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  1. #1
    Lee Nettnin's Avatar
    Lee Nettnin Guest

    Default First floor support

    I was at a friends house, approx. 120 years old. They wanted me to look at a metal support column in the basement that rusted and fell down. The column was not original to the house and was sitting on a dirt floor with a very small rock under it. The column was "supporting" a main beam of solid oak 8" by 8". The beam went from a stone foundation wall to stone foundation wall and had a span of 12'. The steel column was 7' from one of the foundation walls. I did not feel the column needed to be there, considering it could not be holding much weight sitting on a small rock. There was no bow in the main beam. I do not have a picture. My friend did not want to hire an engineer to evaluate, and it would probably be cheaper to pour a proper footer and install another steel column anyway.

    My question is, Do you think it is necessary to put the column back?

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  2. #2
    Brandon Chew's Avatar
    Brandon Chew Guest

    Default Re: First floor support

    Since we are talking about a situation where you cannot just look up the allowable span for an 8"x8" solid oak girder in the IRC, you need an engineer to answer your question. Anyone else is just guessing.

    Option 1 - hire an engineer to look at it and either say it is ok as is, or to design necessary repairs.

    Option 2 - hire a contractor to install a new column and a proper footing, and take your chances.

    Option 3 - Do nothing and take your chances.

    Keep in mind that many structural failures with wood do not occur quickly, which means an over-spanned beam will not necessarily snap in two the moment a support column is lost, and send the house crashing down. It can happen slowly over a period of many years -- the wood bends and flows as the stress of the load is placed upon it.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: First floor support

    What's above the beam? Load bearing wall, or empty floor space. That makes all the difference.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  4. #4
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    Default Re: First floor support

    The post was more than likley added to support a new kitchen above or piano. Added weight. Most 100 year + homes will have the same. Replacing the post with a new version on a proper footing is a good idea. If you want to do without the post then you should call a structural engineer to insure its possible. Even an addition added at the secnd or third floor will transmit weight down to this beam so don't assume anything.


  5. #5
    Patrick Norton's Avatar
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    Default Re: First floor support

    If the beam has been there for 120 years with no sag and the house appears to be original construction I don't need a structural engineer to confirm that the beam is fine. I think it has been time tested! If the client would feel better with a new column, thats fine but not necessary.


  6. #6
    Lee Nettnin's Avatar
    Lee Nettnin Guest

    Default Re: First floor support

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Robinson View Post
    What's above the beam? Load bearing wall, or empty floor space. That makes all the difference.
    Hi Jim,
    Its a 2 story Home, The beam runs right in front of the stairs going into the basement, and above is the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and above that is a wall on the second floor. So yes it is load bearing approx center of the house.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: First floor support

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Norton View Post
    If the beam has been there for 120 years with no sag and the house appears to be original construction I don't need a structural engineer to confirm that the beam is fine. I think it has been time tested! If the client would feel better with a new column, thats fine but not necessary.
    Patrick,

    Passing "the test of time" may be acceptable provided the conditions have not changed.

    However, we are aware that conditions HAVE CHANGED:

    1) SOMETHING happened which required the column to have been installed in the first place.

    2) That column had been there for a very very long time (reducing the "test of time" time period to an unknown amount).

    3) That rusted off column laying on the floor which had been on a small stone *may not have been the first column* installed there.

    4) That rusted off column laying on the floor which had been on a small stone 'most likely was not installed propped up on that small stone, it most likely was on the floor and supporting the beam by transferring the load to the floor (with no footing under it).

    5) The floor dropped, possibly from the load on the column, leaving the column hanging in free air, so someone probably put a small stone under it to wedge the column in place, not realizing that the small stone would only crush if the actual load were still on the column.

    6) Brandon, one of our engineers, gave the best options in the first reply:
    - a) do the right thing and call a structural engineer
    - b) do something else and take your chances
    - c) do nothing and take your chances

    If the owner is too cheap to do a), then, regardless of what they do, they will have decided to "take their chances" with it.

    *TO ME* it is apparent that someone previously knew better than to "take their chances" and do nothing, so they installed the column - however incorrectly the column was installed - thus they "took their chances" with Brandon's option #2).

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

  8. #8
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    Default Re: First floor support

    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Nettnin View Post
    Its a 2 story Home, The beam runs right in front of the stairs going into the basement, and above is the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and above that is a wall on the second floor. So yes it is load bearing approx center of the house.
    Lee,

    A very good reason to follow Brandon's option #1).

    Call in the structural engineer ...

    ... unless, as Dirty Harry said ... 'Do you feel lucky?'

