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Before the advent of frame construction during the nineteenth century, most walls were of a
load-bearing type. Since the late 1800s, however, the nonload-bearing wall has become
quite common because other members of the structural frame can be used to provide
stability. As a result, today we have walls that serve all sorts of purposes, such as retaining
walls, basement walls, partition walls, fire walls, and so on. These walls may or may not be
of a load-bearing type.
In this chapter, the following kinds of concrete walls will be considered: nonloadbearing,
load-bearing, and shear walls (the latter being either load-bearing or nonload-bearing).

NonLoad-Bearing Walls
Nonload-bearing walls are those that support only their own weight and perhaps some
lateral loads. Falling into this class are retaining walls, facade-type walls, and some
basement walls.
For Nonload-bearing walls, the ACI Code provides several specific limitations, which are
listed at the end of this paragraph. The values given for minimum reinforcing quantities and
wall thicknesses do not have to be met if lesser values can be proved satisfactory by
structural analysis (14.2.7). The numbers given in parentheses are ACI section numbers.
1. The thickness of a Nonload-bearing wall cannot be less than 4 in. or 1
30 times the least
distance between members that provide lateral support (14.6.1).
2. The minimum amount of vertical reinforcement as a percentage of gross concrete area
is 0.0012 for deformed bars #5 or smaller with fy = at least 60,000 psi, 0.0015 for other
deformed bars, and 0.0012 for plain or deformed welded wire fabric not larger than
W31 or D31that is, 58
in. in diameter (14.3.2).
3. The vertical reinforcement does not have to be enclosed by ties unless the percentage
of vertical reinforcing is greater than 0.01 times the gross concrete area or where the
vertical reinforcing is not required as compression reinforcing (14.3.6).
4. The minimum amount of horizontal reinforcing as a percentage of gross concrete area is
0.0020 for deformed bars #5 or smaller with fy 60,000 psi, 0.0025 for other deformed
bars, and 0.0020 for plain or deformed welded wire fabric not larger than W31 or D31
5. The spacing of vertical and horizontal reinforcement may not exceed three times the
wall thickness, or 18 in. (14.3.5).
6. Reinforcing for walls more than 10 in. thick (not including basement walls) must be
placed in two layers as follows: one layer containing from one-half to two-thirds of the
total reinforcing placed in the exterior surface not less than 2 in. nor more than one-third
times the wall thickness from the exterior surface; the other layer placed not less than

in. nor more than one-third times the wall thickness from the interior surface (14.3.4).
7. For walls less than 10 in. thick, the code does not specify two layers of steel, but to
control shrinkage, it is probably a good practice to put one layer on the face of walls
exposed to view and one on the nonstressed side of foundation walls 10 ft or more in
8. In addition to the reinforcing specified in the preceding paragraphs, at least two #5 bars
in walls having two layers of reinforcement in both directions, and one #5 bar in walls

having a single layer of reinforcement in both directions, must be provided around all
window, door, and similar-sized openings. These bars must be anchored to develop fy
in tension at the corners of the openings (14.3.7).
9. For cast-in-place walls, the area of reinforcing across the interface between a wall and
a footing must be no less than the minimum vertical wall reinforcing given in 14.3.2
10. For precast, nonprestressed walls, the reinforcement must be designed in accordance
with the preceding requirements on this list, as well as the requirements of Chapter 10
or 14 of the code, except that the area of the horizontal and vertical reinforcing must
not be less than 0.001 times the gross cross-sectional area of the wall. In addition, the
spacing of the reinforcing may not be greater than five times the wall thickness or 30 in.
for interior walls, or 18 in. for exterior ones (16.4.2).

Load-Bearing Concrete WallsEmpirical

Design Method

Most of the concrete walls in buildings are load-bearing walls that support not only vertical
loads but also some lateral moments. As a result of their considerable in-plane stiffnesses,
are quite important in resisting wind and earthquake forces.
Load-bearing walls with solid rectangular cross sections may be designed as were
columns subject to axial load and bending, or they may be designed by an empirical method
given in Section 14.5 of the code. The empirical method may be used only if the resultant of
all the factored loads falls within the middle third of the wall (i.e., the eccentricity must be
equal to or less than one-sixth the thickness of the wall). Whichever of the two methods is
used, the design must meet the minimum requirements given in the preceding section of
chapter for nonload-bearing walls.
This section is devoted to the empirical design method, which is applicable to relatively
short vertical walls with approximately concentric loads. The code (14.5.2) provides
an empirical formula for calculating the design axial load strength of solid rectangular
walls with e less than one-sixth of wall thicknesses. Should walls have nonrectangular
cross sections (such as ribbed wall panels) and/or should e be greater than one-sixth of wall
thicknesses, the rational design procedure for columns subject to axial load and bending
(Section 14.4) must be followed.
The practical use of the empirical wall formula, which is given at the end of this paragraph,
is for relatively short walls with small moments. When lateral loads are involved,
e will quickly exceed one-sixth of wall thicknesses. The number 0.55 in the equation is an
eccentricity factor that causes the equation to yield a strength approximately equal to that