Can I leave interior wood frame uncovered?
Ji Wu
August 23, 2013 in Design Dilemma
I don't have lots of natural light inside my house so I want to remove some of drywalls between kitchen and living room, stairwell wall. I have been reading building code but can't find any wording saying I have to close the stud cavity for fire safety. Who has experience with open stud design? Thanks!
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PRO
Dytecture
Covering wall studs are only needed for insulation purposes.


August 23, 2013 at 12:52pm        Thanked by Ji Wu
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Ji Wu
Thanks! I was just looking at that cottage. It seems stairways would be safer in case of fire if underside is protected with drywall but no code requires it (at least for single family) but everyone does it for a just clean look.
August 23, 2013 at 1:05pm   
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PRO
Maguire
Careful if you're thinking you'll remove drywall under your stairwell. It (and the fasteners) can add structural support, so best to contact a professional before grabbing your sledgehammer.
It also factors in with energy calculations, so be careful before pulling it off exterior walls. In some states you may not pass a building inspection when you go to sell.
August 23, 2013 at 1:15pm   
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ReSquare Architecture + Construction
Most interior walls in a single family dwelling do not directly require drywall from most codes' standpoint (except maybe at a basement furnace room and chases that carry flues from them or fireplaces). Walls enclosing a stairway generally do not, but it depends on what's above or below.

Its the things in the wall beyond wood studs (electrical, plumbing, venting, flues) that have specific treatments required when exposed that will be your biggest issue. It's all generally doable, but demands a pretty specific code address.

You should have a local pro familiar with your local codes advise you.
August 23, 2013 at 3:20pm   
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ReSquare Architecture + Construction
The same applies for exterior walls per above, but exterior walls are different due to thermal insulation requirements. But again, drywall finish is not generally code required per se. What's required there is assuring any insulation that may be exposed is appropriate for the exposure it gets.
August 23, 2013 at 3:31pm      Thanked by Ji Wu
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Fred S
Here is the International Residential Code for stairs. R302.7 http://publicecodes.cyberregs.com/icod/irc/2012/icod_irc_2012_3_sec002.htm?bu2=undefined
Considering you are talking about a stair wall, it could be bearing. Otherwise, I would assume you would just remove it. So, this wall has to be braced the same as an exterior wall. ( R602.4 ). Without seeing the wall, I will guess that you will be removing the required bracing when removing the sheetrock. The sheetrock is the bracing. You will need to provide continuous blocking half way up the wall for the downward load. This is due to the bending moment of a 2x4. You will also need lateral bracing. This may already be provided by the stair stringer. Other reasons not mentioned yet for sheetrock include R302.1 exterior walls within 5' of another building or property line and R302.7 attached garage. Then there are reasons for interior sheetrock to be part of a structural diaphragm as well. See R602.10 for braced wall lines and R702.3.7 for ceiling diaphragm.
August 24, 2013 at 3:36am      Thanked by Ji Wu
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ReSquare Architecture + Construction
Fred: but unless we conduct an engineering review on site or plans, we here are all just guessing. Ultimately, a local pro that has reviewed the specifics is really the only one that ought advising on structure: by good practice AND law pretty much anywhere this is.
August 24, 2013 at 2:37pm   
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Fred S
Just providing the other side of the coin. The conversation sounded to me like there hadn't been enough emphasise on what the sheetrock COULD be doing in this particular case. In typical construction, drywall is often structural, but nobody gives it a second thought because they were going to put it up anyway. I have even seen the AHJ red tag jobs for bad fastening patterns and it wasn't because the sheetrock was going to fall off the wall.
August 24, 2013 at 3:43pm     
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Maguire
It's one thing to design a home from the get go without sheetrock, but once it's designed to be rocked, it's a whole different matter when one decides to remove it. The bottom line is JiWu wanted to know if she could remove it, the right response is: Don't remove it without consulting a professional in your area.
August 24, 2013 at 3:52pm     
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ReSquare Architecture + Construction
Agreed: the only "right" answer is some version of "have a local pro familiar with your local codes advise you."

FYI: Drywall is not considered for bracing calculations in CA because it sucks as a shear panel in even moderate modulating dynamic loading. The Northridge quake proved this. I say this not to suggest it's ok to rip it off an existing home ["consult a local engineer"! ;-) ] here or anywhere else, but rather to give serious consideration to thinking it's doing any good as far as bracing goes just because code says it can whether in new design or existing conditions. Even if it was screwed down appropriately (a HUGE if, and spacing is only half the issue; paper puncture renders even a perfect screw pattern useless in shear) it's not the shear panel IRC pretends it is except in the most mild loading scenarios. Most homes of moderate size have enough other, better materials in the exterior envelope anyway to allow drywall to be discounted entirely in that regard, and frankly, in my opinion, that's as it should be. In basic building, and especially where finish modifications don't require a licensed professional's involvement, I'm of a mind that structure should be structure, finish should be finish.

But, yeah: consult with a local structural engineer before ripping out any drywall in your home. You never know; you might be living in a big box built so cheap it's held together by nothing but its few remaining perfectly installed drywall screws. And in that case it is my opinion you should be ripping it all out anyway to add some real shear bracing. ;-)
August 25, 2013 at 9:54am     
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Fred S
Now if I could just convince the plumbing and heating guys of that. They seem to think it is much easier to knock out my blocking than drill a hole.
August 25, 2013 at 1:12pm   
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PRO
TMK Remodeling
Interesting discussion. Agree with suggestions to get local architect or engineer to advise. I also suggest you contact the local code enforcement officer for input.

Generally, i would suggest that you would want to reframe the walls you are exposing with fewer, larger, framing materials (think post and beam) rather than looking at the framing that you will expose. Chances are it will be pretty ugly to look at with cut outs for plumbing, electrical and hvac, plus screw holes from drywall.
August 25, 2013 at 3:22pm     
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Ji Wu
Thank you guys for all the input! Shall I find an architect or structural engineer?
August 26, 2013 at 8:41am   
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ReSquare Architecture + Construction
At a minimum a structural engineer for the drywall question, but if you want aesthetically creative solutions to that and all the issues (exposed wiring, insulation issues, fire code compliance, etc.) go with an Architect that has a grasp of the code & engineering involved or an engineering consultant that does.
August 26, 2013 at 9:28am      Thanked by Ji Wu
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