Pictured is the ceiling beneath our first floor (second floor US). It's an old stone farmhouse, and there's no telling how long those supporting beams have been there (it could be 150 years or more).

I would like to eventually place a new subfloor and then a new hardwood or engineered wood floor upstairs. But I don't want to do this is the supporting beams can't take it or otherwise need some kind of work.

My question is, how would I know this? The floor upstairs is slanted and a bit squeaky, but seems fine otherwise.

stone floor

  • 3
    I have a feeling they are more decorating beams than what is holding up the ceiling/floor. Too small, too far apart.
    – crip659
    Apr 2 at 21:11
  • 1
    Also, we don't know exactly how deep they are—could be 8-12" of joist above the white ceiling.
    – Huesmann
    Apr 3 at 13:15
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    If you do not get sea sick walking on the floor above, I suspect there is more than meets the eye. Usually new or more sub floor strengthens the floor a bit. Not knowing what is above makes answers difficult, a hallway is much different that a bathroom with a big tub.
    – crip659
    Apr 3 at 22:36

2 Answers 2


Has it held the floor up for (perhaps) 150 years?

Then it works. Welcome to "Living in vernacular architecture." The ones that didn't work fell down.

While it might not meet modern standards if built as is, new, unless you plan some sort of difficult flooring system with tiny bend ratio (such as tile) it's held the floor up for probably more than 100 years, and unless you do something abusive like storing your antique safe collection on it, it will probably hold the floor up for 100 more. The floor might deflect more than a floor built to modern standards, but that's really not a huge issue unless you choose to make it one, and then you'll be re-engineering the support structure to meet a spec your original designer/builder never planned for.

If examination of the beams does not reveal damage due to overloading from the present use, then adding a couple of layers of wood flooring is not likely to damage them. Skip the 100mm concrete subfloor option, though. ;^)

  • Thanks. I'm pretty sure these are the only beams. They might extend an inch or two up into the plaster, but definitely not 8 inches. I'd love to make the floor less bendy and also more noise insulated, but the gist of the question is whether it's safe to do so. I could add a nice subfloor noise proof padding with carpet but I can't tell from the various opinions whether another layer of wood floor is safe above the padding instead of carpet. Apr 3 at 16:45

As @crip659 commented, they look too small and too far apart to be holding a floor. If this were at a modern house (<70 years old), I'd say for sure they are fake. BUT it looks really old and back in the day they used to build like that.

If these joists are the only thing holding the floor, then yes, they are too small. But you can find out by just removing a piece the plaster between them and taking a look at what is between those joists and the floor above. Depending on how they are attached to the (what I assume) are stone walls, and how much space you have to work with, this can turn to be more of a project than you are ready for.

  • Thanks. This is what I was afraid of, but better to know now. Based on what I see in another room, where there is an opening in the floor (presumably to throw hay down to the cows below), there doesn't seem to be much room for any other joists. So I'm thinking these are it. Probably best to leave until we get a few other things done first! Apr 3 at 7:55

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