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adamgram 01-17-2011 06:29 PM

Is this wall bearing?
I have a wall between my kitchen and dining room that I want to take down. I do not believe it is load bearing but not everyone who has seen it agrees with me on that. It is a 2 story row house with a basement and a footprint of about 20'x30'. A picture from a 3D model of the house describing the situation can be found at

As you can see in the picture, the wall is partially under some joists that run parallel to the wall in question (N-S) and then towards the center of the house the direction of the joists above switches, so there are 5 joists above the wall running perpendicular to the wall in question (E-W).

The N-S joists above sit with one end in the back wall (brick) and the other on a single wooden joist that spans the width of the house (about 20'). This happens at 3 points in the structure of the house, twice with the joists supporting the 2nd floor (as shown in the picture), and once with the joists supporting the 1st floor. In the two cases that do not involve the wall that I want to tear down, there is a double beam in the E-W direction that supports the one end of the N-S beams, as opposed to the single beam above the wall in question. The concern is that the reason that they used only one beam is because they had additional support from the wall that I want to take down, although it could also be that the other two cases needed more support because they also support the opening for the steps.

There are additional structural concerns with this wall towards the back of the house shown in the picture, but this has been resolved with additional support. I am curious for any input regarding whether this wall is load bearing. Thanks in advance

oh'mike 01-17-2011 07:05 PM

Couple of questions--Can you post a picture?

What is above the wall?

How old is the building?

What and where are the basement girders or beams?

Odd framing. That's why the questions.---Mike---

Dwoodsmith 01-17-2011 07:19 PM

By the drawing, that is not a bearing wall. What could it hold up, the air between the joists? -Possible exception is that triple alongside the stairs. It is probably bearing on the stair wall though.

adamgram 01-17-2011 07:25 PM

Above the wall is the second floor of the house, with a wall that seperates some rooms on the second floor close to, but not exactly, above the wall in question (about 6" away). The house was built in 1926. The joists in the basement are similar, they switch from N-S to E-W at about the same place (only in the basement it is like the front of the house, where the N-S joists sit on a joist that also supports the opening for the steps). There is a cinderblock wall around the garage portion of the basement that is close to but not exactly (again about 6" below) the wall in question. I will dig through my photos and post some shortly.

adamgram 01-17-2011 07:38 PM

I posted some photos to the photobucket album

If you want any more pictures of specific areas let me know.

adamgram 01-18-2011 02:45 PM

I did a little more research and in the process came up with a few more questions.

I read that load bearing walls will be supported down to the basement by having another load bearing wall or some columns underneath. I have a thick cinderblock wall close to but not directly underneath the wall I want to remove, but it's about 6" away. Also, between the wall I want to remove and the block wall below there are the floor joists that support the 1st floor. If this was designed as a load bearing wall, would the load transfer from the 1st floor to the basement *through* the 1st floor joists, or would it have to be directly above the block wall (not 6" away)?

I read that load bearing walls run perpendicular to the joists above them, and that if the joists stop at the wall it is load bearing. In my case some of the joists are perpendicular, but none stop at the wall. Does this mean the wall is not load bearing or that it only *might* not be? Obviously if a wall supports the end of a joist above it must be load bearing, but can a the load on the joist be shared by the support at the end and an additional support in the middle?

Gary in WA 01-18-2011 03:30 PM

Yes it is load bearing, two point loads supporting the floor framing above. One is the double stud for the joists running parallel to the stairs starting at the top of the stairs to the far wall. These joists are carried by the header joist 16" or so from the top of the stairs and running perpendicular to them. The other point load is above the two studs 2-4" apart with the stair doubler which supports 1/2 of the load of joists running perpendicular to the stair opening. This wall reduces the spans of both header joists, replace with two posts and required footings per code and local B.D. if wall is removed. OR have a Structural Engineer size them for beams.
Yes, a wall above can be offset from the bearing wall below by the distance of the joist thickness-- 2x6 joists = 5-1/2" offset, 2x10 joists = 9-1/4" offset, either way on perpendicular running supports;


WillK 01-18-2011 03:38 PM

Let's put it this way. Where the wall is under joists that go over the wall and are perpindicular to the wall, the wall is reducing the unsuported span of those joists. I don't think that a mid-span support is excluded from being load-bearing merely by virtue of the fact there is support at the ends of the board.

