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Question DetailsAsked on 2/6/2014

Can I remove the center pole in a cement 2 car garage, built in 1929, that has a slate roof? Who would I talk to?

We have a 2 car garage built in 1929. It's an independent structure, I think it's all cement or cement bricks, and it has its own little slate roof. The openings for each car are narrow, about 98". The middle pole is (I think!) about a foot long, making it much harder to fit cars in, especially our new minivan. We don't have doors on it. I was wondering if it's possible to either remove the middle support pole completely and replace by top support somehow, or at least replace it with something much narrower. Even if we could add 5-6" to the opening, that would be something (save me having to fold in the passenger side mirror before pulling in). I'd love to know (1) whether it's even feasible, (2) how much something like this might cost, and (3) who would I approach about it? Lastly, would I need the original plans for it, or would an engineer be able to figure out the support structure just by looking at it? Thanks!

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Voted Best Answer

I know I am going to get rebutals to this answer.

It is not possible to give a good answer with out having a picture of the girders above the existing doors. That being said if the center post is supporting a continuos girder it may be possible to replace it with a steel concrete filled column and even if the existing headers or girders do not run all the way through you may be able to have a steel angle iron top fabricated that would pick up the load. The other option would be an engineered wood girder and most lumber yards can call their supplier with the width of the garage and the length of the openning and I would mention that it has the slate roof. All the engineered wood companies used to give us contractors charts to figure it out ourselves but now they have an engineering department to avoid mistakes and lawsuits.

The roof will have to be supported by a temporary wall while the beam is replaced and if you are going this far you might as well think about if in the furure you may want garage doors so you can size the openning for a standard door even if it entails changing the side support post locations. And also what you have now is pretty much a standard one car garage door, most are 8 foot wide by 7 foot high.


Answered 6 years ago by ContractorDon


You definitely need to talk to an engineer on this one.

If you want to post up a picture, we can give you some ideas but you should not proceed without getting a stamped letter from a certfied engineer.

Answered 6 years ago by WoWHomeSolutions


Just to add to the question - I'd love to get a sense of the $$$ here. I don't want to pay $400 to an engineer, and then find out it's a $5,000 job (in which case we won't do it - too much). Thanks!

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_9988939


Usually , the building inspection dept of the locale in you reside , is going to require you to consult with an engineer and have an engineer provide you with written specifications as to what is required . What you are wanting to accomplish is NOT a matter that you are going to want to do without an engineers consultation , and if you cannot afford the

engineering fees , then chances are , you will not be able to afford the proceedure.

HE or She , the engineer we are speaking of , will be able to give you some minimal advice based on job site visitation , but in all likelyhood , they will need to do some other computing away from the job site to provide a solid answer .

Reference the feasibilty , ONLY an engineer can answer that question , NOT a contractor or a Building Inspector , that is the reason they are called engineers and why they spend 4 years in college , at minimum , learning their trade ! To try an accomplish this task without an engineer's input would be foolhardy and quite simply dumb and stupid. It will your responsibilty if you cause the structure to collapse and if someone is injured because of it , all the insurance in the world will not help -1- iotta and you will lose most of what you own !

Either forget it ,or do what is required and hire an engineer !

Answered 6 years ago by BentheBuilder


As mentioned in one of the other comments, a 98" wide opening for a garage bay is not narrow - standard car bay opening widths are 8, 9, and 10 feet wide, so yours is probably framed for a standard 8' wide by 7' high door. You should be able to fit in there without pulling your mirrors in.

Assuming the attic is exposed or accessible so an engineer could take measurements of the roof support structure, he would not need original plans, though of course that could save an hour or two of his time (and cost).

Given the age, I would bet about 1000:1 odds this is a primary support column that cannot be eliminated without major structural additions - hence probably likely in the $2500-5000 or more range, where you don't want to go.

I can see 2 possible cases here without seeing photos - call them A and B:

A) You said middle pole is a foot long - I presume you mean a foot wide ? Presumably about 7-8 feet long (to underside of a beam) or maybe about 15 feet long, to peak of roof ? I am guessing for Case A that this post supports the center of a beam that runs down the length (front to back) of the garage, bearing on multiple studs at the back wall, and on posts between the two garage doors openings in the front, then this troublesome post in the middle of it. This beam then provides support for the middle of roof trusses, I presume ?

IF this is the case (and if you can post pictures might throw this whole discussion on its head), only a couple of possibilities to ease your situation cheaply that I can see - without a major replacement of supporting structure.

1) Replace the (presumably wood) post with a concrete filled or structural steel column, which might get its width down to about 6-8 inches - does not really gain you much width for about $1000 or more cost.

