stairwell wall bearing or not?

I'm planning to finish my basement and would like to take one side of the stairwell wall and cut it down to a half-wall to open things up a little. Before I do this, I just want to make sure I'm not removing bearing elements, or if I do, replace their load bearing capacity somehow. I've taken a few pics, linked below.
Pic A
http://img834.imageshack.us/i/15923046.jpg/is just a photo from the basement looking up the stairs. The stairs turn left at the landing and go up another 5 steps. The bottom half of the stairs run parallel with the joists, which are mostly TJI's. The two TJI's i the middle terminate at this cross-member, which is a 2x10. To the side of the TJI's and running directly above the stairwell walls are the two 2x10's (or 2x12's...not sure). They are a little darker in color than the TJI's.
Pic B
http://img838.imageshack.us/i/90207730.jpg/is a look at the stairwell from the basement. The exposed studs there are the ones I want to cut down to make that side of the stairwell a half wall.
Pic C
http://img842.imageshack.us/i/42380765.jpg/is focused on the 2x10 that runs directly above the wall I want to remove. I am pointing to it.
Pic D
http://img547.imageshack.us/i/58100373.jpgis the junction of the 2x10 and the cross member, showing that the cross member is hung from those 2x10's with joist hangers. The cross member appears thicker than a 2x10, but on second thought, it's probably just because it is drywalled on one side.
Pic E
http://img337.imageshack.us/i/52719782.jpg/is looking down the stairs. That rectangular piece at the top of the pic is the part I was saying that someone really tall would bump their head on, and the bottom 10" is formed by the cross member described above.
Pic F
http://img18.imageshack.us/i/98494464.jpg/is another shot of the wall, showing what I want to do. I basically want to make this a half-wall to open up the stairwell into the basement to give it a more open feeling. I just want to make sure when I remove the top half or so of those studs, I'm not removing bearing elements, or if I do, that I properly replace their capacity somehow.
I will probably have a contractor come take a look, but I'd like some thoughts from people here as well
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After looking at your pics, It doesn't seem that either wall is load bearing by the look of the joists and the direction they are traveling. Don't take my word for it though, if your still in doubt, have a structural engineer come in and take a look to make sure. Sorry i can't be any more help, but good luck with your renovation!
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Matt wrote the following:

Does that header with the joist hangers extend beyond the side walls in your 15923046.jpg picture? If it does then the side walls are not bearing. In your last picture (98494464.jpg) what you are not cutting out (the part of the side wall on the top left) will still provide a bearing surface because of that one stud you are not cutting. I would double up that stud just in case. Those other joists not above the wall are not bearing anything either. I would say that it is safe to cut out that portion of the stairway wall.
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Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
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willshak wrote the following:

Sorry, I meant that they are free of any bearing for their span.

