How much weight deserve to a 2×4 hold? There’s a meme going around social media showing the distinctions in 2x4s end the years, decrying exactly how old houses were stronger. However appearances have the right to be deceiving. Modern-day 2x4s are more than likely stronger than you think.

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Under optimal conditions, a single 2×4 have the right to support around 1,000 pounds, or half a ton vertically. And also when we build a house, we don’t ask the to assistance much more than the horizontally.

How lot weight can a 2×4 stud hold vertically?


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You’ve most likely seen this picture on society media together with a comment around how much far better old dwellings were. But the skimpy 2×4 stud top top the right have the right to hold 1,000 pounds.


Any time who points the end in a model train forum the a 2×4 have the right to hold 1,000 pounds of weight, the doubters swarm. But consider trees. A 50-foot pine tree with a 12-inch diameter weighs 2,000 pounds. A literal meaning ton. If a pine tree couldn’t host its own weight, that couldn’t survive as a species.

One reason people doubt the strength is due to the fact that wood isn’t equally solid in every directions. We recognize wood is nice strong, however we’ve seen humans break it. We’ve checked out martial artists break boards, and we’ve seen baseball players break bats. Bo Jackson was famed for break his bat end his very own leg ~ striking out, there is no injuring self in the process.

Wood is weakest along the grain, a reality martial artist take benefit of. Once they break a board, they break it in the very same direction together the grain. It’s the strongest on the end grain, the turbulent edge ~ above each finish of the board. That part can be challenging to glue and also has bad side-to-side strength when you drive nails or screws into it, however it sustained the load of the tree that was component of, so a collection of them deserve to support your house.

Your home weighs around 200 pounds every square foot. That’s why your house deserve to stand with four exterior walls and also a reasonably small variety of load-bearing wall surfaces in the middle. It’s likewise why the studs in your wall surface are probably placed 16 inch apart. The spacing is far much more than sufficient to support the weight. The extras carry out enough bracing to attend to factors favor wind.

How lot weight deserve to a 2×4 stud host horizontally?

A 2×4 is lot less solid horizontally. An 8-foot length of 2×4 that deserve to support 1,000 pounds vertically will certainly sag unacceptably under 200 pounds vertically without any kind of support in the middle. Technically it can hold the weight, however it will sag three inches toward the middle, which is much more than acceptable. An acceptable amount of load for a 2×4 to hold horizontally is much more like 20 pounds.

What around that old 2×4 in the photo that was made the oak and also was a complete 2 customs by 4 inch in dimension? that idealized board will certainly sag 3/4 that an inch in the middle. That’s better, but still not an acceptable amount there is no bracing. It deserve to hold about 70 pounds without bracing.

The species of lumber matters much an ext horizontally than it walk vertically. But when we construct a house, we consist of for the distinction with bracing. We’re not asking the 2x4s in our walls to expectancy 8 feet, we’re asking them to expectancy 16 inches. And a 16-inch expectations of cheap pine deserve to hold 3,250 pounds there is no sagging. So when we brace every foot and a fifty percent or so, prefer we do once we build houses, the extra strength of hardwood is wasted anyway. Probably it’s 3.5 times together strong, however we don’t need the strength. That’s why we use cheap whitewood because that framing.

To calculate just how much weight a plank of any type and dimension can organize horizontally, use The Sagulator. I provided it to number out how to coast up mine sagging pantry shelves, to great results.

When you’re screwing something right into a stud, the math’s different. However it’s still far an ext than drywall alone.

Are the 2x4s in old residences better?

A 2×4 from the 1920s was constructed of old growth wood, and probably every little thing trees were cultivation in the area, so it probably wasn’t all pine. The board were also thicker, since people measure up them prior to planing castle smooth. In that regard in ~ least, the old houses are stronger, assuming every else is equal. Having actually gone end a dozen houses with a building inspector, I’ve learned all else wasn’t constantly equal. Occupational crews took shortcuts 100 years earlier just as they perform now, and even though the materials were marginally better, the investigate wasn’t.

Why modern-day 2x4s are skimpier than old ones

There’s a an easy reason why modern lumber is skimpier than older lumber. World don’t desire to pay because that it. We have a much better understanding today of the minimum compelled when it comes to material strength and also size. Framing walls v hardwood is overkill, and also old expansion hardwood is scarce since we walk a poor job that conserving it end the previous 400 years. For this reason we frame our wall surfaces with new growth softwoods prefer pine, fir, and spruce. It’s good enough because that the application and also much cheaper. Hardwood climate goes into making things like furniture, whereby its high quality is much better appreciated.

I don’t know around you, but when i look around, i don’t see a rashes of residences falling down, at least under regular circumstances. Us don’t build houses to stand up to the direct affect of a tornado because nearly no one might afford them. It’s more economical to build them the means we do, then have all of us buy insurance allowance to spread out out the hazard of tornado damage. Once a house drops over, it’s news. And typically once a residence does fall over, at least in St. Louis wherein I live, it’s an old, neglected residence that’s been abandoned for years. And also in the end, the quality of the wood that got in it isn’t sufficient to save it as soon as there’s no one about to take treatment of it.

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And in the end, how much weight a 2×4 from 1920 have the right to hold contrasted to how much weight a 2×4 indigenous 2020 deserve to hold doesn’t matter as lot as it seems. The softwood 2×4 of today is practically as great and expenses less than half as lot to produce. If it support 25% much less weight, we deserve to simply add 25% more boards to comprise the difference and also come out ahead. This image laments a difficulty that doesn’t really exist.