Bearers and Joists: Inspecting the Structural Components of a House

Purchasing a new home can be an almost overwhelming task, and there is so much to learn and consider. Securing the help of an accredited, professional, and experienced house inspector is critical to help you navigate all of the ‘building jargon’ that you are otherwise unfamiliar with.

Bearers and joists are probably right up there when it comes to elements you have NO idea about. When talking with someone with more experience, they’ll rattle off terms like ‘bearers and joists Australian standards’. At the same time, you stand there gobsmacked with no clue what is going on.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Here is everything you need to know about bearers and joists. What they are, why they are important and how learning about them can make all the difference when signing on the dotted line.


That’s why we’re here. We’ll explain everything.

Let’s start with a bearers and joists definition to help you gain a visual before continuing with this article.

bearers adn joists

What are Bearers?

Bearers are construction building blocks designed to carry the load across expansive floor spans. The floor joists (more on that later) will sit positioned above them in the opposite direction (they run in a perpendicular direction). Bearers made of timber or steel are attached to stumps in the ground or the elevated service if you are looking at a multi-storey development or an extension.

A floor system that contains bearers and joists will include several elements. In addition to the stumps listed above, you are also looking at concrete footings, brick piers or timber.

What are Joists?

Laid in the opposite direction to bearers, Joists work in tune with bearers, using them to provide additional support to the structure. Joists join the bearers to give a smooth and safe surface. Once the joists and bearers are joined, the timber or floorboards can be attached to the top.

On a higher storey, joists may not have enough room to span the entire floor. In this case, it is the job of the bearers to carry the load.

Why Are Bearers and Joists Essential to the Structure of Your Home?

The basis of the whole home is the responsibility of the bearers or joists. They are of vital importance, and they must be of sound and safe quality. Your pre-purchase inspection MUST consider these elements. The consequences of having unsafe bearers and joists could potentially be monumental.

Where are Bearers and Joists Found?

Bearers and joists are found throughout the home. They are the skeleton of the structure, and they hold everything together. They must be structurally sound. You will find them on lower storeys, upper storeys (they will form part of the lower floor ceiling), and decking.

What Australian Standards Need to be Checked Carefully When Inspecting or Building?

The QBCC is very clear in setting standards in their standards and tolerances guide, particularly bearers and joists spacing. If the gap between these members and the walls exceeds 3mm and that gap is not packed with load-bearing shims, the structure is considered defective. For the spacing of bearers and joists for decking, QBCC has a technical data sheet that covers recommendations for residential timber decks, verandahs, patios, etc.

Depending on the structure and age of your home, investigation into the placement of bearers and joists could reveal some problematic issues. The safety of you and your loved ones is paramount, so ensure that your building inspector dedicates time to investigate these elements. If you are constructing a home, ensure that you have chosen a reputable builder who understands these requirements. You can search for their QLD building license here.

bearers and joists

What Can Go Wrong?

Your dream home could quickly turn into a nightmare. Sagging floors, trip hazards, unsafe conditions – these are all part and parcel in terms of the consequences of poor craftsmanship.

If a pre-purchase building or construction inspection isn’t thoroughly completed, you are at serious risk. Fixing incorrectly installed bearers and joists is a costly and time-sucking experience that could leave you shaking your head.

It is essential that you, as the potential owner, do your due diligence and understand the elements of the build or building that require attention. Ask your inspector what they know about these elements of buildings to make sure you have the right team surrounding you.

You’re in Safe Hands with Safeguard Inspections

We are situated in Manly West but operate all over the Brisbane region. Our speciality is pre-purchase building and pest inspections. We have over 25 years of experience in the building industry and over 160 five star Google ratings and guarantee quality workmanship at an affordable and reasonable price. You will receive written inspection reports within 24 hours of the inspection that are easy to understand and help guide your project or purchase.