I'm prepping to finish my attic. It's a new construction home, but the attic was most pre-framed and wired. However I noticed that there are floor to "ceiling" studs at the top of the stairs with a strange overhang to the ceiling joists.

I wanted to understand what the purpose is. I'd expect to cut the stud at the top of the half wall.

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  • A couple more pictures for better context might help. If the attic is to be finished, the verticals are probably to have a doorframe for the door on the top of the stairway. Usually a good thing to have for fire control purposes.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 18:43
  • @Ecnerwal thanks i added a couple more pictures. There is a heavy door at the bottom of the stairs already and the stair well was pre finished and dry walled
    – Technupe
    Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 18:52
  • 2
    Kinda looks to me like they're there to support the wall up from downstairs. If the wall framing was cut off at its top, the wall would be wobbly. Especially with a handrail that's constantly being pushed on.
    – Huesmann
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 13:11

2 Answers 2


I have two guesses for what that structure does:

  • The carpenter knows that wall-ceiling connections like that are prone to cracking due to seasonal movement. Truss lift can be severe in vault situations. This is therefore a slip connection, decoupling the wall from the ceiling while providing support to the wall. I assume that either the drywall would be left floating near the inside corner or that expansion joints will be used in the area.

    Verify by looking for the absence of fasteners between the studs and the horizontal members.

  • The carpenter just wanted stiffness which would be difficult to achieve in a half-height wall, especially where a handrail is in use.

  • 2
    I suspect the latter.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 19:35
  • 1
    Yeah, me too considering that it's an attic.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 19:35
  • And in addition, the half-walls are only there for safety, not as "walls" in the usual sense. Could have put in a whole bunch of vertical pieces with gaps between them (I believe < 4") but 16" spacing + drywall is probably cheaper & easier so that's what the builder did. Commented Jul 27, 2023 at 19:57
  • Agree about the handrail, without the posts, any weight on the handrail would cave in the wall. Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 5:14
  • I agree with this a can see now why that might be the case, what would be a suggest to fasten the wall if I were to finish the attic? 1. I could frame the studs, but if I wanted an open feel would there be other options?
    – Technupe
    Commented Jul 28, 2023 at 14:58

I have a few guesses and would recommend leaving them in place.

They could be engineered to help support the roof and increase lifespan. I have seen sagging roofs and this design seems like it would help to better distribute some of the weight from the roof.

They could be in place so that you can build a door there.


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