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Question DetailsAsked on 1/14/2018

Are small cracks(4-6"horizontally along with grain for approx 12') in 1929 house Main beam a problem? Main is12x12

Beam is in the basement. House is cape cod with bearing wall on first floor above the beam and bedrooms on second floor. The beam is supported on either side of 12 foot space in basement, one side is on a ledge from exterior foundation wall and the other is a wall that divides the basement into two sections. The beam continues in the other basement room. It was supported by posts and jacked up 20 years ago in the other section of the basement. does it need more support for the 12 ft on this side as well? or are small cracks just drying/stress with age?

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1 Answer


You probably figured I would say this - it depends. If the cracks are paper-thin to not more than about 1/16" open and not penetrating clear through the width of the beam, NOT cutting across the grain or depth of the beam (so are following the grain basically along the length of the beam, not "across it), not breaking the beam up into separate pieces of wood (so basically just little cracks here and there but not causing it to look like a laminated beam coming apart), and the beam is not sagging more than about 1" per 5-10 feet of free span, USUALLY not a problem.

If the beam is severely sagging, has any places where the natural aging sag in it is discontinuous (not smooth), splinters or pieces of wood are projecting out of the beam or the bottom is splitting free, you can see places at the cracks where the wood fibers are tearing or shredding apart, or it is compressing noticeably at or sliding off the supports, then a Structural Engineer should look at it - as one should if you have any other doubts about it. Commonlyi around $150-300 for an engineer to do a site visit to inspect it and give a recommendation - from $0-150 more typically for a remedial support design if needed.

You can also google for typical images of "normal" drying and shrinkage cracking and for structural failure cracking in wood beams to see how this compares.

Whether a post should go under this section of the beam, considering the other part has one, depends on floor and overhead wall loading. For instance, a load-bearing wall may have been taken out upstairs and new supports put in which put more load on that section of the meam mid-span, so it may have had to be reinforced for that reason. Or it may have had a tree growth defect or damage or construction damage or carpenter goof with a saw cut which made it need more support.

Also, though this can have an impact on resale value especially if it blocks free use of the basement space, if ti is not in your way you could always just preventatively put a similar post to the other one under there as a preventative measure - without jacking any sag out of it, a handyman could do that for you. Would likely not need a 12" support post, especially with only a 12 foot free span. Normally something like a 6x6 or possibly 8x8 or 4" pipe support would be used in a normal (not over 2 story) house loading situation.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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