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  1. #1
    Oblom 3BEPb's Avatar
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    Default Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    How bad can this one get?

    Just bought a house. Took down dropped ceiling in the basement and found out that a small crack in the wall goes all the way to I-beam. The width is about 2 mm, no visible water damage. However, the beam itself appears to be at an angle. Somebody painted half the beam in yellow (as a warning?).

    The beam runs the length of the house in the middle. Supported by 3 columns. On the opposite side of the beam there signs of wall repair.

    The house is 1.5 storied cape cod built in 1950. There is a shed-style dormer built on the right side of the house (to the right of the crack).

    PS. Thank you for any helpful suggestions. Please save wisecracks for another post. I have enough cold sweat pouring down my back as is.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    What does your inspection report say? What did your home inspector tell you when you called with your post-closing, post-further investigation follow-up questions?

    I am unclear as to your "angled" allegations.

    What area is the last picture depicting, the opposite wall? Was the wall parged?

    Where in the "United States"?

    How much above grade is this? What is or is not visable and what is or is not present on the outside of the foundation wall?

    Grouting and vertical crack.

    P.S. F.Y.I., your discussion might have been moved to the "Questions from Home Owners, Home Buyers and DIYers" area when you later return to the discussion topic you created.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 01-13-2013 at 11:24 PM.

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    Default Re: Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    Quote Originally Posted by Oblom 3BEPb View Post
    How bad can this one get?

    Just bought a house. Took down dropped ceiling in the basement and found out that a small crack in the wall goes all the way to I-beam. The width is about 2 mm, no visible water damage. However, the beam itself appears to be at an angle. Somebody painted half the beam in yellow (as a warning?).

    The beam runs the length of the house in the middle. Supported by 3 columns. On the opposite side of the beam there signs of wall repair.

    The house is 1.5 storied cape cod built in 1950. There is a shed-style dormer built on the right side of the house (to the right of the crack).

    PS. Thank you for any helpful suggestions. Please save wisecracks for another post. I have enough cold sweat pouring down my back as is.
    1. Parged foundation wall below coloumn - previous repairs.
    2. Rotation of beam/damaged flange?
    3. Is wall plumb under beam?
    4. Are support columns attached to beam by bolting or weld?
    5. Are there any cracks at base of columns in concrete?
    6. Is the wood top plate the length of the beam secured to the i-beam with nails or bolts?

    Further investigation ...


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    I don't see anything that would cause me to lose sleep if that were in a house I recently purchased. But I would have adjusted my offer to reflect the cost of possible repairs to the cracked wall below the beam. The extent of which depends on what a more detailed analysis would reveal--foundation loading conditions, amount and condition of steel reinforcement present, wall thickness, concrete quality, etc.

    At first glance, the "angled beam" situation could possibly be within standard mill rolling tolerances. Meaning it came that way from the mill, and was installed "as-is". For clarification, the beam appears to be a wide flange section, or W-beam, and not an I-beam. The AISC (American Institute of Steel Construction) shows an allowable flange out-of-square tolerance of 1/4" for W-beam members up to 12" deep; yours looks to be in that size category. The tolerance for I-beams is a bit less, and is based on flange width. Another possibility is that it could have been damaged during transit or when at the job site. Even a glancing wheel-load impact from a heavy truck can twist a steel member out of square. In any event, it doesn't appear that the beam's load-carrying ability has been compromised. Before Watson or anyone else jumps all over me for making that statement without having more information, let's just say that such is my opinion based on what the pictures show and information given.

    If you decide to have the beam squared back into "true" condition (flanges parallel to each other), a good man with a torch and No. 2 tip could do it in an hour or two. Thoroughly pre-wetting all joists and other combustibles as required, of course. As light as the member appears to be, cold-bending is also a possibility, using heavy C-clamps on the wide side while spreading the flanges with multiple small bottle jacks on the tight side.


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    Default Re: Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    Oblum, you can stop sweating, because you house is not falling down.
    Read Bridgeman's post carefully. If your steel beam is slightly twisted, rest assured that it is still plenty strong. Check the floors above for level. If you don't have a spirit level, set a shallow pan of water on the floor. If you see a significant tilt to the floor, come back on here and tell us how much slope in inches per foot.
    Tell us also if the wall is parged concrete block or solid, poured concrete.

    Remember your home is over 60 years old. You have to expect some settlement, some cracks in the concrete and also some repair.

    The beam was concealed by the dropped ceiling so there is no one to blame for not seeing it earlier.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    Watson, Raymond, and BridgeMan, thank you for the quick responses. Here are some answers to the questions. I'll post the rest when I'm back home.

    Inspection report quote on foundation: "Acceptable- The exposed areas of the basement framing and foundation are in acceptable condition with no deficiency in the visible areas.
    Attention Recommended- There are hairline cracks noted at the interior foundation.
    These cracks are not considered to be a structural concern at this time. Seal the cracks to
    monitor for movement and to guard against water infiltration."

    The problem is that during the inspection the dropped ceiling was covering both the beam and the to portion of the crack. Inspector stated that he can only examine exposed areas.

    Last picture does show repairs done to the wall on the opposite side of the beam.

    The house is located in Northern New Jersey, Bergen County.

    There is nothing visible on the outside wall, but then again, almost entire crack is below grade, and the outside is covered with brick.

    I'll need to look at how the support columns are attached, but there are no cracks on the floor. According to the plan there should be 4ft footings under the floor.

    BridgeMan, thank you. I'll hopefully be able to sleep tonight. :-) Had no idea about the I/W beam distinction. Great to hear that this may be production/construction issues. After all, the house did stand for 60+ years.

