Okay gang, so here's my deal:
My wife and I recently bought a 2-story (with a half-finished basement) townhouse, sandwiched in the middle of a row of other townhouses. After lengthy negotiation, I have prevailed upon the wife to let me have half our basement - which itself is pretty much the full footprint of the townhouse - for my workshop (I grew up a cabinet-maker's son, so I know my way around wood, tools and joinery, but not quite so much around construction and framing).
Built into the the wall running parallel to the concrete basement wall we share with the neighbors - the West wall - the previous owner had installed a really quite fine workbench, atop some lovely cabinetry. Unfortunately, he wrapped the surface AROUND the 3 exposed exposed faces of the studs, anchored it into the concrete floor, and appears to have used a combination of lag screws and either wood glue or epoxy to affix the top to the cabinets below, then laminated the worksurface ATOP all the screw heads. In short, I cannot remove/move the bench without destroying it.
This would be fine (as I said, it's well-crafted and aesthetically pleasing enough), but for the fact that the surface is only 2 feet deep. Due to the space constraints the room imposes, I'd very much like to install shelving above said workbench, but attaching shelves to the face of the studs will reduce the usable work area to about a foot. "Okay," thinks I, "how about we cut out to 4' lengths of these two studs, frame the newly-created gap like I would a window (double sill, jack studs, etc.) and slide the shelving in between?"
My problem here is that I cannot determine if they're load-bearing or not. Please, see the diagram below (the three questions I'm seeking an answer for are below it):
Okay, so here're my questions
Would a builder have relied on wooden studs 2" from a poured concrete foundation? These seem awfully janky; it's entirely possible a previous owner added them in just for the purpose of hanging drywall (I'm given to understand both the walls with exposed studs were once finished, but water damage necessitated their removal.)
Would the steel I-beams run parallel to the floor joists (east/west)? I would think they'd be run north-south to use the stronger I-beams as floating support, as well as to orient them towards the exterior walls of the structure (instead of those shared by the neighboring units)
Finally, if they ARE load bearing, given that they're so close to the corner of the concrete foundation can I safely remove a few feet from each for the 90 seconds It'll take me to slide in a preconstructed frame? I'm well aware that the load must be transferred, but does it have to happen instantly?
Will the building's equilibrium/the shared concrete firewall/the studs' proximity to the foundation give me some wiggle room, or would I have to go the whole screw jack/temporary wall route? Presupposing I can both build an adequate support frame and size everything snug, can I make the 4 cuts, knock out the centers and just slide the double-silled frame into the gap? Or would the stresses hit instantly, narrowing the gap and making such a plan unfeasible?