12:08PM | 02/04/05
Member Since: 02/01/05
3 lifetime posts
I won a roughly 20 year-old townhouse with what appears to be a wooden support beam in my living room. It runs about 15-feet from a point next to a ventilation intake (adjacent to our powder room) to the opposite side of the house. The beam is 5" wide and about 8" high (if that's the right way to describe that dimension). My concern is that it's starting to show thin cracks on the sides. Some cracks are relatively short (a couple inches) and others are a good bit longer. Does this mean the ceiling above is about to cave in? I doubt it's that serious, but still I'm prone to worry.

For my part, I don't know if this beam is solid wood or perhaps a wood facade over something else. The beams in my basement are obviously metal, but this one in my living room is painted white, so I'm trying not to assume anything. In any case, I'm not sure what kind of contractor I'd ask about this. Would a carpenter do the trick? Thanks.



04:30PM | 02/18/05
Member Since: 04/10/03
16 lifetime posts
From what you describe, it would seem this beam is for decorative purposes. Ceiling joists are typically 2x10 or 2x12. The cracking you are experiencing may be from the wood drying and shrinking and is normal. However, to be sure, it would not hurt to have a structural engineer take a look at it.



11:15AM | 02/19/05
Member Since: 12/27/02
543 lifetime posts
That sounds about right for a support beam 5 1/2 inches wide x15 ft. long Probably it would be 16 to 20 inches high, and go up into the joisting.

Typically the joists would be hung off of this type of beam 20 years ago, today it would be a micro lam (or sim.) smaller and be flush (hidden) in the ceiling.

It probably is a coastal fir, (DF) and what you are seeing is called checking, a natural result of the wood slowly drying out.

A major concern is if these get to the core, and a lot of these beams are cut from the center of the tree. If any of those do you would have a structural engineer look at it, but there would be evidence of the beam failing such as it dropping cracks in the walls above etc. Of course if there is any doubt check with a local engineer! This is only guessing.

If I were you I'd call a local licensed building contractor and explain to him you have a couple of issues you would like to have looked at, and you wouldn't mind paying him for his time, plus a shot at the work (if needed). He will be able to determine the load by looking outside and seeing if there are exterior walls resting over the beam plus inside by the joisting & wall layout.

Alter Eagle Construction & Design
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