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

  9. #9
    Patrick Norton's Avatar
    Patrick Norton Guest

    Default Re: First floor support

    [quote=Lee Nettnin;33843]The column was not original to the house and was sitting on a dirt floor with a very small rock under it.

    quote]
    Jerry,

    The column was not original to the house. The only change was that somebody (obviously not a professional) poorly installed a column for an unknown purpose. From what Lee has described it appears to be original construction from 120 yearsago. As you stated, time tested would be acceptable if there have not been any structural changes to the house.

    I do not want to waste my clients money to cover my ass when it is an easy call for me.


  10. #10
    Patrick Norton's Avatar
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    Default Re: First floor support

    Guys, how do you copy the qoutes right?


  11. #11
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    Default Re: First floor support

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Norton View Post
    Guys, how do you copy the qoutes right?
    Click on "quote" at the bottom right corner of the post. You can edit it or not. But you can't mess with the stuff in between the square brackets, where it says QUOTE=... at the beginning or /QUOTE at the end.


  12. #12
    Patrick Norton's Avatar
    Patrick Norton Guest

    Default Re: First floor support

    John, I did that but it showed up wrong in the post above?


  13. #13
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    Default Re: First floor support

    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Norton View Post
    John, I did that but it showed up wrong in the post above?
    All the charters at the start & end of the quote most be present after you edit the contends


    You may also Preview Post and make any changes before you submit Reply.

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
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  14. #14
    Lee Nettnin's Avatar
    Lee Nettnin Guest

    Default Re: First floor support

    Thanks for the input. I will pass it along.

    Jerry,
    Referring to 3, The present owners have been in the house for 40 years and it was there when they bought the house.
    #4,#5, As I said it is a dirt floor, so the column was originally mounted on that little stone as there is no other means of support. The stone probably sank either from little weight was on it or from the dirt turning to mud during wet periods in the basement.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: First floor support

    Lee, Patrick,

    All we know is that the column *was not original to the house*, not likely at 120 years old.

    We also know (now) that *THAT* particular column was there for 40 years.

    We 'do not know' what was there before that, or for how long, if anything was there.

    We 'do not know' that the small stone was original. The floor (dirt floor is still a "floor) could have settled (dirt does that over time, and we are talking about quite some time).

    Thus, we 'do not know' that that column was not originally installed tight to the floor (the dirt) with no proper footing. This is not saying that the column is "original" but that the "original installation of the column" may have been tight between the floor and the beam.

    There is a lot more which we 'do not know' than which we 'do know' - *I* was taking all that which we 'do not know' into consideration in my questions, because we 'do know' so little.

    Some people think 'inside the box', some people think 'outside the box', I think 'What box you talking about?'

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

  16. #16
    Brandon Chew's Avatar
    Brandon Chew Guest

    Default Re: First floor support

    Nothing in life is risk free. All we can do is try to influence the amount of risk we are willing to bear. In a civilized society, we trade risk for money. It's a good thing too, because within the realm of home ownership, it creates a need that keeps us employed as inspectors.

    Of the three options that I posted above, door #3 is the most risk and least cost. Door #1 is the least risk and probably the most cost. Door #2 is somewhere in the middle. The homeowner needs to decide how much risk he/she wants to bear and what it's worth to him/her.

    The question, asked by the starter of the thread, is
    My question is, Do you think it is necessary to put the column back?
    The appropriate professional who is qualified to answer that question is a structural engineer. Others are just guessing, and believe it or not, in NY State are probably committing a felony! (by practicing engineering without a license).

    Side comment/Mini-rant: Most inspectors seem to have no trouble recommending various trades people repair things they find wrong in a home. Many inspectors (but not all) routinely call for trades people to come to the home and "further evaluate" things, which is really just "passing the buck" -- the inspector should evaluate the condition and call for repairs. I think it is appropriate for an inspector to call for further evaluation by a qualified trades person when they tell the client "this is an unconventional system that I'm not familiar with or qualified to inspect. I recommend you have a qualified xxx come in and inspect it for you".

    When it comes to questions about the adequacy of components of the structural system in homes, I frequently see comments from inspectors that they don't want to "waste their clients money by calling for an engineer". What's up with that? If your kid's not feeling well do you take him to "uncle joe" so you don't waste your money on a doctor (assuming, of course, that "uncle joe" is not a doctor)? Many times the doctor just says "take some ibuprofen, drink fluids, and get plenty of rest". Was that doctor visit a waste of money? What if you decided not to go, and it was something more serious?

    P.S. - If it was my home, I'd choose door #2 and be done with it. Twelve feet is a LONG span for a main bearing beam, and have you thoroughly checked that beam for excessive knots and checking in addition to the more typical things you look for such as rot, and notching? I'd choose door #1 if for some reason I really didn't want a column there (like maybe it would be in the center of my pool table), or if I wanted added peace of mind that one column in the old location would be sufficient. And I'd choose door #1 if there was any evidence of structural movement.

    Last edited by Brandon Chew; 02-27-2008 at 09:31 AM.

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