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
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
Here is a more detailed description of what I plan / or similar plan to
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
Drywall definitely contributes to fire resistance in the structure.
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.
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.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.