Replacing a cracked, sagging support beam

molsonbcDecember 28, 2007

I have a very old house with one section of the support beam in the basement that needs be replaced. It's not an adequate beam, if you can call it a beam at all. There's really only one problem section that's about 8 feet long at the back end of my house. This portion of the beam isn't the same as the rest of the beam that runs the length of my house. Looking at it, it looks almost like two 2x4s stacked longways, with a 2x6 sistered onto it, one end resting on a 4x4 post, and the other end resting on a 4x6 post. And the sistered board is cracking right where it's sagging.

I need to tear out the whole section and replace it, but I'm not sure where to start. I've asked a structural engineer/home inspector to come look at it next week, but he's charging $320 just to come look at it and give advice. Should I just go with a general contractor type of person to look at it to fix it? Could a trust a non-engineer to give sound advice on this kind of a project? Or would they send me to a structural engineer to get plans drawn up first?

Does anyone have any experience with this kind of repair work to tell me if I'm on the right track?

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An experienced contractor could possibly give you correct info to do the job right.
An engineer can calculate the loads & review the existing conditions & tell you what needs to be done. It sounds like your house may have cobbled together at some point & could need remedial work beyond what you see. One reason he charges what may seem a lot is the liability involved on his part when he tells you what to do. For that price you may not get drawings, but you should get sound advice & sizes for members.
Then you can turn it over to a contractor if the work is over your head. Or the engineer may give a bit of advice on how to proceed.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 9:13PM
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If you could post a picture it would help. Was the section that's cracking under an addition? Are all your support posts wood? Are the loads on this section different then the loads on the section with adequate support? What do the wood posts sit on?

    Bookmark   December 30, 2007 at 4:14PM
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Back in 1976 we bought a 9-room Dutch Colonial that was custom built in 1930. Like many houses of that vintage, it had sagging floors on the first level, and the 2 main beams in the cellar had bowed out of shape some. The broker who made the deal for us advised me to put telescoping supports under the beams at exactly their lowest point, and to lift the poles once a week by about a quarter of a turn, and continue doing that for a few weeks. Don't tighten the poles too fast, he warned me, or it could cause plaster all over the house to crack. I did as he suggested, placing thick steel plates above and below the poles so as to distribute the pressure. It seemed to work. We sold the house 10 years later, and never had any structural problems.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2007 at 9:17PM
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What does the beam that doesn't sag look like? And what does the part of the house that sags look like compared to the rest of the house?

If the part with the sagging beam looks like the rest of the house I would match up to the original beam.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2007 at 11:23PM
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$320 is money well spent to have a PE tell you what needs to be done. And yes, most of what you're paying for there is their insurance.. and it would cost more to get plans drawn up and stamped. You probably don't need stamped plans for this, unless your locality is VERY strict about permit requirements for this sort of thing.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 12:33AM
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I'll try to get some pictures posted up tonight. It's a working basement, so I'm trying to avoid using telescoping posts since that'll be right in the middle of the way when I'm trying to do laundry. At least I feel better about having an engineer come in and look at it.

As for the good section of the beam, it looks like three 2x8s that run nearly the entire length of the house. It's just as it gets to the last 8 feet at the back of the house that the post is smaller (something like two 2x4s stacked on top of one another). This doesn't support an addition, but there is an addition just beyond the end of the sagging section. But that structure looks to be totally separate from the main structure.

Either way, I'll try to post some pictures later on when I get a chance.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 10:15AM
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