2) "Strongback" the front to back beam I have hypothesized with a supplementary truss overhead, or add a supplementary beam underneath, running full length of garage and eliminating the post. Likely to be at least several thousand dollars including engineering.

Case B:

In this case I assume you are talking the center column at the front face of the garage between the two doorways, that holds up the center of the beam going over the doorways, and also the front face of the garage above the doors. If the garage roof is supported on the two side walls and not this beam and front wall (meaning the peak or ridge of the roof lies over the center of the garage from front to back), then there is hope - it could be reduced in size by replacing it with a structural steel column, and the beam could also be (potentially, if in good shape) strengthened with addition of steel or plywood platesd so it does not need as much of a center support, or potentially even be totally replaced with a stronger beam capable of spanning the entire width, like in a typical one-door 2-car garage. I think this is what - who was it, Don ? - meant when he said a temporary wall would have to be built to provide support for the joists and wall while the beam was replaced. This type of replacement is fairly common, and can run in the $2000-5000 range depending on the current configuration and available headroom and such, and whether you are totally eliminating the center post or not.

If you can get pictures to us, or at least confirm if this post supports a beam from front to back of garage at about its center or if you mean the center support under the doorway beam, that would get us forward quite a ways. Then we could give you a better handle on likely cost and if it looks feasible. However, ANY fix is going to need an engineer's input and an apporved plan - likely $300-500 for a thinner replacement column fix, more like $600-1000 for an eliminating the column solution - plus of course then the contractor cost to actually do it.

Either way, I am guessing you are unlikely to solve this problem for less than about half the $5000 amount you said was out of the question, at a minimum - so where your cutoff for acceptable expense is will be critical in your decision.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Found the other response I wanted to reference, from a little while back - about taking out the center support in a two car garage and turning it into a 16' opening - this is what would likely be needed in your B) case if you took the column totally out.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Thanks so much all for all the answers. I am guessing this will be more expensive than we can manage, but, as requested, I am adding pictures. I would be happy to even just shave the column if possible.

As you can see, the opening is vary narrow relative to our minivan. The car is 80" wide + ~10" mirrors on each side. With the mirrors folded in, they add only about 3" on each side. That makes it 86". Which leaves me 6" on each side. That's not enough for me to open the door on the driver's side. I can TRY to come in closer on the middle side, but frankly it makes me really nervous. So far, I've been coming in centered, and then exiting on the passenger side. OK now, that I am 5 months pregnant, not so much probably when I am 8-9 months pregnant...

Even gaining a few inches would be significant! Anyhow, here are the photos... (The last one is from the inside, looking up, to show the beams).

Thanks again!!!

(And, for clarification, if we could widen the opening for less then a $1000, even without removing the column completely, we'd do it. If it's $5K or more, I'll just continue crawling through the passenger side and taking the kids out that side too, and if it's somewhere in between, then, well, I'm not sure.)

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_9988939


A picture is worth a thousand words it is said. Your picture clears up a bunch of questions. First off it shows that this is a masonry walled garage so making support pockets for a girder is a bit harder and the main girder for the garage is running front to back and is supported by the masonry column inbetween the doors. It would be possible to remove the support and install a girder across the two oppenings but it will be costly. It appears the center girder may only be holding mostly the weight of the garage ceiling as the roof is a hip roof (I think from the pictures) so you may not need that big a girder since it is supporting most likely just the 1/4 of the roof on that side and half of the storage floor above.If you have an engineer in the area you might get a ballpark idea of costs and feasability if you brought those pictures in for a consult. It would probably not cost too much for just a consult if you bring in the dimensions of the garage and could possibly take a picture to show if I am correct in asuming it is a hip roof.

It is probably cheaper to trade in the Minivan for a smaller car like a Smart car or trade in your wife for one with better driving skills.

Answered 6 years ago by ContractorDon


ContractorDon - Technical comments appreciated. NOT a hip roof. And, comment on wife, who is an excellent driver btw, not adding much to the discussion. YOU try opening a car door and getting in/out with 6-8" to the wall... Now, try it again, 8-9 month pregnant.

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_9988939


Don was just joshing - hopefully no offense taken. We all throw a bit of humor in occasionally to try to lighten the dry subject matter here, and I think the more frustrated we get at not being able to give a really helpful, definitive answer the more tendency there is to do that in lieu of throwing our hands up in despair and saying "I just don't understand the situation enough to say for sure" or "I wish I could help you, but I just don't think you are going to get it for that low a price".

