Bringing Down the House, Possibly


Load-bearing or not – that is the question. The studs are toenailed directly to the 3/4″ pine floorboards; there’s no plate, and they don’t sit atop a joist.

Above is the wall between my bedroom and the bathroom – and I must cut a doorway in it in order to move forward on my bathroom. Right now, the way in is what will become a shower wall – so I can’t frame that until there’s another entrance.

If I decide on a 28″-wide door (of which there are already two original ones in the house), I can remove a single stud. Plus, I can then cut the plaster to just those studs, and (hopefully) have a lot less plaster repair when I’m done…possibly none, if I can get clean enough cuts, because the raw edges would we covered by the door frame and it’s fluted moulding.

But that would mean building a door frame from scratch, and finding a matching 6-panel door at a salvage yard.

If I put in the door frame I took out of the former hall doorway to the bath, I can simply use the door I have that I know fits it, and it will match the three other doors/doorways already in the room (to the hall, and to two closets). But to do that I have to take out two studs, and take out plaster all the way to the corner on the other side…which will almost certainly result in some damage to the plaster on the adjoining wall.

What to do…

Either way, I’m planning to put in the same sort of triangular door framing that is on what I know is a load-bearing wall…just in case I’m wrong in thinking this one isn’t. After all, that framing has held up a floor above (and a formerly slate roof) for more than a century.


This doorway is going to be the shower entrance; I’m planning to leave the frame at the top exposed, because it looks cool. (The showerhead will be 50″ to the right and about 3″ below the top of the door opening, plus there’s an exhaust fan already installed; I don’t think moisture will be an issue.)


About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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9 Responses to Bringing Down the House, Possibly

  1. claydeforge says:

    “Cry you mercy, I took you for a joint-stool,” Fool, in King Lear. Take the easiest, and less trod path. For in therefore, you will find the most enchanting.

  2. @TheRainford says:

    What year is the house from? If balloon framed the load bearing studs would go down to the sill with the upper floor hung from the studs. If your house was built at the time things were transitioning from balloon to platform framing might explain some of the framing oddities
    He’s a post I made about Balloon framing you might enjoy

    • fitz says:

      1906. Exterior walls are solid masonry; interior is balloon framed on the one load-bearing wall down the center(ish), and it does have sill plates. This wall has no plates, and nothing except the sub-floor under each stud, which is why I don’t think it’s load bearing. Doesn’t really matter I guess; I’m going to frame out the doorway as if it is…just in case!

    • Not to nit-pick, but picking up on a point from linked article … and maybe Megan might weigh in … a steep learning curve is actually an easy one ie 90%-100% learning in a short length of time. A shallow learning curve should be one that takes much longer to master – steady, incremental gains. 🙂

  3. J.C. says:

    Better safe than… If you go with your first option make sure and have that door in hand before you build your casing.

    • fitz says:

      Decided to reuse the existing frame. Because its former location is now the bare studs, it makes getting perfect frame measurement easy!

  4. pogo930 says:

    Get an oscillating tool like a Fein (my son the contractor uses a HF because it gets “borrowed” a lot) and a diamond tile blade to cut the plaster. Smooth cut with no breakout. He just finished converting a early 20th century storefront into an apartment and currently renovating a Victorian Lady.

    • fitz says:

      yep – that’s what I ended up using. Still had some damage at the corner though, because the lath is now cut short there and attached at only one end. I’m hoping that when I get the door frame in (concurrent with getting the studs out, or course), I’ll be able to salvage what’s left –we shall see!

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