Load bearing wall vs. shelves

On a load bearing wall that is between kitchen and livingroom, I was thinking of taking off the drywall and making fixed shelving in its place.
I was told I couldnt do this from a friend because it is load bearing and the drywall gives the wall support. Is this a fact? I live in Mass. Dunno of any codes. But Im sure I can make this shelving strong enough or even stronger than any drywall.
Thanks,
Dean
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avid_hiker wrote:

Everyone has an opinion and unfortunately your friend's is wrong. Of course you can strip the wall, build shelves between and have a wall at least as strong as one with drywall. It's rare that a house in a non-hurricane or seismic area has shear walls on the interior - and even if they were, they wouldn't use drywall for the shear strength. Poke a couple of holes and find out before you start ripping off the drywall.
BTW, make sure you address the electrical and possibly other mechanicals in that wall. You can't leave the typical plastic covered Romex wiring exposed so you'd have to either cover it with something like Wiremold, rewire it with conduit or relocate the wiring.
R
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avid_hiker wrote:

As rico says, you can certainly do so. Drywall does add lateral support to minimize buckling so a covered wall is certainly stiffer than an open, unbraced wall. An open wall w/o any facing would most likely show some effects over time and in an area w/ either seismic or high wind concerns be a potential weak point under lateral stress.
I'd say how much of a problem you have depends in large part on what you intend in the end and how long (and how tall) a wall section you're talking about removing the drywall from. If you simply place very short shelves between existing studs, you could get by w/ only a relatively short section on the ends w/ solid bracing as an end point and use solid blocking in between at three or so levels and most likely be adequate for a relatively short section of wall.
Once you start removing studs to get a longer shelf span, then you'll need additional headers and support to transfer the load to the fewer remaining studs or stud replacements. The longer the shelves, the more of an issue, obviously. Same thing w/ the height of the wall as well as it's length.
So in summary, while I'm sure it can be done, would need far more information than is available here to have any real suggestions as to precisely how to accomplish an (incompletely described as well) objective...
If it were a really large area and an extensive span contemplated, it might well be worth getting a professional opinion on the structural details necessary to retain integrity. If it's 3 to 4 ft long, w/ a couple of feet of wall remaining at either end and an standard 8' ceiling, something on the order of a 2x6 double header and a doubled end stud would undoubtedly suffice.
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Here is a more detailed description of what I plan / or similar plan to do:
I plan to take the drywall out on both sides of wall ( maybe 4-5 stud lengths, therefore adding more light to both sides in the kitchen and livingroom. I will keep the existing studs in place, build a support latterally in between studs ( fixed, not floating ), and boxed shelving in betwwen all, then dress it up on the outside of course with edging. This shelving will basically be used for DVD's and books storage, maybe candles on display.. No heavy articles.
On the kitchen side, next to the shelving that was hereby made, I was going to take out some drywall leaving the livingroom side drywall intact, maybe 2-3 stud lengths, and create more storage for canned items. I was planning to add seperate cubbard doors to all levels made.
Thanks again,
Dean
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avid_hiker wrote:

Replace the drywall with finished plywood where you'll need backs for the shelving. That'll address any strength concerns.
My first choice would be to cut out those studs, install a header and build plywood cabinets that wouldn't have the studs taking up space and forcing the design. It would probably be only a little more work and the cabinets/shelves would be easier to deal with.
R
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Might want to check with the local code people. Removing the drywall will decrease the fire resistance of the wall. Its a load bearing wall so there may be additional requirements. Adding a header as suggested above and covering it with drywall would handle the fire code issues and give you much more flexibility with the cabinets and shelves.
RicodJour wrote:

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Sometimes drywall (or equivalent) is required by local code for fire protection but I've never heard of it being factored into load bearing calculations.
--

