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slatter9 07-26-2008 11:01 PM

Hardwood Continues under Wall? HELP!
Hello All -

Thanks for your help in advance.

I was wondering...

My home has hardwood flooring underneath the carpet (built in 1940) but I want to take down some walls to open up the space. In general, would you say that under the existing walls that hardwood is there or does it go around the walls?

Will I be opening up a can of worms taking down the walls or can I blast em down and get to sanding?

Thanks Again!

Nestor_Kelebay 07-26-2008 11:27 PM


The hardwood should NOT go under your walls.

Here's how they typically build a house:

In the Beginning, there were floor joists.

Then they installed the subfloor over the floor joists. The subfloor can be T&G plywood or 1X6 boards nailed down across the joists (either perpendicular or at a 45 degree angle to the joists).

Then, they build the interior and exterior walls over top of the subfloor.

Then, they install thin plywood "underlayment" in each "room".

Then, they do everything else, including the plumbing, electrical, drywalling and painting.

Then, they install the flooring in each room over the underlayment.

They would NOT have used hardwood as the subflooring. Your hardwood shouldn't extend under your walls into the next room. Each hardwood board should stop at every wall in your house.

So, if you have hardwood on one side of a wall, and linoleum on the other, there will be a height difference somewhere because the subfloor under both of them will be at the same elevation.

In my building, they did NOT put underlayment under the hardwood in the living rooms. They installed the hardwood directly over the 1X6 fir lumber subfloor. They installed underlayment every where else except the living rooms (which have hardwood floors).

So, if you take out a wall, have a game plan as to how you're going to deal with the difference in floor height.

Another thing you can do to confirm there is a difference in the floor height is to measure a certain distance up from the floor on both sides of a wall (where there's a flooring change across that wall). now, take a piece of vinyl tubing and fill it with water. Place the tubing so that the meniscus of the water is level with the mark on one side of the wall. The meniscus at the other end of the tubing will be at the exact same elevation. If that elevation doesn't jive with the mark on the other side of the wall, there's a difference in floor elevation.

slatter9 07-27-2008 06:03 AM

Nestor -
Thanks so much for your reply - it makes total sense -

One more thing though - I know that on teach side of the wall there is hardwood (not linoleum, etc) but based on what you have said, once the wall comes down, there will be an uneven strip of nothing where the wall once was -

Even filling it in with hardwood would look silly since it is a small area and the boards would not be staggered - how do you fill in so it looks normal again?

Thanks again for your help

Bud Cline 07-27-2008 06:33 AM

You can not just remove walls willy nilly, I assume you are aware of this. Some walls are load-bearing.:)

Nestor_Kelebay 07-27-2008 12:37 PM


Originally Posted by slatter9 (Post 143392)
based on what you have said, once the wall comes down, there will be an uneven strip of nothing where the wall once was -- how do you fill in so it looks normal again?

I think in a situation like that, the best you could do would be to put very short hardwood pieces in, and hope for the best. It's either that or replace the hardwood in both rooms. Or, don't take the wall out in the first place.

What you're doing is something that wasn't anticipated when the house was built, and so no provision was made for what the floor would look like if that particular wall were removed.

The way to tell if a wall is load bearing is to look at the joists above it. If you have separate joists on each side of the wall that either tie into a beam above the wall or overlap for about 2 feet on each side of the wall, then it's that wall that's holding up the beam or ends of those joists. In that case, it's a load bearing wall. If the joists pass over the wall and keep on going to the exterior walls (or other support), then the wall is not load bearing. The reason why is that the span tables used in sizing joists DO NOT account for supports along the length of the joist. They only presume the ends of the joists are supported. Consequently, your joists would have been sized presuming they were supported only at their ends, and any walls built between those ends would not have been relied on to support any weight.

Nestor_Kelebay 07-27-2008 10:01 PM

CAN... remove the wall and replace it with a stained wooden railing that has posts every 8 feet or so that are attached to the same place as the top of the wall was (so that the wooden railing is strong and not easily kicked over by a drunken house guest (or whatever)). That way, you could open up the space completely without having the floor look odd where the wall was?

And, you could patch the 3/4 inch of plaster missing from the ceiling with two strips of 3/8 inch drywall.

Bud Cline 07-27-2008 10:30 PM


If the joists pass over the wall and keep on going to the exterior walls (or other support), then the wall is not load bearing.

Maintenance 6 07-28-2008 07:53 AM

Agreed. I have some long continuous 2x8 joists in my house that are supported by a wall in the center. Removing that wall would cause them to be overspan. To the OP, most times the ends of the hardwood were not cut particularly square or even. The original installers were aware that the ends would be hidden under the baseboard, so they didn't waste time squaring up the hidden ends.

slatter9 07-28-2008 09:34 AM

Thanks for your help everyone -

I understand clearly now!!!

I think I will prob hire out the wall removal and replaceing the hardwood under the wall -

I can sand and finish them myself!

Termite 07-28-2008 09:54 AM

Replacing that hardwood is not difficult if you are capable of sanding and finishing, which you say you are!

The thing to do is to install the new pieces so they're staggered into the floor. To get them staggered so the new blends with the old, you have to remove varying lengths of existing floor. This involves some saw kerfs lengthwise in the boards you're removing, and some detailed chisel work. New pieces of hardwood can be inserted and face nailed to the floor sheathing. You will have to rip the tongues off of some of the pieces to get them to fit in between the existing harwood. A little putty in the holes, sand, and finish and you're good to go.

angus242 07-28-2008 10:35 AM

KC said what I was going to. :yes:

I did work on a house that we removed a wall and did exactly that. It didn't match perfectly but it was acceptable. Also, in the same house, there was one wall that was built on top of the hardwood :eek:. Looks like maybe a late-in-the-game change order when it was being built?????

Maybe hire a structural engineer to have a look at what you want to do. If he says it's OK to tear down with out further support, then you're good to go!

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