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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):

Basement floorplan

Okay, so here're my questions

  1. 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.)

  2. 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)

  3. 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?

Photos

Per Lee's request: Photo of the region immediately over the workbench

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Seldom do we get this amount of information regarding construction issues. However, I still need some info. I’ll make some assumptions and you tell me where I’m wrong.

First, concrete party walls are used for 1) Fire Walls, 2) Sound Control, and 3) Structural.

If the walls are built as you have drawn them, (uniform width the full length of the building with wood framing added to interior) I’d assume the floor above is concrete not wood framing, because the supporting beams are steel not wood. If it is, then the walls are structural and they cannot be supported by wood (your 2 studs you want to remove).

To verify the party wall is concrete, I’d look in your wife’s DMZ area and see if the plumbing is exposed. If so, then it’s concrete. If not, more exploratory surgery may be required.

To answer your questions:

  1. No, I doubt if the floor is supported by a few wood studs in one room. (I’d verify that the other rooms do not have studs.)

  2. I doubt the floor is wood frame, as noted above.

  3. The studs are not load bearing and therefore they can be removed (modified) and no screw jack is required.

Summary: Please verify my assumptions before you remove the studs. If things are different, please notify.

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  • Lee, the party wall (if indeed, it IS a party wall, at least as I understand the definition) is, most assuredly concrete. The area above the bench is exposed studs, with a vertical wall of concrete set some 2 inches behind them (presumably to prevent their wicking moisture from the concrete). I'll attach some photos to the question. – NerdyDeeds Jul 19 '20 at 1:04
  • Photos added. I took time to call out the fact that the studs themselves seem poorly affixed to the cross-member. Were it truly load-bearing, I'd be surprised to see such gaps. As to the floor above (the floor of the main level, ceiling of the basement) I can assure you that it's wood all right. Likewise I can assure you that I was anal-retentive in the representation provided. Its accurate to scale, even. I spent an afternoon measuring and diagramming; I'm not guessing. I wouldn't waste your time before genuinely trying to figure this out myself. : ) – NerdyDeeds Jul 19 '20 at 1:11
  • Things just got easier with the picture. That space between the top of the stud and the bottom surface of the top plate clearly indicates it is non-bearing. If it was load bearing (or if it had been load bearing at some time in the past) there would be no gap...concrete floor system or wood frame floor system. – Lee Sam Jul 19 '20 at 1:38
  • Lee: Removed the studs and house fell down. Please advise. – NerdyDeeds Jul 19 '20 at 11:59
  • Nah man, I'm kidding. Thank you for the prompt replies. I'm planning on tackling the removal today. I'll let you know how it goes. Answer selected, and genuine gratitude expressed. Thank you for your time, honestly. Sometimes a sanity check is all we need. – NerdyDeeds Jul 19 '20 at 12:01

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