For example, an otherwise undersized rafter can be used where it gets midspan support from a rafter tie and/or a knee wall. If you take either of these away, even though it has support near the ends of the board, the rafter becomes undersized and may be prone to sag.

I think there's enough reasonable doubt that you need to treat it as if it is load bearing until you have a qualified engineer on-site to determine if it is, and how to procede if so.

Daniel Holzman 01-18-2011 04:59 PM

There seems to be confusion about the definition of the words "load bearing". A structural element is by definition load bearing if the structural element supports more load than its own weight.

Therefore, a wall is considered load bearing if it supports ANY load above it. Whether that load comes from joists which end at the wall (and are therefore supported on one end by the wall), or from joists that cross the wall and are therefore supported in the middle by the wall, only affects the total amount of load carried by the wall.

In your case, if the wall supports vertical load from above, and it appears that it does, the wall is load bearing.

The question you probably want the answer to is "What happens if I remove the wall?". The answer is that whatever load the wall is currently carrying will be transferred to other structural elements, and if the other elements are not adequately sized, they are subject to failure, which of course would be bad news.

This house is sufficiently complicated that I would recommend hiring a structural engineer or architect to examine the load path, and determine what structural modifications are required to adequately support the house once the wall is removed.

adamgram 01-18-2011 07:25 PM

Thanks for your help guys, the last two responses especially were very helpful. It sounds like it could definitely be holding some weight, it's just a question of how much and what to do about it. There is one more clue to this that I left out earlier (hoping for the answer of "It's not load bearing" even without knowing this last part, which wasn't the case).

I have uploaded to the link below a photo (with the camera pointed east) of the intersection of the wall I want to remove (below), the last E-W beam (towards and away from the camera), and one of the N-S beams that sit on the E-W beam. As you can see the top plate of the wall I want to remove is actually cut in 2 pieces and notched out to make room for the E-W beam. This leads me to believe 2 things:

#1: Any load on the wall is not distributed past the stud on the right (the only stud visible in the picture), and the load would be supported through a cantilever situation with the notched-out (about 1" thick) portion of the top plate carrying the load. Since this hasn't cracked yet, it must support less than the maximum force that can be held by this situation: a 1"x4" top plate cantilevered over a 2"x4" stud

#2: Since the notch was to make way for the beam, it was not done as part of any renovation but rather by the original builders, who would have done things differently if the wall was meant to hold any weight.

What do you guys think?

Gary in WA 01-18-2011 08:26 PM

Without a S.E. to examine/calculate the loads, it is pointless to go on about it. See how the joists are multiple members at the headroom of the stairs? You need at least that many at the top of the stairs joists, maybe more depends on the loads/walls/roof above. That isn't even mentioning the loads from the joists running with the stairs (top of stairs to wall away from top) hanging on the header joist, which may require a beam or ? to support the loads above. Bite the bullet and ask a S.E. to give him, not us/you the responsibility of safety and the great liability involved. I doubt very much that your H.O Insurance will cover anything from the internet forums, close friends, carpenters, etc. without a paper trail for the liability.


adamgram 01-18-2011 08:33 PM

Gary, I am well aware that the liability is exclusively on me and I do not expect anyone on this forum to be held legally accountable for their advice. I did not imply that anyone would be held legally responsible so I'm not sure what you're getting at. I'm just interested in hearing anyone's opinion who is willing to share it.

WillK 01-18-2011 08:42 PM

The way it looks to me, you originally had a joist that set on the top plate of that wall, for some reason somebody later decided another board needed to be sistered onto that and they sistered a larger board onto it.

You said it yourself, there's an answer you want to hear.

