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  1. #1
    Steve Slaughter's Avatar
    Steve Slaughter Guest

    Default Steel Support Beams

    I am currently getting a new house built for my family. And during our walk thru with our builder I pointed out this support beam in the basement supporting the first floor. The beam is not square, and it leans to the left. And I feel this does not keep the intergerity of the home. Experts: Should this be level?
    Builder is say they can leave it if its quarter of inch off level, is this true?

    See below;

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    Default Re: Steel Support Beams

    Without looking it up I can't say what the outlined acceptable tolerances are for a steel beam.
    That having been said, I would write it as a defect as an inspector. As a contractor I would have my subs _ss if they installed a beam like that.
    Will the 2nd floor crash in, will the beam collapse, etc. etc. Probably not.
    However there are a couple primary issues here that raise great concern.
    - Assuming the 2nd floor joists are installed 'properly and normally' the I beam should sit flat up against them and vice versa the joists should sit flat on the beam. In that sense the twisting shouldn't even occur.
    - So the question then are, is the beam just racked over from poor install, is the post supporting it off kilter or is it a defective twisted beam? I don't see a beam that is 'out of square'. I see a beam that is racked/twisted.
    - Theoretically, if the entire beam run is tiled like that and there is sufficient movement, and the beam isn't properly attached, it could fall over. Could happen, probably not though.
    It should be feasible to whack the top of the beam and straighten it out if its just poorly installed. If it is a defective beam then make him replace it.
    The larger issue of course is, if a contractor is willing to do something that blatant, what other scummy work is he trying to scam by. I don't say this to promote our industry but you really should consider hiring a good inspector to go through the place before drywall goes up.
    When I get a call for construction inspections, its pretty much always because people have become suspicious of their contractor.

    www.aic-chicago.com
    773/844-4AIC
    "The Code is not a ceiling to reach but a floor to work up from"

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Steel Support Beams

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Slaughter View Post
    I am currently getting a new house built for my family. And during our walk thru with our builder I pointed out this support beam in the basement supporting the first floor. The beam is not square, and it leans to the left. And I feel this does not keep the intergerity of the home. Experts: Should this be level?
    Builder is say they can leave it if its quarter of inch off level, is this true?

    See below;
    Ask the builder if he can provide the documentation that says it is OK! If it is OK he should have a cite or document that says it is.

    My experience has shown that if something is out of plumb it will cause problems somewhere, it is just common sense.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  4. #4
    Garry Blankenship's Avatar
    Garry Blankenship Guest

    Default Re: Steel Support Beams

    Tough situation for a perfectionist. Other posts have you covered on the technical / legal / redress part. Anything further is on you. Are you willing to leave / back out because of this ? Does it still adequately fullfill it's structural function ? Could it be covered w/ some "square" framing ? Only the buyer knows.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Steel Support Beams

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Slaughter View Post
    The beam is not square, and it leans to the left. And I feel this does not keep the intergerity of the home. Experts: Should this be level?
    Being level is not the concern for that steel beam, the center web should be: a) straight-in-plane; b) perpendicular (90 degrees) to the bottom flange; and c) perpendicular (90 degrees) to the top flange.

    To me, and hopefully the engineers here will respond to this also, the center web being bent (not straight-in-plane) is the greatest issue.

    That issue 'may' be able to be stabilized and made acceptable by installing gussets so that the center web cannot keep bending - what say you engineers?

    And, why did the center web become bent? During transportation? Storage? Installation? Or from being overloaded?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Steel Support Beams

    Hard to tell from the picture if the beam has rotated, or has (been) deformed.

    On first glance I assumed rotation, but after reading Jerry's post it *does* look like it might be deformed.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  7. #7
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    Nov 2011
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    Default Re: Steel Support Beams

    According to AISC standard mill practice for wide flange beams, the total allowable out-of-square tolerance (both flanges, together) is 1/4", while the web or any part of it can only be 3/16" off-center. If the top flange is perfectly square and normal to the vertical axis of a straight web ("0" out-of-square), then the bottom flange can be 1/4" out-of-square. So, theoretically, the builder is partially correct. However, the bend in the web looks greater than 3/16", so if that is indeed the case, the builder is not correct. Having spent many years of my life inspecting structural steel in the shops and in the field, I suspect the web/flange distortion is not a rolling defect, but rather occurred during transport or at least prior to being swung into place. Not unlike what could be expected if a ready-mix truck or heavy loader tire/wheel backed over the member while it was lying on the ground at the job site.

    In its present configuration, the future long-term performance of the member should be suspect--long after the builder and his warranty have faded off into the sunset. If it were my new house being built, I'd ask the builder to meet me down at my lending institution, where a few good, clear pictures of the distorted steel would be shown to the person in charge of construction draws. All while asking if he/she would approve this for his/her own new house.

    Should the builder still refuse to cooperate, he runs the risk of not being paid for the agreed-upon price for the house. Possibly a $5000 price reduction would just about cover the cost of hiring an engineer to evaluate the matter, along with bringing in a good man for a few hours' work with a flame-straightening torch and a No. 2 tip to make things right (without burning the place down, of course).


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Steel Support Beams

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    Ask the builder if he can provide the documentation that says it is OK! If it is OK he should have a cite or document that says it is.
    Amend that statement to say the builder should furnish a sealed document from a PE certificating the integrity of the install. Proper design has the load over the web to decrease torsional stress upon the beam. Imagine the I beam to be a wood beam with the sides cut out and you will get what I mean.

    Or, If it really concerns you and the builder is wafling, get a PE yourself, have he/she look at it and get their statement of the condition. Then go to the contractor.