1) As usual, cell phone pictures just don't blow up enough to be sure what they show. I am assuming all the beams are concrete since you said cement structure - somehow the beams over the openings look like concrete though the post by the car is certainly concrete, but the beams and post and the center beam look like wood or wood faced, which would make the following solution uneconomic probably. Can you clarify which of the beams are concrete and which wood and if any appear to be wood faced for structural support (as opposed to trimming out), if the center post is wood or concrete, and if that is wood plank or formed concrete ceiling I am seeing. Looks like most or maybe all your structure is concrete structure with cinder block walls ? Also - in the attic/loft - can you tell if the floor beams (if floor is not concrete) run front to back or crosswise to the garage, and if crosswise do they run all the way across, or run only halfway across the garage from each side and end on top of the center beam from each side. Also, confirm if you have trusses like one of these designs supporting the roof -

or rafters like this (in the first image with the red lines labelled A through D) -

in the attic supporting the roof, and which way they run - presumably front to back unless you have rectangular trusses, each of different height as you go down the roof, running crosswise to the garage. Knowing which you have will help a lot in figuring whst the center beam is doing and how much load is likely to be on it.

2) Unless they were really cramped for width by property lines or something, whoever built the garage long ago did not know how to do it - the garage walls would normally be about 2-3 feet wider than the garage door opening on each side to provide room for the doors to open, the roof would normally shed sideways not front to back, and the center beam would run crosswise across the middle of the garage, not front to back. As it lies, I am not even sure what that center beam is for - it might only stabilize the column from tilting and not actually carry any weight from the roof at all, unless that is a cast concrete ceiling in which case that would likely be a critical support beam.

3) What it looks like to me - the headers (the beams over the door) come into the post for support from each side, then the central support beam down the middle of the garage comes in BETWEEN them for support, sitting on the same post (or possibly a couple of timbers scabbed together as a post ?). If this is the case, then there is a possible solution which would widen the openings by narrowing the post to the width of the central beam - looks like you would gain maybe 3-4 inches on a side. HOWEVER, would mean putting in temporary supports for the roof (half of which bears on these beams) while the beams are swapped out for new longer ones that would meet in the middle of the post, or run continuous over it. The other part of the change would be to change the post out for a narrower one - the width of the center beam say. Also, cut the center beam back in length so it just reaches to the new front beams, and put another post under the end of it, or make the new post the width of this bean, but much deeper front to back to carry the door opening beams on the front half, and the shortened center beam on the back half. This might mean a steel or concrete rather than wood post, but that is no problem and not a lot greater cost. This is not going to be cheap and definitely needs a structural engineer's input to develop the support system and temproary supports during construction. Unfortunately, if the beams and post are concrete, then it is possibly out of your cost range.

4) Four other alternatives, doing some thinking outside the box here to try to come up with a cheaper solution - from cheapest to more expensive, though all probably cheaper than changing the beams and post:

a) Park your car outside till she is home for the night to leave drivers side door opening room galore or her. Would mean going out inthe evening/night every day to move your car inside if you want it protected from the weather, and in the morning to moe it out again if she leaves home before you do.

b) It looks like both doorways are the same size. If so, if your wife parked in the right bay instead of the left then she would have, it looks like, a 2-3 feet door opening space into the center of the garage, between the two cars. You could then back into the left bay, having the same door opening room (though of course, not at the same time). Would require some practice backing and pulling the mirrors in maybe, and maybe mounting some wheel level "whiskers" - the old metal "boing" spring curb scrapers that used to be mounted on cars for parallel parking assistance up till about the 70's - to let you know when you are getting too close to one side or another. A good method to help you back straight is to hang a rope centered on the doorway from front to back of the garage, then hang tennis balls on string (or just pieces of string hanging down) at intervals that hit your back window as you back in - lining up on them to keep youself straight and centered - the last ball or string being the corredct distance fro the back wall to be the stopping point when you reach it. That would give both cars adequate door room, it looks like. Does NOT solve the tight clearance and mirror issue coming through the doorway.

c) Depending on lot space and building codes, add a lean-to carport on the side of the garage to park the second car in until the last of the kids are big enough to get in and out of the car themselves.

d) Have a hole knocked in the outer wall on the left side (looking in) - with engineer's design of course - and put in a bumped-out door opening bay, maybe combined with an arctic entrance door. I am thinking maybe about a 6-10 foot wide opening (front to back along the wall) located so the car door can open AND leave room for the person to get out and move around in this bumpout bay - possibly even wider to accomodate both car doors at same time to get the baby out. This bay would be a bumpout of the building wall, with a porch type roof on it outside, and could have a door to the outside if desired. Looking at the structure this appears to be a low load bearing wall - supporting just the end wall and a couple of feet worth of roof load, so cutting an opening and putting in a steel header beam and supporting posts to carry the load from above would not be tough. If the ceiling is actually concrete floor for an attic or room above, then wall probably carries more load but still maybe workable.

