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Ever111 01-17-2012 04:56 PM

Sagging 2nd Story Floor After Main Floor Load-Bearing Wall Altered Below
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I suspect I already know the answer to this whole thing, but seeing as you are probably all quite a bit more knowledgeable about this stuff than I am, I thought I would ask over here!

We have a 1930s, 2 story, semi-detached home. I would say it's an updated home with many original features, such as original hardwoods throughout. Have lived here for about 9 months. We recently had a reno done in our house (done by a professional carpenter who has outstanding references and has done similar jobs in the past). The job included removing the majority of a load-bearing wall between two rooms on the main floor. A beam was put in place to bear the load. As I said, I am not very experienced when it comes to renos, but the beam seems comparable to what I have seen others using when I've Googled this (I believe it was 2 LVLs, maybe 2x8 or 2x10 each... not 100% and my photos are very limited, but I have attached one pic that I happen to have from when the reno was in progress).

Almost immediately after the reno was done, I noticed a gap of about 3/4" between the baseboard and the floors in the two rooms directly above where the wall was removed. The thing is, this is an older home, and there are some gaps and cracks around already... so even though I really think I would have noticed it if it were there before the reno, I have to admit that I am not 100% sure if the gaps were there or not before. But my gut is telling me that even if they were there before, they are significantly worse now. Noticing the gap led me to check the floor a little more carefully. Again, since the reno, I had noticed what seemed to be a little sag in the floor, but I can't 100% for sure say that it wasn't there before, too. There is definitely a sag in both rooms toward the spot where the beam is below, and it's not insignificant. At least an inch, quite possibly more. The door frames are also off, and one of the bedroom doors doesn't close properly. Again, this door closing was an issue before the reno. But it is definitely worse now.

From what I can tell, this is the only spot in the home where there is sagging like this going on. And the fact that it is right above the new beam where the wall was removed below, and that I only recently noticed the sag, makes me think that it was caused by the reno. My knowledge is limited, but I feel that the beam itself may not be the problem, but that maybe it was not positioned close enough to the floor above, if that makes any sense.

We are obviously planning to call the person who did the work back in to discuss this with us. He is a nice, honest, fair guy, but I seriously doubt he will step up and offer to fix our floor sag problem for us for free (who in their right mind would!). We also can't really prove that the sag was caused by the removal of the wall below, but the sag aligns exactly with the removed wall, so I can't see how they could not be related. So how exactly should we approach this with him? And, whether is does fix this or not, do you believe it should be his job to fix this. What are the chances that this was caused by something unrelated to the reno? Like natural settling, or something?

Also, on a related note, if a good part of a load-bearing wall is removed, and a beam is put in place, does a post also need to go in the basement to support this new wall? I have noticed that we have a steel post in our finished basement. The post does not sit directly below the upper post that is holding the new load-bearing beam. However, I believe the post is part of what is holding up the main beam in the basement, and the upstairs post seems to align itself with that beam. Is that most likely sufficient support in a smallish old house? Or does there need to be a support post directly below the load-bearing post above that is holding the beam?

THANK YOU so much for reading all of this... I appreciate any and all input!

nealtw 01-17-2012 07:09 PM

I wish people would quit thinking the contractors are engineers, we are not. Now you should have an engineer look at it and figure out whats happening.
The beam in the picture is not lvls. You see layers like plywood on the bottom edge and on your beam you can clearly see wood grain. If this was put in wet, it may have shrunk as much as 1/2". The floor would dip evenly for the length of the beam.
If the beam wasn't strong enough it would dip more in the center of the beam.
When installing posts instead of the wall there has to be solid blocking between the floor
joists below to carry the weight to the wall or beam below, this blocking was not needed for the wall that was.
It may be reasonable to assume that beam below was carrying the weight and nothing has changed but now maybe all the weight could be landing in the center of the beam below, this would show up as a sag in your main floor.
These are things that an engineer checks for before a job starts and inspects before the drywall goes up.
I hope this is helpfull and welcome to the site.

