Difference Between A Knee And A Pony Wall

Half-walls, stem wall, even short wall! These are all alternate names to walls like pony walls. But what most people don’t know is that a knee wall and a pony wall are not the same. The two have distinct differences. 

Image from ZeroEnergy Design

In short, a knee wall offers attic support while a pony wall is primarily about aesthetics. But that is where the differences begin. Let’s go over the differences, how to use them, and how to build them.

What Is A Pony Wall?

Difference Between A Knee And A Pony Wall
Image from Charlie Allen Renovations, Inc.

A pony wall is a half wall. It is used to divide rooms, offer a shelf, or make a room look a certain way. Pony walls are still common today, but not as common as they were in the 70s when people used them to divide their living room.

The name isn’t as obvious as knee wall. But it makes sense once you know the history. You see, the first pony wall was used to keep small ponies from escaping. It was used as a fence or pen of sorts. That’s why it’s called a pony wall. 

What Is A Knee Wall?

Image from TR Design-Build Firm

A knee wall is a wall that supports the rafters of a roof. It is a rather niche term and is used to describe this type of wall alone. A knee wall can have cubby space behind it, similar to space above a ceiling with an attic above. 

The term knee wall no doubt came from the fact that the walls are usually less than 3ft tall. They are, in short, knee-height. They also support a lot of weight, and so do knees. So the name is really a given. 

The Difference Between A Knee Wall And A Pony Wall

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Image from Tracey Stephens Interior Design Inc

A pony wall is a lot more versatile than a knee wall. It doesn’t necessarily support weight. A knee wall is always a load-bearing wall while a pony wall is not. A pony wall is primarily for decoration and dividing rooms. 

Sometimes, the words are interchangeable, but more often than not, they are distinct works with two separate meanings. A knee wall is a knee wall and a pony wall is a pony wall. Try to use them for what they are. 

Where To Use A Pony Wall

Pony walls are very versatile and can be used for many reasons. They are often used to divide rooms without closing off space entirely. But that’s only the beginning of their nearly endless number of uses.

Take a look at some of these awesome ideas to inspire you with your pony wall project. You’d be surprised how many options you actually have.

Pony Wall Bookshelf

You can turn a pony wall into a bookshelf in two different ways. Leave the top open and make the actual wall a shelf by leaving slots out. Or, add shelving to the top of the pony wall like Joanna Gaines’ famous pony wall. 

Shower Or Toilet Divider

Even within the bathroom, privacy can be nice. If you add a pony wall next to a toilet, you can feel safer. And if you add one to a shower, you can add glass above it for an entirely unique look. Both work well. 

Entryway Support

A great option is to add a pony wall next to your door. That way, when people walk in, they will have something to lean on. It’s a good idea to make it a little taller unless you plan on having them sit on the wall.

This is a great idea for mudrooms. Mudrooms are coming back and they are definitely something to consider if you have space for them. Find out more about mudrooms with this mudroom guide.

Pony Wall Reading Nook

You can put a pony wall in then add a bench on one side to create an adorable reading nook. Add shelving above it for books or add them on either side of the pony wall. You can put a wall like this anywhere.

Kitchen Breakfast Bar

This was one of the original ways to use a pony wall. Putting a pony wall between the dining room and kitchen gives you extra workspace, a bar to place plates, and a divider to give each room its own space.

Children’s Area

Because pony walls are short, they are perfect for kids. You can use them to divide sibling rooms or to create a kid’s play area in the living room or your bedroom. You can even do it in a sunroom or porch. 

Where To Use A Knee Wall

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Image from Kat Alves Photography

Knee walls have very few purposes. They offer support just like any other load-bearing wall. They aren’t generally for decoration, although they can offer a vertical backdrop in upper levels which can be useful.

But in short, while pony walls have a lot of uses, knee walls simply have one use. A knee wall shouldn’t be confused with a sleeper wall, which supports materials outdoors, or a retaining wall, which has a similar use. 

How To Build A Knee Wall

Image from 1767

Knee walls need to be built over another load-bearing wall for best results. It isn’t necessary, but it’s highly recommended. So make sure it’s done right if you want the knee walls to offer support as well as a good look. 

After you do that, you can move on to these next steps that will take you through the basics of building a knee wall. If you have experience building walls, you will have this down in nothing flat. 

Step 1: Measure 

The first thing you’ll do is measure your space. You want a 2×4 running all the way across your floor. So measure that space as well as the height of the space from floor to ceiling where you are placing the knee wall. Mark on the floor and ceiling. 

Step 2: Find Your Angle

There are a couple of ways to find the angle of your rafters. You can use a square, which is quite easy. Or, you can create a template with a small 2×4 that you mark with the rafter and then cut. This can work as a stencil of sorts. 

Alternatively, you can leave the top flat. It won’t be as stable but it will work and it is much easier. 

Step 3: Cut

From here it’s just like building a wall. Cut the boards where you marked them. You can build a wall first and then put it up. Start with the bottom board and mark every 16-inches. Do the same for the top board.

Step 4: Putting It Together

After you are all cut and marked, you can start screwing the boards in. This is the easiest part. Just make sure you keep the boards straight and have all of the vertical boards facing the same way. 

Step 5: Putting The Wall Up

After the wall is together, put it in place. It should fit snugly. Screw the wall down on the bottom and then up to the ceiling. Then, all that’s left to do is put drywall or paneling on it. Don’t forget to leave room for a door. 

How To Build A Pony Wall

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Image from Jill Litner Kaplan Interiors

Building a pony wall is much easier than building a knee wall. It is very similar but you will be doing half the work. However, it is more important to make it stable as there won’t be a ceiling to support it. 

Step 1: Measure

This is the same. Only the only crucial part is the length. You can go all the way across a room or only partially. Or, you can do two walls with a space between them. The height is completely up to you.

Step 2: Cut

If you don’t know how to build a wall, then learn. Building a pony wall is easier than a full wall, but it takes experience. You will need to cut each vertical board exactly the same length. And cut the top and bottom board to the same length. 

Step 3: Build The Wall

Just like any other wall, you mark the top and bottom boards and screw the vertical boards to them. You can either do all the bottom then the top or do one at a time, top and bottom. It really is up to you.

Step 4: Placing The Wall

Placing a pony wall isn’t difficult. Put it against at least one wall and screw it down. It’s best to mark all the way along the floor so that you don’t make it crooked. Put it on the line and screw it down on the bottom.

Step 5: Extra Support

Screw the wall into the main wall. Then, the other support varies. If it goes all the way across, screw it into both walls. But if it doesn’t, then you may need to add a beam. You can add a pillar with a 4×4 easily. 

Then you’re done. Everything is supported and looking good. What comes next is the fun part. Picking out a type of wall covering and painting. Then decorating with plants, books, and more. Pony walls are all about expression after all!