I was making a model of a house to help design a renovation and in my measuring I discovered that the center load bearing wall on the first floor was not centered over the load bearing beam and columns in the basement below by a difference of about 8". The cross section shown below is to scale and is the entire house; it's a 20' x 40' rectangle in plan. First floor joists are 2x8's and ceiling joists are 2x6's. Upper space is finished and is an occupied bedroom. It’s in the state of Wisconsin, USA. House was built in 1930, every framing member is douglas fir.

I found this to be so strange. Is there any reason to do this other than lending asymmetry to the floor plan? Is this legit? This seems like an unstable arrangement in the long term.enter image description here

  • Where is the house? So we know what building code applies.
    – user68386
    Nov 29, 2019 at 0:35
  • It’s in Wisconsin, USA
    – paul
    Nov 29, 2019 at 2:06
  • 1
    I wonder if, when the house was built, it was not intended for the attic space to be finished. If the attic were empty then that first floor bearing wall would be carrying only the weight of the first floor ceiling.
    – Greg Hill
    Nov 29, 2019 at 3:24
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    Do you see any signs of instability (e.g. cracks, bowing of posts, sagging joists, etc.)? I would think that if it was an "unstable arrangement in the long term" then you would see some signs, being that it has stood now for nearly 90 years; to me, that qualifies as "long term". Nov 29, 2019 at 6:26
  • Greg - there is a staircase leading to the upstairs space original to the house, so I think it was always intended to be occupied.
    – paul
    Nov 29, 2019 at 13:23

1 Answer 1


Why it was done? Because the designer wanted the wall in one place upstairs and another place downstairs.

Is this legit? I can't answer whether it was to code when first built, or whether it is still to code, but I am pretty sure it is safe. Essentially the first floor wall is being supported by a cantilevered beam projecting out from the ground floor wall. Given that the beam is 8" deep, cantilevering out by 8" wouldn't concern me at all.

Given that the structure has stood for 89 years thus far, it is probably good for another 89 years. Don't worry about it.

Having said that, you do need to make sure that your remodelling allows for the extra stresses this creates. So beware if you need to cut holes in the timbers for pipework or electrical; you need holes rather than notches even more than usual.

  • +1 for reminding OP about future remodeling considerations.
    – Lee Sam
    Nov 30, 2019 at 2:23
  • @LeeSam Yup "It's stood this long, it'll stand longer" doesn't apply if you make changes. Nov 30, 2019 at 18:09

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