What is the Difference Between a Pony Wall and a Knee Wall?

When you’re getting ready to start detailing the plans for a remodel there are some terms that beginners or even some seasoned do-it-yourself home carpenters need to be aware of. If you’re taking out a full-wall and you plan to install a partial wall, there are certain names or the walls, but there are differences. A pony wall is a short wall, a knee-wall is frequently interchanged with the pony wall in basic designs, but there are some notable differences you should be aware of.

What is a pony wall?

A pony wall is a term that describes a foundational wall. It sits on the sill plate of a foundation. It is a load-bearing wall that supports the floor joists above it. It is a short wall that may also be referred to as a cripple wall, according to Hunker. When getting to the technicality of a Pony wall, it is a first-floor wall found in buildings with multiple stories. In single-story buildings, this kind of wall is not usually found because the floor joists rest on the sill plate directly. The next time that you think of a pony wall, think in terms of multi-story buildings and a wall that is intended to support the floor joists above it. According to Homex, a pony wall is ideally around 3 feet in height.

Where did the term pony wall originate?

Asking a lot explains that short walls were once used to add to the stables for housing ponies. This is where the term originated. It is important to note that even though a pony wall is a short wall it can be used to bear the entire weight load of a structure and transmit that load to the foundation. You can determine if a pony wall is a load-bearing wall by how it is positioned. If it runs perpendicular to the joists, it is likely a bearing wall. Some pony walls are not load-bearing but most are.

What is a knee wall?

A knee wall is a term that is used to describe any short wall that has a non-structural function. Knee walls have multiple purposes. This type of wall is typically used to support a bar or counter. Another type of knee wall is called a half-height knee wall. It is used to border a stairway and it is constructed to run down the slope of the stairs. This type of knee wall may be used as a stair rail, but most often the half knee wall supports railing for the stairs. In some cases, when the part of the knee wall supports floor joists or the next story of a structure, it could technically be called a pony wall if the portion of the knee wall functions as a pony wall.

There is another type of knee wall that is called an attic knee wall. This is a short wall that begins at the attic floor and extends to the rafters of the roof. It is used to form the attic walls that rate the space that becomes a room beneath the eaves found behind the wall. This type of knee wall is different from the others because it is shorter, and it extends completely to the rafters, however, the slope of the roof requires it to be shorter than other walls. Knee walls are usually built with 2 x 4 lumber pieces with drywall screwed to the frame. They are attached to nearby walls, then primed and painted. Knee walls may also be found in courtyards, gardens, or garages to create more spaces. The reason they are called knee walls is that the typical knee wall is around the same height as a human knee, but this rule is not hard and fast. They may b built lower or higher. Knee walls are not typically load-bearing walls unless there are other walls, posts, or supports above them.

What is the difference between a pony wall and a knee wall?

When we break down the characteristics and purposes of the pony wall vs the knee wall, it becomes clearer that they are not the same thing, although many use the terms interchangeably. A pony wall is usually a load-bearing wall of a multi-story building that sits between the joists of the floor of an upper level to bear the weight of the load of the upper stories down to the foundation of the building. The pony wall sits on the sill plate of the foundation of the structure.

Knee walls have a different purpose than a pony wall. In most cases, a knee wall is a short wall that is used to create separations in rooms. Although it may extend up to the rafters of an attic, it is not a load-bearing wall in most cases. Knee walls are used to separate spaces and create new spaces within a building, a garden, or even a courtyard. They are often used to hold up a set of rails for stairways, and while they support the load of the rails, they are not an integral part of the structure of a building that supports the weight down to the foundation. Knee walls are also used to support countertops or to create other unique spaces. They may also be found in bathrooms to separate the toilet area from the rest of the bathroom.

Final thoughts

It’s understandable why the terms pony walls and knee walls are often interchanged with one another because they can be similar heights, but there are distinct differences that truly set them apart. When planning for a remodel or new construction, it’s important to understand that each type of wall has its own specific function and purpose. Knee walls are a bit more versatile in their uses while pony walls have fairly specific applications. Most pony walls are load-bearing as integral parts of a building’s structure while most knee walls are not.

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