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Question DetailsAsked on 8/27/2013

What professional deals with load-bearing columns and their repair?

Second story extends over first story in the back of home to form an open porch.

This part of the second story is held up by (4) wood columns.

One of the interior wood columns was pushed slightly out of position by lawn mower and was just dangling (apparently no load was on it). Pushed it back in place but now there is a lot of load on it, won't budge.

All (4) columns that are resting on concrete are showing signs of water damage at bottoms.

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5 Answers


A deck contractor might be able to do this right, but I would recommend a framing carpenter instead. This may or may not be fixable, but for the cost I would recommend replacing all four columns with copper pressure-treated wood (ACA/CCA/ACC/ACQ) - the green treated wood, for long life. The total difference to your total job cost will probably be less than about $100 compared with other wood types, but you get probably about 50 years life versus 10-15.

If the posts are not secured to the concrete they should be - there are galvanized brackets made by Simpson and others designed to be drilled and grouted into the concrete, and nailed or bolted to the base of the post. If only the bases of the posts are rotten, it may be using an adjustable post bracket and cutting the bottom of the post off will save on having to replace the posts entirely, if they are otherwise in good shape and can be painted up to keep water out.

If replacing the columns, it would also help to recoat the wood with an additional coat of the copper treatment (comes in green and brown) because the coating these days is generally much lighter than the old 0.25 CCA treatment was (costs about same as paint), and to install a galvanized 1/8" thick steel bearing plate or square washer (available at building supply and hardware stores) placed under the column and full-surface "caulked" with roofing repair bitumastic "tar" (available in caulk gun) to the timber (to keep water out) to keep the bottom of the wood out of standing water for the rest of its life.

Cost depends a lot on how much needs to be done, but ballpark I would say about $250 minimum if only cut post bottoms off and coat with treatment and put in bearing plate and adjustable post brackets, to $500-1000 for full post replacements plus brackets. I would tend toward the $500 number more than the $1000 unless there is something I am missing.

After the new coat of treatment soaks in and dries for a couple of weeks or so, then you can paint the posts if you want - I have found acrylic latex ( I used Weatherbeater exterior trim paint - 25+ years without any maintenance and counting) works better than oil based on treated timber - gives a more uniform coverage and does not bleed like the oil-based does, which mobilizes the treatment chemicals and brings them to the surface of the paint film.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Something to add to the last answer:

If the post was loose before but is tight now you either have a foundation that is flexing and heaving or framing that is moving. It's is likely the concrete slab. You may need to look into getting that stabilized. I've installed new columns on porches with slab movement by putting a steel pin into the top of the post and then the beam above. With the base of the post anchored properly the post slides down on the pin when the foundation falls and rises back into place, guided by the pin, when it lifts again. The trim is fastened to the beam creating a pocket for the posts to go up and down in to it isn't noticeable. Bear in mind this does nothing structurally for your floor above and could be a bad move if the beam can not support the second floor without the support of the column at all times. The best thing to do is get the foundation movement reduced by stabilizing it. Then replace the columns. A general contractor might be able to do both jobs but you'll likely need a foundation repair company to stabilize the concrete first. Then have the carpenter or contractor do the rest.

Todd Shell

Todd's Home Services

San Antonio, TX

Answered 6 years ago by Todd's Home Services


Additional to Todd's comments:

1) if you do the center pin idea to hold a post in place with trim skirting to conceal the fact it is moving up and down, caulk real good before putting the trim on, then caulk a bevel at the top edge (or bevel the skirt boards) so water will run off and not sit on top of the skirt boards, and leave them wide open at the bottom so you do not create a damp spot inside them.

2) if the "foundations" Todd is talking about are just concrete blocks sitting on the surface or embedded only about a foot (the right way to install them) then the carpenter can reset them easily. If cast in place concrete piers under the post, then a deck installation company can replace them - you do not necessarily need a concrete repair company. It would be cheaper in most cases to replace than repair anyway. Unless the deck was built right to the load limits for the size of supporting beams, the carpenter can look up spacing limitations in a table and most likely provide new locations for posts approximately 1-2 foot inside or 1-2 foot outside the existing ones, so you do not have to dig up the existing piers - just abandon them in place. It is extremely rare for deep concrete piers to shift noticeably, expecially over a short time, so I would guess you are talking just "pier blocks" which sit only a few inches in the ground - very easy for the carpenter to fix when fixing the post rot problem.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


I wasn't really thinking in terms of a deck piers since the posts are on concrete and the 2nd floor of the house extends over it. Rather than piers the entire structure should have been tied together with a solid concrete foundation (the floor of the porch). That way everything moves in unison and the support for the gameroom, bedroom, whatever is up there, stays plumb relative to any movement of the house. I suppose this will depend on the part of the country you're in. Things are done in the northern states and Canada that seem funny or strange to us here and visa-vera I'm sure. Here, I wouldn't trust a deck contractor to ensure proper support of a floor and roof structure unless he is also well versed in other forms of construction. Of course we also have a lot of illegals here that know enough to barely get by and do cheap decks.

Answered 6 years ago by Todd's Home Services


What Todd says makes a lot of sense if the second story is a full story, with a porch on top of it. I had read the comment as meaning the second story extended out only as a deck - no rooms on the second story overhang. If there is more to the second story than a porch, then treat it as part of the house structure, and you do not want a deck contractor working on it.

If it is just a porch, then this overhang is like a lean-to or carport with flat roof with little dead load, and either could probably handle it.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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