Start with the outside of the house. Although every outside wall is not guaranteed to be load-bearing, at least a few of them will be in most cases. Pay attention to the outer walls that are supporting the heaviest parts of the roof.
Check downstairs in the area of the wall for another wall or beam that is either right below the wall or parallel to the wall. When a wall is built on top of other walls or beams, this could mean it's load-bearing. Interior walls that are going in a perpendicular direction in relation to the floor joists are also likely candidates for being load-bearing.
Find concrete footers, thick slabs and any poles or columns in the basement. There is a good chance that they will be supporting a nearby load-bearing wall.
Hire a professional structural engineer to inspect the wall before making significant changes to its structure. The fee will be lower if you have the plaster or drywall pre-stripped. This professional will be able to tell you definitively if the wall is load-bearing.
- Finding out on your own whether or not a wall is load-bearing can be very tricky. There are exceptions to all the rules, depending on the structure of your home. Even if you do some inspection yourself, getting advice from a structural engineer is highly recommended.