, if your bathroom wall runs perpendicular to the ceiling and floor joists, then it’s more than likely a bearing wall. Joists normally stop on a bearing wall.
And if you follow it down even further you will see that the wall also sits on a beam in the basement of your home. Also joists normally run in the same direction as your roofs ridge line. If your joists end on top of a wall, it is without a doubt a bearing wall.
Assessing the Structural Integrity
One way of checking this is to go up to your attic and confirm if the joists cross over your bathroom wall. Another way to check is to observe whether or not there is a wall directly above or below the one that you want to modify then it is more than likely a bearing wall.
The same applies to your basement; if there is a wall directly above the support beam then it is probably a bearing wall. If after your assessment you are still unsure about your walls structure then get the advice of a professional such as a carpenter, architect or structural engineer.
You should really think before modifying or moving a bearing wall, not only because of safety reasons but also the cost of having to re-balance your homes weight distribution with additional construction may just not be worth the hassle. Remember it is much easier to move a partition wall such as a closet than it is to modify a bearing wall.