I'm remodeling an old early 1900s home that is balloon framed. I removed the subfloor so I could get to the crawl space and run new utilities. I noticed the floor joists are in really bad shape and decided they need to be replaced.

Since the home is balloon famed, meaning, the exterior walls consists of a stone foundation, with a large wood beam on top of the foundation, and then the studs sit on that wood beam. Therefore, none of the floor joists are supporting the exterior walls. The floor joists are notched into the exterior beam.

Would it be fine if I removed all of the floor joists? So it will essentially be an empty shell of a house? None of the interior walls are load bearing, just the exterior.

  • 5
    You need to ask a structural engineer who is familiar with balloon framing. Wood as a structural material is weird. It’s possible that the joists keep the walls from flexing under the weight of the roof — particular if the collar-ties or rafter-ties were designed with the joists being assumed present. But I am not a structural engineer so you need an engineer who will look at your house to determine what is possible. Jul 10, 2022 at 6:28
  • 2
    I am familiar with ballon framing, but not an engineer. Yes the ends of the studs to bear directly on the foundation, but the question would be if there is a center beam in the crawlspace, is the wall for the roof or the second floor bearing on the ends of the joists where they typically lap over the center beam. Wood, really long wood framing members was used back in the day, so the joists could be clear span, with no center support. Pictures, more than one will be helpful.
    – Jack
    Jul 10, 2022 at 7:09
  • 2
    They might be holding the walls from leaning/moving/being pushed inside. If replacing know that new joists/studs/beams will look tiny(1/2 inch smaller) to the size of the wood you have now.
    – crip659
    Jul 10, 2022 at 12:34
  • @Jack - In my son's early 1900's house (balloon framed), the studs that run down the center of the house bear directly on the center main beam in the basement, and not on the first floor joists.
    – SteveSh
    Jul 10, 2022 at 20:23
  • 5
    Here's a frame challenge: Don't remove all the floor joists before you start replacing them. Do it one joist at a time. Pull one out, replace it with a new one. Pull the next one, replace it. Odds are really good that each one will have to be uniquely cut to fit back in anyway since older construction had high levels of craftsmanship, but not necessarily high degrees of accuracy & consistency.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 11, 2022 at 0:07

2 Answers 2


For anyone who comes across this and wants to know if you can remove all your floor joists in a ballooned framed home, the answer is: maybe

In my case, it was possible. All of the original joists were notched into a large wood timber that sat on the foundation wall. The exterior wall was built on top of this wood timber. The floor joists did nothing to support the exterior walls.

I was able to remove them all and then clear out the entire crawl space and put in a new floor.

The image below shows the room with no floor joists. I left the center beam in fear that the exterior walls would pull inwards from the bottom if removed. It turns out the beam was also doing nothing and was simply removed. enter image description here

Here you can see I added a new beam made of two LVLs (The LVLs are over kill since I have posts every 3 feet under the LVLs that sit on new footings). Once this was installed I removed the original beam.

enter image description here

I then hung new joists from the new beam and exterior wood timber. Now I have a nice new floor.

enter image description here enter image description here


This is a job for a professional onsite, rather than a bunch of well-meaning internet friends. We can't possibly assess how the existing structure is interrelated.

Ask around for structural engineering firms that specialize in residential (especially heritage) work. A general contractor that does heritage work would be a good resource.

(edit: just saw that I missed the part about the floor joists resting on the mud sill... if it's just the joists getting changed, then it's not absolutely crazy to replace the floor joists one by one. I'd still engage a pro, though, given the relatively low cost of a consult compared to the relatively high cost of a house.)

  • 1
    +eleventy for "Cost of on-site review by licensed professional is less than potential cost of whole house collapse plus hospital bills for those injured". The 15 minutes of internet fame for posting the video on InstaSnapTwitFaceTube, however, may make up for it in some people's minds.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 11, 2022 at 17:24

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