5) If you want, let us know about the supporting structure and concrete versus wood features and we can refine our advice to suit, but my thought is any beam/post modification is going to be in the $2500-5000 range, and wall bumpout and carport likely to be in the $2000-4000 range, so the only really cheap solution is changing your parking mode per suggestions 1) and 2). Otherwise, if you think we have given all the help we can, then you need to decide whether to talk to a structural engineer or not. A site trip (including ladder for addess to attic if that is needed) would probably cost about $250 or so for a looksee and off the cuff impression - then another $250-750 to design a fix if you decide to go ahead, AND if he says teh existing structure is sound enough to handle the load transfers during construction, because your concrete is looking fairly deteriorated.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Thanks LCD - reply much appreciated... And, no offense taken at contractordon, just hard to know sometimes if people are joking or not over this medium :)

Anyhow - it's the worst case scenario - concrete through and through. Not a chip of wood anywhere. So, clearly, the most expensive and complicated scenario. Was a bit comforting to her that the garage really was planned badly, and it's not just us who are crazy struggling with a normal garage. Yes, they did every mistake you mentioned on the list. Hard to chase them though, 85 years later...

I think we'll resort to some combination of solutions (a) and (b). Love the tennis balls idea! Much cheaper than changing the garage I suppose. And, no, side opening is not an option unfortunately - propety line on one side, and hill on the other... So, (a) and (b) and some tennis balls it will be!

Thanks again to everyone for the great advice - much appreciated, truly!

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_9988939


Glad you are going to have at least some resolution - but I do believe beam modifications would run at least close to the $5000 number if not over with an all concrete building.

You might give the side entrance a thought still if the change in parking patterns does not work - from the photo it does not look like the hill is real steep or close to the garage, so perhaps a modified L-shaped cellar storm door type cellar would work - open the wall (with supports) for car door access, push out a concrete pad and cinder block bumpout maybe 4-5 feet outside the garage wall into the hillside (with appropriate drainage to keep water out of garage and to let it continue to drain around garage and not get blocked), with hillside excvation along the side of the garage to provide a path to front or back - whichever way is best to get to house.

On the tennis balls - ribbons work just as well - the tennis balls are good in the dark because you can hear them bump the window - however, eventually you might get a line of scratches along the roof of the car from the ball dragging in the dirt - I had not thought of that when I suggested it. Usually tennis balls are hung so when you pull in when the ball (single ball for each bay) touches the windshield when you are as far forward as you want to be - avoids bumping into back wall of garage, or leaving trunk hanging out wherre the descending garage door can hit it. In your case I would use a bright, maybe flourescent yarn or ribbon for all but the last marker.

Another thing you can do to avoid hitting the posts coming in, in additon to putting curb alert springs on the garage door opening so they hit the wheels if too close - would be to put a hanging bright string or yard from the beam down alongside the posts but a few inches inside it on both sides of the door with a weight on the end, as a clearance marker, so you can see it deflect sideways from hitting the car before you scrape the car on the concrete. Might be especially useful while you are getting the feel for backing in. Would have to work out height so it is hit by widest part of car (determined from top to bottom of car profile), but without getting hooked in behind the bumper or mirror as you pull in.

Good luck - if a) and b) don't work for you, you always still have the other pricier options - bumpout or carport - either dug into or perched up higher on flattened bench in hillside alongside the garage, or if you have room and legal in your area, just off front of garage as an extension. Of course, you would have to check planning and zoning regs on required setbacks from street, building carports, etc.

Good Luck and may your cars remain scratch free.

BTW - if the mirror thing gets to be a real hassle, they do make aftermarket "power folding side mirrors" thatwill fit most car models that have electric controls to turn it in flat along the side of the car - custom auto shops and body shops could install one if that would help. Don't know cost, but I would expect the about $50 mirror (google "electric folding side mirror") would cost about $150-250 installed.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Sorry about the joke. The reason I thought the roof was a hip roof was the picture showed a slight angle and it was that and the fact that it looks like your ceiling joists run the wrong way. The ceiling picture makes it look like they run perpenticular to the ridge and not parallel as is normal to keep the roof from spreading. If it was a hip they could have run either way. Now after looking at it again it looks like the ceiling is not wood but concrete and what is showing is the old impressions from the forms that were used and the center girder or beam may well be reinforced concrete as well. If that is the case I think you would be best off getting an engineer to look at it!And you may be better off following some of LCD's ideas such as the tennis ball.

Sorry again Don

Answered 6 years ago by ContractorDon

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