I own an old 1 story house that was built in 1926.

Looking in the attic, I've noticed that all the interior walls that run parallel to the ceiling joists have no joist above them. These walls are all spaced such that there "should" be a joist above them, but the joist is simply not there. Instead there is just a double wide gap between joists, with the wall running underneath where a the joist would be.

Is this normal for older houses? I'm sure it's not allowed anymore, but might it have been acceptable practice back in the '20s?

The main reason I'm curious about it is that I'm planning to remove one of these walls as part of a kitchen remodel. I'm guessing I'll have to put a joist in above where the wall is/was. I'm wondering if this needs to be done before the removal of the wall if it could be done after.

  • If you could supply a pic it would help. – Renshia Dec 22 '10 at 0:58
  • Why do you think there should be a joist above the wall? What purpose would it serve? – John Gardeniers Dec 22 '10 at 9:20
  • I get that there's nothing for a joist to support if a wall is underneath. It's just my understanding that by modern standards the joists are required anyway. A picture wouldn't show much since insulation is covering most of the joists. The joists are on 16" centers, but if there is a wall underneath where one would be, there is a 32" gap between joists. – bengineerd Dec 22 '10 at 17:06

Chis is right in what he is saying. To further elaborate, I assume the structure has a full raftered roof. You need to be absolutely sure if any portion of the wall you want to remove is a supporting part. It is rare that a partition wall running parallel with the ceiling joists is a supporting wall, unless it spans across the center axis of the house perpendicular to the ridge board and some type of post or truss comes from a rafter to the top of that wall. When you look in the attic, are there any angle trusses attaching to the joists, most likely in the center of the building? Is there a center wall on the first floor that runs the length of the house? This is usually indicates a bearing wall. If your wall in question runs parallel with the rafters and joists it most likely is not supporting, especially if there is no joist above it. Since you will have to repair the ceiling after you remove the wall, you will need something to attach your sheet rock to, unless the existing ceiling runs the length and the upper plates of the wall you are removing are located below this ceiling. In any case, you will want to install a joist. If the removed wall is not supporting, it really doesn't matter if you install before or after. other considerations are if there is any electrical or plumbing in the wall. you gotta plan for that as well.


I have seen this many times in older home renovations here in VA. Even homes older than the 20's. I would recommend bracing and installing supplemental support before removing the wall. It can help prevent movement. Also make sure you are not removing a load bearing wall.

  • Thanks! Good to know that it's somewhat common in older homes. Can you elaborate on what you mean by "bracing and supplemental support?" – bengineerd Dec 22 '10 at 17:10
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    @bengineerd - Add a joist like the others (demension wise) that will run the full length. Be sure to use hangers (this old house probably does not have those on the old joists) for the new joist. – auujay Dec 22 '10 at 17:22
  • As Auujay said. You want to replace the support that you are removing. Even if it is not a load bearing wall, removing things can cause shifting and settling over time. I have found that it can be a good idea to replace the strength and support that you remove. – Doc Walker Dec 23 '10 at 2:26

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