I was trying to install an electric receptacle inside our pantry (there is an existing receptacle on the opposite side of the same wall). I used a magnetic stud finder and determined where the studs were, and selected a spot inside the same stud cavity (several inches to the side, so the receptacle boxes had some room between them, but some inches below the normal 12-16 inch from the floor; I chose some 6-10 inches from the floor for convenience).

After cutting the drywall, I hit wood on both sides of the rectangle. I also inserted a nail a bit above and hit wood in two different places. Picture:

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That wall is supporting the higher of two flights of stairs (the pantry is under that flight), so I guess it could be a plywood shear wall, but I'm not sure. The house was built in 2013.

I've since patched it up with compound, but I'm still curious as to what I might have hit in that wall. Any clues?

  • It could be plywood as a shear wall (particularly if you're in a high-seismic or high-wind area), though on an interior wall it's less likely. It could be some "temporary" diagonal bracing added to the stair well that (oops) became permanent. It's possible that it's actually the stair stringer that supports the steps. Using your stud finder, can you determine if there is a nail pattern in this area that might support any of these theories?
    – FreeMan
    Aug 9, 2021 at 18:18
  • @FreeMan - never seen plywood used under stairs in my area. Its not really a bad idea as if done right the extra weight and rigidity could offer a few pros. I just have never seen a staircase out of 100s of houses that had plywood (unless it was butted to an outside wall).
    – DMoore
    Aug 9, 2021 at 18:22
  • I agree, @DMoore, I said it was a possibility, though "less likely" if it's an interior wall. I agree 100% that it would be odd.
    – FreeMan
    Aug 9, 2021 at 18:25
  • @FreeMan - it is a valid question on why stairs are not wrapped in plywood. By doing so the weight and the connections would reduce and almost eliminate sway and framing loosening. Meaning you would have a quieter stair with less long term squeaks and creaks... I have added a lot of blocking to stairs but honestly this makes more sense.
    – DMoore
    Aug 9, 2021 at 18:29
  • @FreeMan no nail pattern other than the studs. Also, I doubt it's the stringer as this is really close to the floor, and under the second flight (which is some 6+ feet above). Thanks for the comments!
    – Viccari
    Aug 9, 2021 at 20:03

1 Answer 1


This could be anything. We are only guessing until you take the drywall down and inspect. You could just take a 1" bit and cut a hole there - inspect while you are drilling. That way you can tell how thick the wood material is. If it is just plywood (doubt it) you are probably good to go on cutting out a rectangle for a new box. If it is thicker and a 2x you are going to have to take down more drywall to come up with a better plan. (It could easily be blocking that you could easily move up a little)

  • Thanks for the comment, I thought this would be an easy answer from someone. I gave up on that and went a different route.
    – Viccari
    Aug 9, 2021 at 20:04

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