Greetings all! My wife and I recently purchased our first home which is a ~2000 sq ft 2 story colonial plus basement. We'd like to open up the living room by adding a doorway or preferably removing the wall separating the adjacent room. There is an HVAC vent and some outlets that will need to be moved, but the biggest question is how to know if the wall is load bearing? The wall runs down the center of the house on the first floor parallel with the roof center ridge, so I suspect it is holding up the second floor joists and we'll have to get a beam installed.
However there is a wild card bulkhead that runs along the top of the wall which I haven't determined it's purpose. We removed some drywall and pulled out a horizontal ~14" piece of 2x4 to look up inside the wall next to the HVAC vent (see pics). From the way the nails are, it looks like the bulkhead (or at least the boxing for the drywall) was added after the wall was put in, so unsure what the bulkhead is for. I was hoping the bulkhead was holding the 2nd floor as part of a standardized blueprint leaving the homeowner to choose whether they wanted a wall or leave it open (wishful thinking!).
Attached are a few pics to show what I've seen so far. The wire is for an outlet on the opposite side of the wall. Any thoughts why the bulkhead is there?
Thanks in advance!