Crawl Space Beam Repair & Replacement
A support beam or girder is a horizontal structural element that is capable of withstanding the load of the floor joists. A center beam transfers the load it carries on to the support columns or piers and crawlspace foundation wall. Beams can be made up of wood, steel, or reinforced concrete. Most often, they three boards of 2×8 or 2×10 lumber sandwiched together by nails or screws. A center beam runs down the middle of the home transferring the load of the joists between the piers. The piers should be spaced according to the strength of the beam installed.
A softened, damaged, or over spanned beam will require different solutions for its repair. It is important to repair the exact problem the beam is experiencing as a one size fits all approach (post jacks) will not always work. A home’s center beam can experience several different problems.
Problem: Beam has wood rot or termite damage.
Solution: In most of these cases, the beam will have to be completely replaced. This is a difficult and potentially dangerous process so make sure the company you hire are experienced professionals. The beam that is replaced should be the same size as the previous beam, and possibly may need additional piers or columns to support the beam. A common but improper repair that we have seen in the field all too often is to sandwich the damage beam with new boards and bolts. While this will hold up the house, it is not a permanent repair and may not pass a home inspection when you sell the home.
Regardless of the repair to the rotting beam, the solution must also include a crawlspace encapsulation system to reduce the high moisture content in the wood. Wood rot needs between 28%-30% moisture content in the wood. Repairing the rotten beam must include crawlspace moisture removal system to prevent the dry rot and termites from spreading.
Problem: Beam is sagging and/or overspanned.
Solution: The beam will sag from high moisture content in the crawl, and if the beam is over spanned between the piers. In either case, the proper repair is to reinforce the middle of the span of the beam with new block piers or support columns. We recommend in most crawlspaces, that the new piers be made of cinder blocks. Post Jacks are made of metal and have a tendency to rust out at the bottom where they are touching the ground floor. Cinder blocks will not deteriorate and are the material that builders trust.
Problem: Support piers or columns are sinking.
The beam’s piers can be made from concrete blocks, metal post jacks, or wooden posts. These piers rest on either thin concrete pads or lightly compacted soils. Over time these piers move with the soil due to fluctuation in soils moisture from the lack of a proper drainage system in the crawlspace. As the pier sinks into the soil, the beam will start to sag causing the uneven floors.
Solution: Install additional piers with solid footings in place of the sinking pier and in the middle of the beam, if necessary. Also, install a drainage system to prevent the saturation of the soil around the footings. Sometimes with minor settlement, the problem lies with the shims between the beam and the support column. A quick repair is to replace these wooden shims with steel shims.
Improper Repairs to watch out for:
- Notching the beam over the piers
- Replacing beam with 4×4 or 6×6 instead of original material
- Sandwiching the beam with new lumber
- Installing a smaller beam than the original
- Shimming the damaged beam rather than installing a new beam
- Installing support columns upon wood instead of a concrete footing
Crawlspace Support Beams and Helper Beams must be installed properly on every home with the right sizing, pier spacing, and structural engineering. All wood center beams should have maximum ground clearance and be shimmed properly to level the floor system. Main Center Beams are the “bridge” structure that in reality, supports all of the rest of the floor structural components. Over the past 2 1/2 decades, The Crawlspace Company has replaced thousands of feet of main center beam support.
Look out for bad repairs, Give The Crawlspace Company a call Today! Call 1-877-409-2837