I'd also advise against assuming that a house of this age was built by people that know what they were doing and that what you're seeing is the way that it was built. I don't think you've mentioned the age of your house, but the dimensional lumber and knob and tube suggests it was probably originally constructed at least 80 years ago.

My house was built in 1917. It was originally 22'x22', floor and ceiling joists run north to south, but the eastern end of the house was later expanded another 12' with floor and ceiling joists running east to west. This additon does not have the support of the triple 2x6 beam under the main house, and it's sagging.

The original construction may have been fine if nobody ever did anything to update it, but sometimes updates cause problems not anticipated by the original construction. The insulating of my house without increased ventilation caused moisture problems in the attic which caused rot of 2x4 rafters on 24" spacing - which would widely be considered undersized for anything in modern construction. Might've been fine in its original drafty state, but with the insulationd and accompanying moisture, these rafters were so rotten, when I went to remove them they crumbled in my hands.

I think I see what you're saying, there are joists spanning the outer wall to the stair well that are similar and some are supported mid-span by the wall you want to remove while others of the series of joists are not supported mid-span. You ask if the wall is load bearing, and it seems clear that it is. Peryaps your question ought to be whether the joists are adequate without the load bearing wall, and the fact that you have similar joists without that support suggests PERHAPS it might not be necessary.

But to really answer the question, it depends on the dimensions of the joists, the wood species, the length of the unsupported span. You can find span tables, you can search online, you can get a book on framing at a big box store. If you find this info and there is any confusion, stick with the plan of consulting a structural engineer.

If it's clear that you're more than adequate, then it's your call, but you also need to recognize that nobody wants to be liable for telling you to go for doing something that might or might not okay when we don't have as much information as somebody who is on site and has the experience and training to make the judgements you're asking for.

WillK 01-18-2011 08:56 PM

And one more point... click on my name, look at threads I've started... I've had a lot of questions, some of them haven't gotten answers, but I acknowledge that the answers I get here are just one of many of the approaches in the due diligence needed to figure out what to do in a renovation, and that involving professionals at appropriate intervals is another important step in that due diligence - be that through the inspection of the finished work I get from the permit process or the advice I get from an inspection while I'm planning work.

I'm adding beams in my crawlspace, seems straight forward - what can go wrong, I'm only increasing structure. I consulted a structural engineer and had him draw up plans, which was required for my city's permit process. My cost, if it gives you guidance, was $500 for the structural engineer.

At a minimum, you ought to be asking your city if a permit is required for this, and it likely will be. And a permit will probably require an engineer to be involved.

You also need to remember while, if we take your word you wouldn't hold anyone liable for anything you decide from responses, you can't speak for anybody else who might read your question and our answers and make a potentially bad choice and then look for somebody else to hold responsible.

A structural engineer will also be better able to offer ways of adressing anything that might be needed, maybe even something that can be done that would be hidden by drywall when finished.

adamgram 01-18-2011 09:09 PM

Thanks WillK, that's good advice. The house was built in 1926. I know this because the builder put his signature with the date on the inside of one of the walls, which I thought was awesome. From what I can tell looking at other houses on the block (it's a row house and it's very clear they were all built from the same design), there have not been any additions. The original deck and accompanying canopy (part of the kitchen that stuck out a little further than the rest of the house) was demolished at some point and replaced with a straight wall in the back of the house, but other than that I see no evidence of any exterior alterations.

I see what you are saying about the photo but based on what the picture doesn't show I think those beams haven't been altered. The small one is way too small to support anything on it's own and they couldn't have added the small one later because all the N-S joists are notched out to sit on it. The top plate needed to be notched out because this E-W joist sits lower than the others to minimize the amount of wood that needed to be cut away from the end to allow the N-S beams to sit on it.

I'm leaning towards carefully disassembling it one stud at a time (this is already mostly done) and checking for sagging, then putting in a beam to discourage future sagging. I think it's probably not necessary but worth the effort for the added piece of mind. I don't think I need to add support in the basement.

Again, I'm not looking for anyone to share the liability with me, just looking to share stories about things you've seen in your own houses or other houses you've worked on. Thanks for the input guys.

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