The ceiling above the stairs in my house (1950s, Minnesota) is too low.

I want to remove the offending joist (the one that's vertical in the picture), cut back the adjacent joists (horizontal) a few inches, then move the joist over and reinstall it.

The stairs go up to the right of the picture. The wall on the left is exterior, as is the wall in the background (obviously, since it has a window).

If I do this work without putting up structural supports, just letting the studs "float" for the hour or two while I reinstall the beam, will the ceiling fall on my head?

enter image description here

Edit: The floor above is a walk-in closet. Directly above the double joist is the front edge of the "box" that forms the bottom of this little shelving alcove in the closet. The floor above that is the attic which is unused/unfinished, just insulation, and is accessed through a trapdoor on the opposite side of the house.

enter image description here

  • You DO NOT want to do that
    – Jack
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 17:56
  • What are you neededing to accomplish?
    – Jack
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 17:56
  • 1
    @Jack I think the op said the ceiling is too low above the stairs...but why move it just a couple of inches?
    – Lee Sam
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 17:59
  • Easier and safer to remember to duck or grouse... And I have the same issue in my place - but only done it once - a sufficient learning experience.
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 18:14
  • Are the “studs” you are referring to in the question the three horizontal members connecting into the double joist, or are they the studs around the “walk-in closet” upstairs?
    – Lee Sam
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 19:02

1 Answer 1


Those joists carry dead/live loads of the closet floor, any walls resting on it and that transfer loads, foot of any attic stairs etc.. There is also a load transferring from the studs you mention via a bottom plate (not visible) onto the joists.

If you remove the joists during work, you have to support the flooring and bottom plate that rests on the joists.

You also have to check what's loading the double rim joist there. What exactely is resting on it?

Even if the load is minimal, supporting the joists will also prevent any temporary deformation that could crack your wall finishings or separate fastened members.

Work on one joist at a time, while supporting the others.

Building a support is easier than you think. If the load is entirely on the perimeter of the space above, you don't have to support the flooring itself (between the existing joists), but you still have to support the bottom plate on which the aforementioned studs are resting.

With support along the perimeter of the space you can remove the joists, cut them, and re-insert them. Again, it's important to check what's loading the double rim joist that shall be move back: stair stringers, wall studs, just flooring etc...?

To provide support you could use two or three vertical 2x6 or 2x4 over the width of the stair case, resting on a flat 2x4/2x6 pressing up against another flat 2x4/2x6. You can cut the verticals slightly over-length (by 1/8") and jam them in until they provide support. Or get a 20ton bottle jack lift.

  • If you go with the bottle jack, know that some of them will gently slip over time... Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 1:24
  • Thanks! I figured I'd be safe enough with the joist removed, but didn't consider that it could crack the drywall. I think I'll invest in some jack posts. I've added a picture showing what's on top of the double-joist — just the frame of a little shelving alcove in a walk-in closet. Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 15:23
  • Using what's commonly called a Lally column to support the floor while you're working on it may be better than using a bottle jack, especially if you're something of a rookie and may take more than a day to work on it. It would reduce the likelihood of slipping from a bottle jack. You can probably find them for rent, to avoid having to purchase something that you're not likely to use again.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 15:50

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