I have a 1905 balloon-framed house in western Washington. I would like to run wiring down the front exterior wall into the basement. I've tried looking up designs for this architectural style but it's difficult to determine what is actually going on here.

In the picture below I'm aiming for the wall section to the left of the window, which lands me into the closet below.

First floor


I've made it from the attic to the first floor, and now need to get into the basement, however I'm hitting a snag. There appears to be a bottom plate on the first floor wall and I can't tell how it's lining up with what I'm seeing in the basement.

The basement wall is confusing. When I cut into the wall itself behind the insulation is a brick wall (wall appears just framed out to get insulation in). When I cut into the ceiling I don't see the cinder/concrete block wall at all, but a foot or so back is a joist that runs parallel with the block. Mind the former spider and mice remnants.

Basement wall

This joist is parallel with the wall and is a foot back from the cutout, probably 4 inches beyond the block.


The piece of wood with the partial hole drilled up appears to be in front of the face of the joist above.


My question: How is the first floor wall supported here? Can I drill through the first floor top plate and end on the inside of this joist, or will I end up drilling straight into the joist?

Obviously if I can't get in front of it, I'm not going through it. But also this is a finished basement with power and plumbing already run through the exterior walls, so how would those have gotten run through to other floors?

  • Hardwood unfortunately, otherwise I would do exactly that.
    – Steve
    Jun 28, 2020 at 17:23
  • maybe a strong magnet on the floor would attract a small piece of metal on the underside to give you a common reference point
    – jsotola
    Jun 28, 2020 at 19:15
  • 1
    If it is a balloon you should have no trouble drilling through the plates the partly drilled hole , can you see metal like a nail ? That has stopped me many times, balloon framing is normally straight up studs from the bottom plate to the top. I don’t think I would be drilling that large of a hole.
    – Ed Beal
    Jun 29, 2020 at 16:58
  • Hmm.. I have one 1850 era home and one 1920 era home, but in the northeast with cobblestone and very (very) wide sill plates. The 1850s isn't ballooned, the 1920s is. However in our case, the sill plate is so wide for the cobblestone foundation that any holes need to go at an angle, since the inner basement walls (for my homes) are inset. It's cold here which means our plumbing can't be in exterior walls either. Do you have anything going through the sill plate (like laundry vent?) to see if it's wider than meets the eye?
    – tresf
    Jan 9, 2022 at 16:18
  • The reason I mention the inset is because the home should physically sit on (or joist into) the top of the sill plate, which should sit on those basement walls. So if your exterior walls are (for example) 2x4 to the outside world but your basement walls are 6" of concrete plus a 2x4 finished wall, any finished basement walls would be at quite the inset from the rooms above, requiring an angle hole to run something between one wall to the next (or substitute the actual sizes using similar math).
    – tresf
    Jan 9, 2022 at 16:22


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