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Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
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Generally speaking load bearing walls in homes run perpendicular (90 degrees) to the load bearing elements they are supporting (floor joists, roof rafters)...
The side walls on your staircase appear in your pictures to only be enclosing the staircase and not supporting any loads...
The 2x10's on either side of your staircase as you are pointing to in Pic C are not being supported by those side walls, they are installed to carry the load being transferred onto the 2x10 cross member (shown in Pic A) carrying the cut ends of the two engineered I-beam floor joists which have been cut to allow for the floor opening for the staircase... The 2x10 joists in Pic C are transferring the load of those two I-beam floor joists to the structure which is carrying either end of the other I-beam floor joists in your house...
It would be more important to see what is behind your staircase and confirm that the other end of those 2x10's are running over to the opposite exterior wall of the house or the center carrying beam and are being supported by either the center beam or the sill plate on the other exterior wall... Your contractor will be able to confirm this for you...
Sadly you are stuck with the situation you describe in Pic E without making structural modifications to the house to relocate that cross member closer to the exterior wall (which would mean relocating anything directly above the area you wish to move that cross member to and cutting the engineered I-beam floor joists to create the additional head room in the staircase, then reframing that 2x10 cross member at the new end of the I-beam flooring members) which is much more involved than removing the side walls on the staircase...
Since the staircase side wall is non-bearing you could open it all the way up as opposed to the half-wall idea in Pic F and install a railing with balusters if you wanted opening it up even more...
~~ Evan
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Thank you for your opinions. I will have a building inspector and probably the builder himself in the house over the next few months and plan to ask them, but it is always helpful to have the opinions of other knowledgable people, so thank you.
I took a look at the ceiling of the basement behind the staircase, and took a few pictures as well. The first picture
http://img585.imageshack.us/i/img2465s.jpg shows the staircase where it turns 90 degrees and continues upward. The 2x10 joist that runs directly above the wall I want to remove does NOT run all the way to the center support I-beam of the basement because it is interrupted where the stairs turn 90 degrees. The same goes for the TJI joist that is only a few inches from this 2x10 as well as the next TJI joist over. This is more clearly seen in the next picture here
http://img707.imageshack.us/i/img2466f.jpg/. All joists seem to rest on the wall that supports the portion of the stairs after they turn left. By the next TJI joist over (3 away from the 2x10), this one clears the stairs and goes from sill plate to I- beam and we are back on track.
The other side of the stairwell where there are no stairs turning to the right, as seen in the third picture
http://img87.imageshack.us/i/img2467x.jpg/ , the 2x10 joist does run all the way from the sill plate to the I- beam, so we are good there and all makes sense to me on that side (unfortunately that's not the side I want to remodel).
Lastly, I found this picture from when the house was built, less than a year ago, and it shows all of the floor joists in place along with the center i-beam, before any stairs were added
http://img830.imageshack.us/img830/7527/img1831t.jpg. It seems that the floor joists are supported without any of the wall that I want to remove; however, I'm not sure if this necessarily means it is not load bearing because the rest of the house is not obviously built and the joists are not fully loaded.
Final thoughts anyone?
Thanks yet again
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Ok, so what I stated applies to the one side wall of your stairs on the side opposite the one you want to work on where the 2x10 runs from the sill plate to the center carrying beam...
However, looking at the new pictures you posted, the part of that wall underneath the landing where the stairs turn the corner is supporting the landing and providing structure to support the stair stringers on both sections of the stairs, so much of that can not be removed or modified...
The wall you wish to modify looks like it is supporting some of the load of the 2x10 directly above it, worst case scenario you are looking at putting a steel lally column right in the corner where the 2x10 ends for the stairs where they turn the corner to hold up the free end of that 2x10...
See what looking at something from another angle can do, perspective is important... It would still be a major deal to get more headroom on those stairs...
Good Luck...
~~ Evan
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Thanks Evan. I'm not worried about getting more headroom on the stairs, just removing part of the stairwell wall to make it a half- wall. I had a contractor friend over yesterday and he confirmed that everything is headed off as it should be, and that the only thing that any of the studs along the stairs support is part of the stair landing itself. Since I'm not planning to go that far in my stud removal, he said it would be fine. I also heard back from the builder who confirmed that none of the stairwell walls are load bearing.
I'll probably still have the inspector look at it, and I'll probably throw an extra stud up there to support the 2x10 next to the final stud that I'm not planning to cut at all - just to be extra safe in case everyone in the world is wrong.
But it seems in this case, it's a pretty safe bet that my plans can go forward.
Thanks again everyone.
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A funny thing about 'bearing' walls is that they don't always start out that way. Stiffness attracts load. So that basement stair wall stiffens up the floor joists and prevents deflection so the joist is no longer acting as a beam. I've seen a lot of cowboy construction and you should trace the load path up through the house and take note of what unforgiving surfaces would be affected. If there are tiled surfaces along that load path you should proceed more cautiously.
That basement stair wall doesn't look bearing, but you'd be nuts to rely on anything other than pro eyeballs on site. BTW, you don't _have_ to remove all of that wall. You could keep a post. Or, on the other hand, you could remove all of the wall below the stringer and open up the stair entirely to the basement. Your reasons for removing that wall (access for larger items to get into the basement?, aesthetics?, ennui?) should guide you in how much of it has to go.
R
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None of us can say for sure by just looking at pictures.
My opinion is that the two walls are carrying the load of the two joists that were cut to create the opening. Shortening either wall back to that point and doubling the stud MAY be enough.
Please do not act on that information with an on site inspection by a qualified. person.
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Colbyt
Please come visit http://www.househomerepair.com
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I worked for a builder for ten years. I didn't do framing but did watch the Amish build houses, In the winter they would put down the deck then put up the walls. They would build the stairs then suspend them in the well. When the floor was poured two days later they would let the stairs down & build the walls. So the walls 'SHOULDN'T' be load bearing. When you cut your first stud if your saw gets pinched in the cut you have a load bearing wall. Jerry
http://community.webtv.net/awoodbutcher/MyWoodWorkingPage
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