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Is it safe to remove the top plate in one section of an interior non-load bearing wall between two studs space 16" apart?

The reason I ask is because I need to run some ductwork to my cold air return trunk line, and the trunk line runs directly over and perpendicular to one of the interior walls in my basement. I'd like to run the ductwork between the studs and into the CAR, but the top plate is in the way. Can I remove the top plate?

The only thing above this wall is the HVAC duct, and the HVAC can't possibly be part of the load-bearing structure. So I suspect it's safe to cut it out (heck, I bet I could remove the entire wall if I wanted - it's not in the original blueprints)

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Sure, you can remove portions of a non-load bearing wall provided: 1) it is truly non-load bearing (including no point loads) , 2) the second plate is not used as a splice in the top plate, 3) it’s not a lateral resistance wall (no plywood,etc. on it)

  • Wouldn't an interior non-load bearing wall have a single top plate? What do you mean by "2) the second plate is not used as a splice in the top plate"? – Jim Stewart Dec 1 '18 at 10:38
  • @JimStewart I’m thinking that if the first top plate is not continuous, it could “hinge” at the splice. BTW, I don’t like non-load bearing walls carried up tight to the bottom of the floor joists, because they become bearing walls then. So, a reinforcement at the splice is even more important. – Lee Sam Dec 1 '18 at 16:54
  • I understand points (1) and (2), but not point (3). What is a lateral resistance wall? – rothloup Dec 1 '18 at 17:48
  • Buildings are designed to hold things “up” and to keep them from moving “laterally” (sideways) due to earthquake or high winds. Do you live in an earthquake zone or high wind area? – Lee Sam Dec 1 '18 at 18:51

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