I am trying to install a small metal media cabinet in a load-bearing wall in my basement, but unfortunately the cabinet is about 1/8" too wide to fit between the studs. Is it safe to shave off a small amount from one of the studs so that the cabinet fits?

  • I'd recommend instead replacing the cabinet. To answer the question as you've posed it really calls for a structural engineer to look at your building. All we can say over the net is "no promises, but the house probably won't collapse. " There should be enough safety margin, but gods only know how many past cheats have accumulated or stresses have shifted due to settling. Basic principle is don't modify load-bearing walls without expert advice. – keshlam Jan 4 '15 at 0:00
  • As it turns out these particular studs don't seem to be bearing any load since there's a clear gap between the stud and the top plate (probably due to settling). The house is about 50 years old so it seems unlikely it would shift back. Regarding switching cabinets, the one I have is the smallest that will fit my needs. – MooseBoys Jan 4 '15 at 0:12
  • Without seeing it ourselves, I really don't think we can do anything but point out the issues, point out that the proposed change may violate code unless you do something else to make up for the removal (sister those studs?), and repeat the mantra "at your own risk, we don't and can't know, get local advice." – keshlam Jan 4 '15 at 0:20
  • Or suggest you surface-mount the cabinet rather than trying to inset it between the studs. – keshlam Jan 4 '15 at 0:22
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    Why not put sister the existing studs by adding new ones on the outsides? Cut them slight long (like, 1/6" or so), so that you have to tap them into place with a block and hammer, so they're good and snug. Cheap insurance. – Craig Jan 4 '15 at 0:34

If trimming a small amount 1/8" - 1/4" off a stud in a load bearing wall is the ONLY option, then I would do that PLUS install another stud directly beside the cut one, and fasten them together -- this is called "sistering".

Good luck! :)


It depends how wide the studs themselves are. Is it a pre-built cabinet? A better approach, if feasible would be to adapt the cabinet itself. Trying to trim wall studs is tricky unless you're making only the smallest of cuts.

  • It is a pre-built metal cabinet (the narrowest I could find that meets my needs). They studs are 2x4s (actual 1.5x3.5") spaced about 16" apart. I would probably just use a file or go over it a couple times with the edge of a saw - that's how close it is. Just wondering if it's safe or not. – MooseBoys Jan 3 '15 at 23:36
  • @MooseBoys - In all likelihood it is the cabinet being built for standard stud spacing whilst at the same time the studs that you picked to mount between are not not exactly on center. You could decide to move over one stud opening where you may find the opening slightly larger than the standard spacing. On the other hand you could look at if it is possible to just push on the stud just enough to permit to make room for the box. – Michael Karas Jan 4 '15 at 4:32

First we don't really know if this wall is load bearing or not. If the house was built in the US 50 years ago and it is a basement with poured concrete then the chances of having a wooden fabricated load bearing wall are slim - it happens but not very likely.

Second all you have to do to answer your question - if it is a load bearing wall - is look above the middle of the two studs in question. If there is not a direct load point (pole or beam ending) between them above the two 2x4s then there is little/no consequence in making such a minimal move since the weight should be dispersed evenly through wall or at the very least past your 2x4s in question. If I were in your situation (and it were load bearing) I would simply tap one of the 2x4s over until I had room (shaving an installed 2x4 sounds like a lot more work than tapping one over) and then throw up a sister 2x4 on each side. If it weren't load bearing I would just tap one of the 2x4s over.

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