    If the contractor wants to let that go by, I would take a hard look at the rest of the house.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Steel Support Beams

    Steve,
    Rich has the answer "... If it really concerns you and the builder is wafling, get a PE yourself, have he/she look at it and get their statement of the condition. Then go to the contractor.

    If the contractor wants to let that go by, I would take a hard look at the rest of the house."

    You fussing with the builder will not get you to far. If you have a concern that you feel he is not addressing then you have to be reactive and bring someone in for an authoritative written opinion. Then if wrong force the correction. If you do not it will bother you as long as you are in the house.


  10. #10
    Jacob Small's Avatar
    Jacob Small Guest

    Default Re: Steel Support Beams

    Unless the photo is manipulated, the steel beam is deformed and not stable. Find a structural engineer in the area and have them out to the site ASAP.

    DO NOT LET THEM BEND THE STEEL BACK. They wouldn't be able to do it with a hammer (unless it's made of aluminum foil). Or at least you'd have to heat it first but either way it's an absolute no. Metal weakens every time you bend it - bend it back and it'll actually be weaker than if you'd left it.

    If you can't get an engineer than I'd call the town building inspector as a "concerned citizen" about a beam you saw that looks defunct. They'll twist the builder's arm for you. This may trigger them finding more stuff, but as someone said earlier, there are likely more than just this one defect and as such worth the headaches you'll have with timing now.

    Decent Architect wouldn't let that go (I know they get a bad rap around these parts but believe it or not they're the first line of defense between home owners and GC's who are just in it to make a quick buck). I know they get blamed alot but more often than not my experience is that the builders who are working without oversight do the most 'damage.'


  11. #11
    Patrick Burger's Avatar
    Patrick Burger Guest

    Default Re: Steel Support Beams

    It never ceases to amaze me that a homeowner is willing to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a new home or a substantial addition, yet not willing to spend a thousand or two to have an Architect or Engineer review the work as it progresses for quality assurance, code compliance, and payment certification. When a general contractor, and his subs, know that each phase of their work will be reviewed by an experienced professional, their work product is - surprise, surprise - much better. Many homeowners believe the Building Department inspections will catch any problems with the work, but don't understand that the code enforcement process merely seeks compliance with MINIMUM standards, and does not deal with the quality of the work.
    While the photograph provided is not sufficiently clear to make any remediation recommendation - it is clear enough to show that the installation is deficient and unacceptable. You should hire an experienced Architect or Engineer to assess the installation, and make the appropriate recommendations for correction. Given that your contractor is trying to tell you this installation is within 'industry standards' and is 'acceptable' - I would further recommend you have not only the steel beam installation, but the entire project inspected. As a licensed Architect, General Contractor, ACI, NACHI and CREIA inspector - my experience has shown that the fee I collect for Construction Stage inspections is always much less than the money - and often heart-ache and problems - I save my clients.


  12. #12
    Vincent Young's Avatar
    Vincent Young Guest

    Default Re: Steel Support Beams

    Mr. Burger is correct.
    This beam is bent and no reputable steel mill would have sold the beam if it had this defect at the yard because the defect far exceeds the allowable tolerances.

    Therefore, either the beam was junk to begin with or it was seriously mistreated in the installation process.

    The only two reasonable options you have at this point are -
    1) Have a PE, independent third party, inspect the beam and the rest of the structure. If the PE will sign off on the project then you have someone to blame when this fails. I suspect you will find during that inspection that far more is wrong with this project than just the bent I-beam.

    2) Replace the beam - but have someone other than the original contractor do the work unless you have the PE from #1 on site to verify the installation process.


  13. #13
    Geoffrey Brunn's Avatar
    Geoffrey Brunn Guest

    Default Re: Steel Support Beams

    I'm a licensed structural engineer.

    Not to pile on, but that photo looks really bad--especially because the bottom flange doesn't appear to be braced at all (design flaw) and the web appers to be really bent out of shape. Also, it looks like the beam bottom flange could kick out when the weight of all the finishes and occupants is put on.

    Please hire a professional to see it in person or have the contractor correct it. Failure of that member will not be slow / ductile; it will be fast, brittle, and catastrophic.

    P.S. Two good ways to fix the situation might be to replace the beam or to weld in the field with web doubler plates & stiffeners. Also, please brace the beam's bottom flange (unless that post was designed as a cantilever, which I bet it wasn't).


  14. #14
    Join Date
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    Washington State
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    Default Re: Steel Support Beams

    If you hired this contractor to build "YOUR" house and you are paying him with "YOUR" money and he isn't receptive to your requests, who is he really working for? I'd have an attorney kick his a$$ to the curb and sue him for substandard work. That cockeyed beam will gnaw at you until the day you sell the place. Do something half-a$$ and you do it twice - maybe the contractor hasn't learned that lesson yet. A "Good enough" attitude isn't good enough for me when it's MY MONEY !


  15. #15
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Steel Support Beams

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Slaughter View Post
    I am currently getting a new house built for my family. And during our walk thru with our builder I pointed out this support beam in the basement supporting the first floor. The beam is not square, and it leans to the left. And I feel this does not keep the intergerity of the home. Experts: Should this be level?
    Builder is say they can leave it if its quarter of inch off level, is this true?

    See below;
    Haven't heard from you Steve.... What did you decide and what happened?


  16. #16
    Nick Servin's Avatar
    Nick Servin Guest

    Angry Re: Steel Support Beams

    This is sloppy work to say the least. Not acceptable, plus it adds stress toe the outer flanges actually taking the load causing them to eventually bend and transferring the stress to the web as an eccentric loading, not good.

    Have a PE look at it, pay him for his advice and hand it to the contractor to fix and reimburse you for the engineer.

    Nick Servin, PE


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