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Spacing of Floor Joists

Yeah, I know I'm posting about floors in the Walls & Ceilings category, but it's my ceiling and the removal of my wall that prompted it. Hopefully that makes sense.

I originally posted this at the HGTV website and someone there suggested I'd have better luck here at TOH. Let's see...

I just purchased a two bedroom condo in Boston. As the smaller bedroom is only 72 sq ft (and the other not much larger), I wanted to make it a one bedroom condo. The condo is the second floor unit in a three story brick building which was built around 1900. It was originally a single family, divided into three apartments in about 1950, and then converted to condos about 10 years ago.

The previous owner assured me the dividing wall is not load-bearing. My electrician says the same (but, um, he's an electrician). It appears that it was installed in the 1999 "condoization" of the building. While it does run perpendicular to the joists, the wall is made of 2x3s, runs down the middle of a bricked-up window, and the top plate doesn't meet the joists, so I tend to believe it's not carrying any weight. From the top plate, it's a layer of drywall, then furring strips (which run parallel to the joists), then the original plaster, then the lath, and then the joists. This cannot be a load-bearing wall, can it? Also, the unit below mine had a similar wall which has since been removed, and it does not appear that they added any additional structure in doing so. (Yeah, I know that doesn't necessarily mean they did it correctly.) I believe there are two bedrooms above mine.

So, in order to see how everything worked, I punched a hole in the ceiling to take a peek. What I see confuses me. The joists are 2x6s, 16-inches on center, and they span 19 feet. From everything I've read, that's way too wide a span. A friend tells me they used a much higher grade of lumber back then and that I shouldn't worry. He reminded me about the house he grew up in, which had a main parlor that was even wider. I should also mention that the joists are truly 2-inches by 6-inches, rather than what we call a 2x6 today.

So, are my neighbors going to end up in my bedroom or does my friend actually know what he's talking about for once?

Re: Spacing of Floor Joists

Three clues you gave would indicate it is not a bearing wall. The top plate does reach the joists, the location in the middle of a bricked up window, and that it is built with 2 X 3's.

Earlier built homes often have under sized joists as compared to todays standards. One because furnishing were sparse (less weight) and two because many were built with Oak lumber rather than white wood.

19 ft. seems extreme though for even Oak 2 X 6's but quite possible. I would suggest sistering ΒΌ"plate as a stiffener to at least some of the joists. Your upstairs neighbor may not fall through, but without stiffeners he may complain about a bouncy floor which could also cause you to have problems with your ceiling.


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