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Difference Between a Joist and a Stud

Joists and studs are both part of a house’s internal framework, which provides stability to the structure. Joists are horizontal beams that support ceilings and floors. Studs are vertical beams that support walls.

Difference Between Joists and Studs: Overview

Both joists and studs are wooden planks used in the framing of a building. They create a solid foundation upon which other elements are supported or can be attached to. 

House framing

The two are essentially the same thing. However, they are differentiated by their physical orientation and, therefore, their specific purposes.

Joists are horizontally oriented beams and are used for the framing of floors and ceilings. Studs, on the other hand, are vertically oriented beams. They are used to provide structure to the walls of a building.

What is a Joist?


A joist is a horizontally-oriented beam used to form part of the internal framing of a home’s horizontal structures, namely, the floors and ceilings.


Joists are typically made from softwood lumber, like Pine or Douglas Fir.

It’s most common to see joists that are made from two-by-six, two-by-eight, two-by-ten, or two-by-twelve planks, though it’s certainly not impossible to see joists of other sizes.

These planks can also be bought in various lengths, depending on the size of your home. 


As joists are horizontally oriented structural supports, you will find them in the floors and ceilings of a building. 

Illustration of joist in house frame

As for their spacing, you’ll find joists placed anywhere from 12 to 24 inches apart on center, depending on the size of the lumber used and the intended load/purpose of the joists.

To be placed a certain number of inches “on center” means that the middle of each joist is placed that number of inches apart, not that the space between the sides of each joist is that wide.

Primary Function

The primary function of joists is to provide solid structural support to your home. They work in tandem with the studs and other parts that make up your house’s framing to keep everything secure and stable.

While the joists are supported by the studs and vertical framing, the joists, in turn, also support the studs. They essentially work to anchor each other in place, and it’s even recommended that they line up with each other.

Depending on whether the joists are placed under flooring or to support the ceiling, they also need to be capable of handling load from people, objects, and furniture, as well as supporting the housing materials. 

Secondary Functions

While supporting your home and all that you intend to put inside it is the primary purpose of joists, they can serve other purposes as well.

Those purposes do, of course, tend to include providing support for other fixtures in the home.

For example, hanging chairs, interior hammocks, and other hanging furniture is often attached to the joists. That’s because the material you see making up your ceiling itself is not strong enough to handle that much weight on its own.

Additionally, they may be used as attachment points for decor rather than furniture, and are critical for the compliant attachment of heavier fixtures like ceiling fans

What is a Stud?


A stud is a vertically-oriented wooden beam that is used to form the upright framing of a home’s structure.  

Illustration of stud in house frame


The material used for studs can vary. Like joists, they are often made from softwoods like Pine, Spruce, or Douglas Fir, rather than hardwoods. 

However, it is becoming more common to see steel studs as well. While steel is more expensive and difficult to work with, it is far more durable than wood. Additionally, steel studs are actually lighter in weight.

When it comes to dimensions, studs are typically found as two-by-fours or two-by-sixes. As for length, they can be found at various lengths up to 16 ft, to suit the needs of your home. 


Studs are located behind the drywall, and can be found in just about every wall that is not made from concrete or brick.

They are spaced evenly apart, typically 16″ on center. Sometimes, however, they are spaced out 24″ on center.

Primary Function

The primary function of studs is to provide structural support to your home. These spaced vertical supports give integrity to your walls themselves, preventing collapse.

Most walls are load-bearing, meaning that they provide support for the ceiling or upper levels, and all load-bearing walls have studs.

Secondary Functions

While the primary purpose of studs is to provide support to your home itself, they do serve additional functions as well.

For one, they hold other parts of your home in place. From openings like windows and doors, to more out-of-sight elements like the insulation within the walls, studs are anchor points.

Additionally, various interior additions to your home may need to be anchored to a stud in order to be secure.

Imagine, for example, you wanted to mount a TV to the wall. The drywall itself is not likely to be able to support the weight of your TV; you’ll need to anchor the mount to something more solid. That’s where a stud comes in handy!

They are even sometimes required to hang shower doors or tall furniture pieces like bookcases.

Table of Differences Between Joists and Studs

Horizontally-oriented wooden beam used for framingVertically-oriented wooden beam used for framing
Softwood planks, most commonly found in sizes between two-by-six to two-by-twelveSoftwood planks or steel beams, usually found as two-by-fours or two-by-sixes
Typically placed anywhere from 12 to 24″ on centerTypically placed 16″ on center
Primarily used to provide structure to the homePrimarily used to provide structure to the home
Can be used as an anchor point for furniture, fixtures, or decorCan be used as an anchor point for furniture or decor, helps keep insulation in place


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