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The Great Beam Debacle – Part 2

Almost 6 months ago we wrote about our great beam debacle that had our heads spinning trying to figure out how to fix this tiny little problem: A previous owner removed a support post that keeps the house from caving in.  Did we need that?

Missing Support Post Missing support beam - do we need that?

We left off in the previous post with Katrina's dad engineering a solution using an I-Beam but it was going to cost a lot to move pipes around to slide the beam in.

Between now and then, we've had a temporary support that's kept our house from sinking further into the basement but the adventure didn't stop there.  I called our local building inspector to make sure it was A-OK to support the house this way.  She said we'd need to pay for a special inspection, unless the support system was designed by a licensed MN engineer.  Well, unfortunately Katrina's dad lives out of state so we'd either need our plan validated or we'd be paying for a special inspector.

We both hit facebook and emailed friends to see if anyone knew a licensed engineer who could look over the plans and stamp it (apparently licensed engineers receive a secret stamp when they're licensed).  Luckily for us, it turns out Katrina knew an engineer from church who would make sure the plan was OK and stamp it.  Score!

Next problem, figuring out what pipes need to be moved to get the beam in.  The new I-beam needed to sit on top of our current wood beam and a 90 degree angle so it'll be perpendicular.  That means the new beam would actually sit inside the cavity between two floor joits, but there was a lot of electrical conduit and water pipes in the way of getting the beam in.  I re-routed the electrical so it wasn't in the way (plus I take any excuse to update electric in our old house) and to my surprise there was a little path between the water pipes and drains that the beam could fit through.  Maybe.  We wouldn't actually know until Katrina's dad stopped by with the beam.  We decided we'd just see if it would fit and if it didn't, we'd call a plumber and pay whatever it cost to move the pipes.

Katrina's dad brought the beam, a friend and I lifted it up in the ceiling joists from all the way across the basement and slowly slid it toward the hole it needed to pass through.  Past one pipe, between the toilet drain and the main stack, above another pipe, and with some finesse we were able to angle it in to it's final resting place!  I was so happy to save a couple hundred dollars!

The hard part was done, the beam was up in it's place.  We couldn't finish supporting the new beam until I cut 1' x 1' holes in the floor and filled them with a concrete to make a solid footer and add framing for the walls in that hallway.  So the beam sat there, for months, while other work went on in the basement.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving weekend.  I'd already dug up the floors and laid new concrete, and I was far enough along on framing to finish the new support!  Katrina's dad was going to be in town so I figured I'd save the project for when he was around so he could see it finished.  It actually went pretty fast!  The house groaned a little as we lifted it back up to level (it had dropped a 1/4" or so since the post had been removed) but after a few hours everything was done and we no longer had a temporary post in the middle of our hallway!  Here's how it looks now.

There's a 5" I-Beam that's strapped above our wood support beam.

Both ends of the I-beam are supported by steel posts that will be hidden in the walls

I have no concerns about the stability of this beam.  It's way over-engineered and the rest of the house will break before this beam does.  This new beam will be with the house for the rest of the house's life, which is pretty cool considering as much as we like our choice in paint colors, flooring, etc. someone will most likely change them someday.

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  1. Well welcome back! (I totally know what you feel like about blogging sometimes being a chore which is why I’ve taken my own breaks here and there before.) LOL being a licensed PE (Professional Engineer) in your state isn’t a secret the list of PE’s maintaining/obtaining a license for the year is posted by each state online. I’m going to be studying like crazy for the next 3 1/2 months so I can take my PE test…after studying for the last year for the FE test I needed before being able to take the PE. Without being a PE you can’t stamp drawings and in some fields of engineering that is very important. Even if you don’t personally need to stamp the drawings having those two letters behind your name is a big deal. Some people won’t take you seriously as an engineer until you have them and in other areas you aren’t legally able to call yourself an engineer at all until you have them.

    Anyway, the beam looks good! I’m impressed you were able to work it in there with those tight conditions. Now let’s just hope that piping never leaks… You mentioned having to pour a footing under the posts but then it looks like you didn’t put the post directly onto the footing why is that? Or was that just the other post which isn’t pictured?

    • Congrats of the FE and good luck studying for the PE! There are 3 footings in our floor now, the original post that has been removed and 2 new footings for the new posts. One of the posts is against a chimney so the footing has to be a little off-center, if that’s what you mean.

  2. Boy, that beam was really cantilevered out there, huh? Our house (like every other house in MPLS, has the same beams running down the center of the basement. Luckily for us, though, our stairs are located just to the side of the beam, not square in the center. I enjoyed reading about your solution.

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