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I need to cut a hole for a recessed medicine cabinet. This wall is at the end of the house. I only need to cut one stud to make a frame for the cabinet. Will this damage the integrity of the bearing wall?

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    The stud bears the load from above. If you cut the stud, then yes you compromise the bearing. Medicine cabinets installed after the fact would, in my experience, be side-nailed into trimmers added to the studs and/or a sill added below. Unfortunately, this means you don't really get to choose where the cabinet goes and it may not be center above any cabinet work. – bishop Nov 4 at 6:37
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    "End of the house" - is the an exterior wall? If so, is it insulated? You should not leave a gap in vapor barrier or remove insulation. – Anthony X Nov 4 at 15:16
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    Do you really need to cut the hole, or could you frame out something in front of the existing wall into which you could recess the cabinet? – Monty Harder Nov 4 at 18:14
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    @AnthonyX Makes a critical point - if this is an exterior wall then you will be putting your cabinet where your insulation should go. If you get winter where you are, your medicine cabinet will turn into a refrigerator. You don't want that. – J... Nov 4 at 18:17
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    "One stud won't make a difference." Better hope nobody else thought that before... – BlokeDownThePub Nov 4 at 21:51
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The opening you want to create has to be framed like a window as shown*.

enter image description here

Notice the addition of a header to carry the load of the cut stud (cripple stud) to the sides, and the added jack studs which support the header. Because you're only supporting a light weight cabinet rather than a window, you probably don't need the double sill (single will do).

As pointed out in the comments, you can't simply cut a load bearing stud without any issues. Some sort of temporary support must be put in place to carry the load before you cut into existing structure and not removed until the new structure is in place.

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    No sill is really needed unless the cabinet would benefit from fastening to it. – isherwood Nov 4 at 15:53
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    Also, the wall should probably be supported during the work until the new header is in place. Otherwise the top plate will bow under the load and the top cripple will end up cut to fit the already sagging top plate, which is not ideal. This is particularly the case if OP decides to do this work in the middle of winter with 100 tons of snow on the roof. – J... Nov 4 at 18:10
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    Given that the space is so tight the OP wants to put in a recessed cabinet, the likelihood of having the space to prop up the house is extremely low, unless they plan to do major remodeling and basically remove the wall, prop up the support beam, reinforce the recessed cabinet area, and then proceed with fixing up the wall and then putting up the cabinet. In short... this is major work if you have space, and the lack of space just makes it even harder. – Nelson Nov 5 at 3:20
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    @Nelson The usual way to do this is to strip the ceiling to the joists/rafters above and to install a temporary jackpost a few feet from the wall (into the room) with a short beam that supports the rafters or joists while the wall work is being done. It is a big job and it's not worth risking doing it wrong. – J... Nov 5 at 15:14
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    I'm just trying to emphasize that replacing a stud is a major undertaking. The graphic betrays just how much work it is. You can't actually put in the header without propping up the house and removing the stud first. Heaven forbid someone cuts a stud and just nails some pieces of wood together like the picture and think that's fine... – Nelson Nov 5 at 16:00
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It is absolutely UNSAFE! - this will damage the structural integrity of the wall! The load in a load-bearing stud wall is carried by the studs.

Your options are:

  • Surface mount the cabinet
  • Flush mount the cabinet between studs
  • Cut the stud and insert a beam to carry the load from the stud to the two studs either side. You will need to reinforce each side stud with a trimmer stud to support the additional load.

For the latter, you will need to consult someone who knows the codes in your area.

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    To be clear, the two adjacent studs should not carry the load of a new header. Trimmer studs added next to them should. – isherwood Nov 4 at 14:08
  • Also, option #3 should start with "Support the ceiling with a temporary post/beam - then cut the stud". – J... Nov 7 at 13:29
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Can I safely remove one stud from a load bearing wall?

Yes, but you need to properly support the gap with a header. If you aren't willing to do this then don't remove the stud, period.

Will this damage the integrity of the bearing wall?

Without a header you are technically compromising the integrity of whatever the wall is holding up.

At best the floor will sag, you will see new cracks in your wall every year, and your medicine cabinet will be slowly crushed by the partial studs which I assume you plan to leave above and below the medicine cabinet.

At worst, someone could die when top plate fails completely and you'll have a gaping hole in your heart, home, and wallet.


Look at the image below, see how one floor joist ends and the other one starts? Well if you remove a stud then the only thing supporting your floor would be those lateral boards (top plate) which are oriented in their weakest position.

enter image description here

Red circle added to image from https://images.app.goo.gl/QWGrkMo3WAhtNVR4A

With a properly spec'd beam you could remove all of the load bearing studs in your house but that could get expensive.

  • Also of note in that picture are the doubled studs on the sides of the door frame. And how the extra studs (on each side) connect to the hearder. A comment to another answer says they are called "trimmer studs". Annother term for them is "jack stud" hometips.com/how-it-works/jack-studs.html – Fizz Nov 6 at 5:57
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Just a note that shoring the ceiling while you make the wall/stud modifications is non-trivial business in itself. From Litchfield's Renovation, you have a couple of options, using screw jacks or even an entire temporary stud wall, parallel to the one you're hacking. The latter is probably overkill for what you're doing, so I'm only illustrating the screw jack method:

enter image description here

You may end up having to repaint the ceiling and/or even fix its drywall due to the potential damage to the ceiling finish from the jacks.

Litchfield also discusses the tradeoff between solid (and structurally overengineered) headers, which have the downside of worse thermal insulation and sandwich alternatives, which are a bit more difficult to size/calculate. It usually matters only if it's an exterior wall.

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The responses have been superb so far, however just to complete the breadth of understanding you should have prior to putting large openings into timber load bearing stud walls:

Indeed, bearing is one key issue to be aware of when removing studs. The suggestions for overcoming these in other comments are adequate, and following this should result in success. (There are some situations where you may not need to do anything at all to the wall - if you consider that the joists or trusses bearing onto the header plate are: on or outside the adjacent studs. Of course, this depends on the spacing of the studs and joists).

There are, at least two further issues worth bearing (excuse the pun) in mind. The first is racking. Timber frame structures typically deduce their global lateral stability from the ability of the timber panels to resist lateral movements through transfer of shear to the floor below / ground slab / foundations. The inclusion of additional openings in racking walls will impair the walls capacity to resist longitudinal loads (that is, loads in the directory of the panel).

The second, was brought to mind by you explaining that this is an end wall. I can't quite tell if you mean this is an external wall. If your building has an external masonry cladding then you will find that that cavity wall ties are nailed or screwed through the external boarding into the vertical studs. As you can imagine, this isn't a particularly great thing to remove if your masonry is being laterally supported by it. (Not impossible to overcome but this would have to be a very important (and expensive) cabinet!)

Second point (part 2), if this is an external wall. It's likely (not guaranteed) that your insulation will be within the depth of the timber panel, between studs. You may need to remove it to install your cabinet. I don't suggest this is a good idea from an environmental point of view. This may lead to an accumulation of condensation and subsequently mould on the inside of your building.

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