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I'm doing a shower stall remodel. Per a leak in the tile that destroyed the wall, I had to remove all the tile surround. The shower was tiled in and you'll see the half wall in the picture below. When everything was tiled, the half-wall was taller with a clear plastic "window" that extended to essentially the top of the tile line you see, as outlined in the drywall.

Now, I'm going to replace with one of those three-piece surrounds, so I need to build the half-wall up. I'm going to notch out the existing side wall drywall to get to the studs and attach it there and to the horizontal portion of the existing half-wall.

I see two options:

Option 1: Build it up just tall enough for the shower walls. The pros: The top being exposed will allow more light in from the bathroom lights. The cons: I'm concerned that the wall will be flimsy.

Option 2: Build it out to the ceiling. The pros: Solid construction. The cons: Dark and may require additional lighting above the shower.

So, do you think the wall would be too flimsy if I don't go all the way up to the ceiling? Option 1 would be my preference if possible. Second question, if I do need to go to the ceiling, can I attach the header to the ceiling without notching out the drywall, or do I have to get down to the joists?

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Is there room at the end of the knee wall for a "king stud"? If not, then make room by removing that outer half-stud. Install a floor to ceiling 2x4 at the end of the knee wall. You can still leave a "window" above the wall. There'll be a post boxing in its end, though. You would probably double up the exposed part of the 2x4 for aesthetics.

If the joists above run parallel to the knee wall, then attaching to the ceiling will generally require blocking installed in the ceiling. If the joists above run perpendicular to the knee wall, then a solid wall would require no blocking. Under this "king stud" option, you would very, very likely need a single piece of blocking in the ceiling.

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  • Understood. The outer stud actually goes through the floor into some blocking at the joists that I can get to in the basement. I believe that's how they've firmed up that piece. So you believe option 1 is not viable, that the wall would be too flimsy?
    – LarryBud
    Oct 12, 2023 at 11:32
  • @LarryBud, if you have enough time and money, then option 1 is viable. Guys around here will tell you it's no big deal. If you put the IBC's minimum horizontal load of 5 psf on it and follow the IRC's H/180 deflection limit, then it is a big deal. I don't think that 3 sheets of OSB glued together quite get there (I don't have a license for any FEM software with shell elements, which is what I would need to check for sure--there are free programs, but I already know programs that aren't free). Periodically sandwiching 2" thick boards between two sheets of 3/4" OSB looks promising with the corre
    – popham
    Oct 12, 2023 at 17:53
  • @LarryBud, ...correct orientation of the boards, but I'm too uncomfortable with the constitutive quirks of OSB to recommend composite sections like that without significant research and pondering. If it was my project, I would bust out the welding machine and fabricate something out of steel, but I don't know if that's within your skillset and if you care enough to pay for such a solution.
    – popham
    Oct 12, 2023 at 17:56
  • @LarryBud, a steel/wood composite solution looks like it could work. My initial impression is that about 30 feet of 3/16"x3" steel flat bar could play the part of bread in a wood sandwich to form the backbone of a solution to option 1. Such a solution would involve lots of little holes drilled in the steel for nails, but no welding.
    – popham
    Oct 12, 2023 at 18:09

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