Load-bearing newel post?

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Old 04-23-15, 04:18 PM
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Load-bearing newel post?

Hi all,

We recently purchased a house that was originally built in 1923, and remodeled in 1986 (gutted to the studs, major addition out back, new mechanicals, etc). We are attempting to mitigate its builder-grade 80s styling with more period-appropriate updates.

As part of the updates, I'm modifying the staircase to create exposed treads.

Example: http://img2-2.timeinc.net/toh/i/step...baluster-x.jpg

Before demo:
looking up at stairs
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looking towards door
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So far, I've got everything almost completely done, but my conundrum is the lower newel post. The span above it is about ~12 ft long, and from a design perspective, the post just. doesn't. work. My ultimate wish is put in a much shorter newel post that creates less of a visual break between the entry and the living room.

The existing post itself is a solid 4x4 that is nailed in place on top of the original fir floor. There is a very large structural beam directly below the post's position, but the two are separated by the floor and subfloor, and are not otherwise attached. The soffit/beam above the post is constructed of four 2xsomethings (I can't tell how wide) that run perpendicular to the joists for the second floor.

I removed some of the drywall around the top of the post, and the post appears to be attached to the soffit/beam by finish nails, not framing nails. Only one of the 2xsomethings is directly contacting the post itself. (Not an even cut, apparently.)

Based on the use of finish nails, not framing nails, and the fact the post was installed on top of the floor, I'm pretty sure this isn't structural. I also did the calculations for a 12ft beam span composed of four 2x4s, and didn't encounter unacceptable deflection.

I have an associate's degree in civil engineering tech so I know how to do the calculations, but my current position is in plans review, so it's been a dog's age since I actually had to calculate anything. I am about 90% sure I can take out the post and NOT have the house fall down, but I need more eyeballs, and I would rather not pay $275 for a structural engineering review of my gosh-darn newel post if I don't have to.

Your help is greatly appreciated!
 
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Old 04-23-15, 04:31 PM
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Well, I can garuntee you taking the post out will not result in a collapse, even if it is load bearing. At worse, it will sag and the floor above will bounce more.

I tend to think it is not load bearing but can't say for certain without seeing more. Can you take a pic of the beam above ?

Also, you say the span is about 12 feet. Is that the span of the floor joists that connect to the beam, or the span of the beam itself? Because it looks like that beam is alot more than 12 feet.
 
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Old 04-23-15, 04:41 PM
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You need a real engineer to look this one over not strangers on the net.
There's likly a reason there's a boxed in beam.
If I had to guess that stair case had a wall there before it was opened up.
Also those hand rails would not meet modern codes, they must be "grip able" and returned to the wall.
 
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Old 04-23-15, 05:21 PM
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Dissect a little more of the apparent header that goes across the opening above the newel. 2x4 anything, tripled, quadrupled would not be load bearing except when in the vertical position. If you dissect and find a true header (2-2x8 with ply in between), then report back.
 
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Old 04-23-15, 08:02 PM
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Thanks for the quick responses! I went home and did some more exploration, and the beam itself is definitely load-bearing, since it's got the living room ceiling joists attached to it with metal joist hangers. (For the first time, I noticed the living room ceiling is four inches lower than the entry - the larger joists are sistered to the smaller ones, probably a remnant of when the house had a much less open floor plan.)

The beam above the newel column looks like it's composed of three 2x9 beams (I'm guessing 2x9, since the nominal measurement is 1.5 x 8.5) and without tearing my entire house apart, it runs at least 10ft - I was wrong, not 12 - and at most the full length of the living/dining area ~30 ft.

The newel column is barely connected to the beam. It's not wiggly, but it sure doesn't look structural.

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There's no way this column is needed to support three sistered 2x9s, right??? If it were, it should AT LEAST have more substantial connectors than tiny finish nails. This is earthquake country!
 
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Old 04-23-15, 08:05 PM
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I forgot to mention that the old handrails are already gone, and I have new graspable rails all stained and waiting to be installed. There are lots of nice out-of-code things about this house that our inspector pointed out.
 
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Old 04-23-15, 08:17 PM
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What is the distance from the top of the stairway where the rail meets the wall to the door. It looks to be to be about 16-18 feet. If that is the case, that beam is not nearly big enough to carry a floor load for that span.
 
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Old 04-23-15, 08:18 PM
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The distance from the door to where the stair meets the wall is 10.5 feet.
 
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Old 04-23-15, 09:17 PM
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The fact that the post was not properly secured to built-up beam doesn't mean it's not a supporting post. If built today, it would have had a post to beam connector and the beam probably would have been an LVL.
If this beam was not supporting a second story and roof load, no problem. Also, I'm guessing two walls intersect above the post, or in the vicinity of the post. This is a great load for what may be 2 x 10's or less.

I wouldn't remove the post without an engineer's approval.
 
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Old 04-24-15, 04:27 AM
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The door to stair is only a part of the load the beam is carrying. If the post is removed, you need to factor in the distance all the way across the span to where it meets the wall at the top of the stairs.
 
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Old 04-24-15, 02:26 PM
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Thanks! After shopping the problem around at work today, one of my coworkers who is also remodeling has a structural engineering contact she'll put me in touch with. I think this is well above my pay grade, and as silly as it feels, it's definitely time to bring in the professionals.

Thanks so much for all your help!
 
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Old 04-24-15, 02:49 PM
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My gut tells me that it was installed to correct for some sort of sag that existed before.

On the bright side, just because it is there doesn't mean there isn't anything you can do to it. You can certainly dress out the bottom portion to look beefier like in your wish pic. You can also add mouldings and such to dress out the upper halve to cut it up some. Crown around the top is always a nice touch. And there are 100's of different species of wood veneer that you can overlay to change a boring fur post into Oak, Pecan, Walnut, Rosewood, Cherry, etc.
 
 

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