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We have a split entry that is minuscule with stairs heading either up or down and a tiny landing. I would like to remove the wall separating the up from the downstairs (it may be the only wall that the stairs are attached to as one side of the stairway is a brick wall) and make the entry look a fraction bigger. How can I know if this is safe to do?

If not, can I remove the upper drywall and add molding to the studs to create a visually more open space? Would the studs be too large to be appealing? We have been remodeling our home for the last couple of years but the entry has me stumped. Don't want to weaken the house structure but it looks bad.

The house was built in 1968 so it is 48 years old.

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    provide some pictures so you can get a good answer and not a bunch of internetters guessing. – DMoore Jan 7 '16 at 23:02
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This is a very difficult question to answer without pictures or plans to look at. If I am understanding your scenario right, as you enter the house you have an immediate landing and then stairs either going up or down into different levels of the house. While these walls may not have a lot of bearing on the structural integrity of the stairwell they may have bearing on the rooms above and below the stairwell. Depending on how the architect drew the plans there could even be a beam involved for support of the upper level. Removing sheetrock to determine how the structure is built, in general, isn't hazardous to the structural integrity assuming the the structural engineer didn't factor in the sheetrock as part of a shear rating of that wall.

My best recommendation would be to have a licensed framing carpenter come in and have a look at this wall before you proceed further. It is always better to pay a little extra for a professional opinion.

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Unless your home is more than about 40 years old, It's unlikely that the stairs are dependent on the wall for strength. If anything, you'll add stiffeners to reduce minor bounce that may appear after the wall is removed, but I doubt that'll be an issue.

Please post photos and more information for a more detailed answer.

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Of course, remove the finish surfaces before cutting out any structure. But, assuming this is a cathedral ceiling over the stair wall & therefore not a bearing wall (this needs to be positively confirmed).

Then, yes taking the top of the wall down to about 4-feet above the top stair would not affect the stair structure & you should stop there until the same process is repeated for between the stair flights.

  • Before removing finish surfaces you can also get some idea with a studfinder. If it's not load bearing, it should be fairly thin in terms of the amount of wood. Especially on the edges. If you find a lot of doubled studs, I wouldn't proceed to remove the finish wall material. – Billy C. Jan 7 '16 at 23:52
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    Yeah, studfinders are okay but all they find is some structure, they can't tell you what that structure is. Many standalone walls like this, which could be 14' tall, commonly have double stud corners just for rigidity. – Iggy Jan 8 '16 at 0:34
  • What better ways are their to look inside before taking the drywall off? – Billy C. Jan 8 '16 at 0:44
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    Just your eyes looking upstairs &/or downstairs, there are either walls lining up or not. Same goes for outdoor dormers & roof valleys. They aren't any guarantee, but they're instant red flags. Like, I have an attic above my kitchen & the walls are inline, but the kitchen's not load bearing. My attic is actually hung from a triple roof rafter & it's separate studs don't touch the kitchen wall's top plate. I've never seen it before & have no idea why they would've done it that way, weirdest thing. – Iggy Jan 8 '16 at 1:11
  • @Iggy, this will be off topic, but your attic may be framed in trusses. Trusses are not supposed to be connected mid span to top plates. They deflect up and down when loads are applied to them. For the OP, if it is a truss roof, in SOME cases, none of the interior walls under the roof are load bearing, this statement does not apply to lower level interior partitions. It still takes someone who knows what they are looking at to tell. – Jack Jan 8 '16 at 17:42

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