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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Lagrange, Georgia
    Posts
    4

    Unhappy Big Support Beams Damaged!

    Under my 1836 home, I have found some damaged wood on some large beams supporting the house. They are 11x11 square, and 12 feet long. There is no sign of termites, but I am getting a inspection just to be sure.The beams have several areas where the wood is rotted. I am not sure if I need to place pole jacks underneath the house or support it with heavy posts. I will not be able to afford calling anyone to do this work. Is there any way I can support these beams without tearing them out?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    SoCal
    Posts
    5,441

    Default Re: Big Support Beams Damaged!

    This situations needs attention. Have a few general contractors/framers look at the beam, to determine if its integrity has been compromised by the rotted parts. Then you can decide what to do next. Ask them about temporary supports too. I don't think its a job for the typical DIYer: it's difficult, requires expertise, knowledge and experience.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,419

    Default Re: Big Support Beams Damaged!

    Exactly where are these beams located? Are they around the perimeter of the house or do they run under the house, down the center with joists or other beams resting or let into them? Exactly how much damage and does the damage reduce the cross section of the beam vertically or horizontally?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,509

    Default Re: Big Support Beams Damaged!

    That wooden beam is going to weigh a couple of hundnnert pounds.

    Getting the old one out and the new one in takes a crew of large sized men.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Lagrange, Georgia
    Posts
    4

    Exclamation Re: Big Support Beams Damaged!

    Thank you for your posts, and these beams are under the central area of the house, in the basement area, and another one in the crawlspace under the kitchen. You are right, they would weigh several hundred lbs. !!! I am very worried about this, and the only thing I knew to do was enlist a friend to help me place temporary supports beneath the joists. I know this will not suffice long term. These beams run horizontal beneath the kitchen and central room. The other 2 are supporting the Center of the 2 story home. Anything else I can do myself at this point? or should I get a structural engineer or general contractor's advice?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Lagrange, Georgia
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Big Support Beams Damaged!

    Hi Keith,
    I meant to add: these beams are 11x11,hand hewn, and are probably the original. So that makes them 177 years old. We have lived here for 30 years, and the damage is progressing. I can get a screwdriver a good 6 to 7 inches into the wood before hitting solid wood. Our basement has always held water, but that is getting addressed. Do you think the moisture is making the rot worse? and would it help for me to add treated posts for support? Thank you for your replies.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,419

    Default Re: Big Support Beams Damaged!

    It would have been typical for a house of your era to use a large beam down the center and then smaller beams to act as joists let into the beam and going to the perimeter, spaced about 2 to 2.5' apart. It is also possible that the floor joists sit on top of this beam.

    In either case, the first step is to treat the beam to stop the rot. The best treatment would be a sodium borate solution. You can order Boracare which is a premixed sodium borate solution in ethylene glycol (antifreeze) that you dilute and spray on with a garden sprayer. This is rather expensive.

    You can order a product called Timbor which is a powdered sodium borate that you can mix with either water or antifreeze. The antifreeze helps the borates penetrate deeper into the wood and it is also an excellent mildewcide. The borates serve as both a mildewcide and insecticide. Despite its effectiveness (very effective), borates are relatively harmless to humans and have been used to preserve wood for over a thousand years, but they were all but forgotten in the last 200 or so. Insects do not develop a resistance to them for some reason.

    The antifreeze is very toxic if ingested, one ounce will kill you, but if handled with the proper precautions, they can be safely used. Just be careful using it around pets as it has a very sweet flavor that attracts pets, one or two licks and the pet will die horribly. If you decide to mix your own with antifreeze, the antifreeze has to be heated to 280F to dissolve the borates so it is best done outdoors with a camping stove and an old pot no longer used for cooking.

    Once treated, then the beam can be supported with some sisters. First determine if the beam is sagging at all. If it is not sagging, then you may not need to add any posts. If the joists are sitting on top of the beam, then you could use 2x12's on either side of the main beam. If they are let into the main beam, then it gets more complicated. You might be able to use 4x6 beams but they are often limited to 12' lengths which means if your span is more than 12 feet, you will need a support post at each end. You will need one on each side of the main beam.

    If the main beam is sagging, then it really gets beyond a DYI project, now you are looking at jacking up the beam to level the house and that opens up a whole new can of worms.

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