    I've decided to call up a structural engineer for evaluation. (If you know somebody who is good please recommend). Once I went over the building plan I discovered that there used to be a post on another beam that's no longer there. Also, I wanted to build a dormer on the left side of the house and need to see if it's even possible.

    Thanks!


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    John,

    Thanks for the reassurance. I've calmed down a bit since yesterday. :-)

    The wall is poured concrete. I'll do the floor test tonight.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    Tested the floors -- a very minor tilt. The bubble in a level went to a side but never crossed the lines. As for the columns, they don't appear fastened to the beam at all. Just sitting there, with a slight offset.

    I guess it's a funny thing about being a first home buyer of an old house. You get to learn a lot of things fast. Until a few weeks ago the inner workings of furnace, duct-work, and now framing were a mystery to me. :-)

    Thank you folks for your inputs.

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    Default Re: Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    Oblom,

    Not wanting to cause you additional concern, but a point of clarification regarding your inspector's description is in order. For him to call the visible crack (emanating downward from the right beam pocket corner) a hairline crack is neither realistic nor accurate. And to say it is of no structural concern without verifying that it is dormant could also be misleading. A typical human hair is 0.003" in diameter, and from the photos I would estimate the visible crack to be close to (or more than) 20 times larger than that. Meaning 0.060" wide, which is 1/16". If you don't believe me, tape a (dark-colored) human hair on the wall a few inches away from the crack, using clear tape. Then take 5 or 6 steps back from the wall, and compare the hair to the crack. Definitely not the same, yes?

    To recognize the difference between an I-beam and a W-beam, look closely at the insides of the flanges. Those on an I-beam are tapered, being thicker near the web and sloping to a lesser thickness near the edges. A W-beam always has flanges that are uniform in thickness, with no visible taper. I've looked at (or inspected) steel beam support members in many hundreds of basements and/or crawl spaces in the last 40+ years. During that time, I don't recall seeing more than just a few I-beams as opposed to many hundreds of W-beams. Main reasons being strength and availability--pound for pound (for the same grade of steel), W-beams are always stronger than I-beams, and are far more readily available in typical residential construction sizes.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    BridgeMan,

    I did think at the time that he was dismissing the crack a bit too fast without further "digging." But then again, I didn't follow up on my fears with anybody else before the closing either. Frankly, the list of other non-structural repairs overwhelmed my attention.

    It looks like I'll get to learn a bit more about beams after all. :-) The plans are showing two 6x10 beams. Instead, the one that's in the photos is 3.25" wide and 6" tall. There is also a shorter parallel W-beam that's 5.25x8. So, it's quite possible that somebody at some point swapped those beams. Throw in a questionable installation and mysterious cracks make much more sense.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    Consider your house a learning tool. You don't have to fear anything about it, but rather look on it as an educational experience. No house is ever perfect. I've looked at some high-end mansions that were miserably constructed. Rather, any deficiencies encountered in your house can present opportunities for you to learn about how to recognize them, and then proceed to make any necessary corrections, in a logical and cost-effective manner. Using resources such as this forum and your friendly internet search engines, or even a magazine subscription or two (I highly recommend Fine Homebuilding). If you need to rely on the skills of others, so be it. At least you will be better prepared to deal with people in the building trades if you have a better understanding of sound building practices. Before long, you'll be ready to take on some of the necessary corrective work, and possibly even look forward to the challenges presented by them.


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    Default Re: Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    Why bother; just measure the distance between the crack with a good tape or calliper and keep a record by measuring weekly.

    Alternatively you can monitor the crack by using a glass slide spanning the crack and epoxy the glass in place at the ends. If the glass cracks the crack is active.

    Last edited by Raymond Wand; 01-15-2013 at 05:26 AM.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond Wand
    Alternatively you can monitor the crack by using a glass slide spanning the crack and epoxy the glass in place at the ends. If the glass cracks the crack is active.
    Epoxying a glass slide won't tell much. Thermal expansion would crack the slide, depending on length of wall and location of house. Not a good indicator of a structural problem, IMHO.

    Ken Amelin
    Cape Cod's Best Inspection Services
    www.midcapehomeinspection.com

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    Default Re: Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Amelin View Post
    Epoxying a glass slide won't tell much. Thermal expansion would crack the slide, depending on length of wall and location of house. Not a good indicator of a structural problem, IMHO.
    If the glass cracks, there is movement.

    Then if you trace the cause to thermal expansion, fine, you may wish to move that house to a chillier climate like mine.

    My preference with a crack like that is to fill it. Use a mortar compound or a ready-made product that adheres well. Then if the crack remains sealed for a whole year, you have a sealed crack to forget about.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

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    Default Re: Angled I-Beam, Wall Crack

    I clearly remember the first time my (cheapskate) boss asked me to monitor some fresh wall cracks on a large concrete box culvert, under an 80' fill and recently opened to Interstate 40 traffic. We cobbled together a few very crude extensometers, using inexpensive loose-leaf binder metal attachment prongs (the kind that bend). Fashioned pointed tips on each with a Dremel tool, made and dated a scratch mark where each was initially bonded to the CBC walls with construction adhesive, and then observed definite movement (after just a few months of service life) as the pointers moved. Some more than 1/8", with rebar visibly yielding inside of the larger cracks. When things finally settled down (no additional movement), we sealed all of the cracks with low modulus, high viscosity epoxy, followed by injection of low viscosity epoxy through plastic ports to seal the crack internals. Total material cost of the entire repair was around $6000--not bad for a 200'-long structure that the Bridge Section estimated would cost $360,000 to otherwise rehabilitate by pouring a reinforced concrete liner.


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