Larry Wasserman Baltimore, Maryland
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Im a litty wary of taking out the studs and installing a header. Reason being there is already a 6-7 foot opening between livingroom and kitchen area and right next to where I want to install this wall shelving. So if I did put a header in basically there would be 2 openings approximatly 12 feet total. I dont believe this is a possibility. Am I correct in assuming this?
Thanks again for all the responses
Dean
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avid_hiker wrote:

Definitely more complicated. You could have a post between the two headers, but the point load might be too much for the beam/support below. Your original plan requires no engineering.
R
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avid_hiker wrote:

...
This raises the point I made earlier--the difficulty is in the details! I'll reiterate--you _could_ make a second opening and have a header/beam to support the load _IF_ (the proverbial "big if") it were sized appropriately and had adequate supporting columns and there were adequate lateral bracing either added or left in place. Just what would be "adequate" is dependent on factors no one here can even begin to tell w/o much more information on the house design and construction than is possible over the ng.
I agree w/ whoever noted that the sheetrock isn't accounted for specifically in load calculations, but will note it definitely is a significant factor in normal residential construction in holding studs in place preventing bowing and so on of what is normally pretty minimal-grade material, particularly if the house is relatively new.
That said, if you leave a 3-4 ft section or add some additional structure on the ends of the new opening to stiffen them up and include some method of replacing the existing lateral restraint on the existing studs, it is relatively certain you would, as you suggested, have a structural element as strong, as far as the load bearing portion goes, as the existing wall.
If you were to remove only a single stud in between two existing studs so you had one or two 32" opening(s) in place of 16" all the way, the span overhead would be relatively short and a short header to a jack stud added in the opening would again almost certainly be sufficient. That is essentially the same as framing in a window or a door on the same wall. Again, you would need to ensure enough stiffness to prevent the remaining studs from bowing as an unsupported 8-ft tubafore is fairly flexible to side loading and might well want to move some w/o the previous drywall to help. The issue isn't that the studs lack adequate load-bearing strength in pure axial compression, the point is you need to keep them vertical because they don't have much bending resistance. The drywall, while not actually part of the load-bearing calculation, serves that purpose and if it weren't there, the design would almost certainly require more blocking/bracing than otherwise exists.
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dpb wrote:

Drywall holding studs in place preventing bowing? I don't think so. Drywall provides a minimal bit of energy absorption in seismic zones, but it is trivially stiff compared to a stud in terms of "holding in place". It isn't considered in design because its benefits are not predictable and not particularly significant.
Drywall definitely contributes to fire resistance in the structure.
Mike
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Michael Daly wrote:

Drywall is not figured into the shear calculations, but it certainly has an effect in keeping the studs from bowing/twisting/etc. as dpb noted. If you've ever framed a wall and not sheathed it for some period of time you'll note the extra effort involved in tweaking the middle of the studs back onto the correct OC measurement. Cardboard glued to the studs would have the same effect.
R
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Code does require that at least sheetrock span across the studs of a bearing wall, to be sure, as it protects the wood from fire and also does serve to strengthen the wall significantly. The heavy vertical loads are well supported by studs, but lesser lateral stress loads are not, so sheetrock serves the purpose. But, there are all sorts of ways to build, and plenty of acceptable alternatives to stud construction exist. If you simply expose the studs, and place shelving between them, make sure the shelves also serve as structural blocks that effectively spread the roof or second story load across the studs. Keep in mind that the exposed studs are also more exposed to fire, so you may want to layer sheetrock on each stud individually, texture and paint for a decorative and fire resistant effect. Today, a lot of people like open floor plans, to have a pass through or open wall area between the kitchen and living room. If you want to do this, then you'll need to nail in a header, a large timber appropriately sized to carry the load above and properly held by a suitably sized posts at either end. This would replace the stud type bearing wall altogether with post and beam construction. If you do any major structural changes, it's important make sure your work meets local code requirements or better. There's nothing worse than the appearance of sagging beams, or a house that can easily collapse during a wind storm, earthquake, fire, flood, etc.
avid_hiker wrote:

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Or just paint the studs with this goop.
http://www.flameseal.com/wooddesc.html
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