Safe to open up a main floor stairwell?

Question Icon
Posted by: from Toronto
3/16/2011 at 10:59:05 PM

I have a typical 1920 Toronto semi where the stairwells leading to the basement and second floor are against the inside neighbour adjoining wall, one above the other. The house is only 15.33 feet wide, and single uninterrupted beams run the width of the house except forthe stairwell area.

I want to open up the main floor to second floor stair well - just 3/4 way up the stairwell and will not be opening up the basement stairwell. From what I can tell this is not a load bearing wall. Below it, it's open in the basement with a thin piece of wood (not even a 2X4) at the base of the railing.

The wall I want to partially remove is approximately 4" wide. That wall does not continue on the second floor to the ceiling; there is an open rail that is original to the house. Is it possible that this interior stairwell wall helps support the main second floor however? Since there isn't a wall on the second floor, and only a thin 1" piece of wood connecting (sort of) the basement stair handrail to a basement floor joist, safe to assume this cannot be a load bearing wall?

My neighbours with exactly the same house as mine have opened theirs up however they are not the sort to get permits or have engineer checks. All of these houses have already been opened up from formerly tiny rooms on the main floor.

Thanks for any advice!


User Icon
Date/Time3/22/2011 at 4:32:21 PM

Hi Dara.

We renovate a lot of older homes in Toronto and while the wall you are referring to may not appear to be weight bearing in the traditional sense, but our experience has been that original framing around stairs was less than adequate to support the redistributed loads and often the wall below is assisting in the stair opening structure. It would be best to have someone come in to have a look.


KIngsway Construction Inc.

Glenn Rosborough

User Icon
Date/Time3/30/2011 at 3:18:47 AM

Hi Dara,

When in doubt, always consult with an Engineer regarding structural concerns.

Bill Clawsie

Clawsie Contracting

Search the TrustedPros directory and discover the best contractors in your area.

Find your home service pro
Great renovations start with a great contractor.

Since 2004, TrustedPros has been helping homeowners find the right contractor for their home improvements and repairs.

Post Your Project

Within hours you'll be comparing offers from top-rated professionals. It's free to post and you're under no obligation to hire.

Trustedpros Inc. does not warrant the accuracy, completeness, safety, legality or usefulness of any Content, or Whether Content is Current and up-to-date, and TrustedPros Inc. Shall have no liability whatsoever with respect to your use or reliance upon any content or for content being removed or otherwise ceasing to be available. Please refer to the terms and conditions of use of this websites for more details.

Get Free Estimates

Post your project and compare offers from top-rated pros.