BridgeMan 01-17-2012 07:38 PM

Your suspicions that the sag is worse than before cannot be proven. Meaning it will cost you now to have corrections made. You made a mistake in not addressing the floor sag in your contract with the remodel guy, along with failing to even measure it. It would have been a relatively easy and inexpensive for him to correct when the beam was being installed. That being said, it's not logical that an 80-year-old house's settlement issues will suddenly become obvious in the last few months. Meaning his work had something to do with what you're experiencing. For what it's worth, is there presently any obvious sag in the beam? Should that be the case, it would lend some strength to your argument about this being, at least partially, his problem as well as yours.

I'd suggest you have him over to discuss the matter. Tell him what you've said in your initial post, and then wait to see if he will quote you a fair price to make corrections. If he's as honest as you think he is, his number will be reasonable. And if he's smart, he'll know his reputation (and future work prospects) will play into how he treats you.

Ever111 01-17-2012 10:28 PM

Thanks for these responses.

newltw -- I know, it's too bad that I realized too late that the fact that this guy has significantly more knowledge than me doesn't mean he had enough knowledge to deal with this properly. This was the first reno I was ever involved in and I obviously made a rookie mistake.

BridgeMan -- When you talk about how I should have measured the sag before the reno, it makes me realize more and more that I really did not notice any sag before this job was finished. So I didn't even think to measure something that I didn't notice. Makes me believe more and more that it wasn't there at all at the start of the job.

As for the beam sagging, I don't know if it is or not as it's blocked by the drywall now that the reno is done. There was no obvious sagging when it was first installed (the beam was exposed for a number of days before the drywall went up). And there is nothing on the drywall/trim of the opening to suggest it's sagging. The main floor looks 100% perfect... wish it really was perfect under everything.

As for the floor dipping, it does dip fairly evenly for the length of the beam, although it curves up on the outer ends of the sag only. I haven't found any sag in the main floor. If I'm lucky, hopefully that is the result of that part of the job having been done right. Although I know I'm naive to think that without having a professional check it out.

Thanks for taking the time to respond... I am going to have to figure out the right people to talk to about this... it's just so far beyond what I understand. I feel so stupid for blindly trusting someone. I truly believe he did the best he could and that he believes the job was done right, but that is obviously just not enough.

So, to sum it all up, I need to have the beam inspected and either replaced or reinforced to fix the sagging, and then I need to ensure that the new load is being properly supported down through the basement. Are there any other concerns that I am overlooking right now? And I bet this is impossible to estimate, but anyone have any clue what this kind of work might cost?

nealtw 01-17-2012 11:06 PM

How long is this beam? Bridgeman will be able tell us if two 2x10s might be overspanned.
Bridgeman: If the upstairs floor joists land on this beam, any sag that was there should or would have bean corrected with the installation of this beam. I would check for solid blocking down but I suspect shinkage in the beam which would be a fairly simple fix. As in lift the beam and shim each end and repair drywall. If the beam is overspanned, changing the beam to lvls wouldn't be a real big job either or evan a 2x12 to the side of it. You can check the height with the plates still there, your beam should be about 12" high.

BridgeMan 01-18-2012 03:48 AM

Measure the beam's sag (drywall in the way won't matter, unless the initial sag was so obvious that your contractor shimmed the ends to hide it) by fastening a 2 x 4 block, flat, to the underside at each end. Then tightly stretch a heavy string or nylon mason's line across the span, pressed upward on the blocks. If you don't want to nail through the adjacent walls for the string's holding points, then this will require two helpers--one on each end of the string, and one in the center of the beam, measuring with a tape measure upward from the string to the beam's drywall. If the measured distance is less than the thickness of each end block, that difference is the amount of sag in the beam. If there is no difference, the beam isn't sagging, or the drywall at the ends was shimmed to compensate (can easily tell by lightly tapping the bottom at both ends, while moving inward with the tapping--there will be a noticeable difference in sound where shimmed). If there is appreciable (unshimmed) sag, you should be able to see it with the naked eye by sighting down along one of the beam's bottom corners, while standing on a step stool.

Asking anyone to guesstimate a total cost for the correction is futile. Not enough details are known (such as whether the beam needs complete replacement or just raising/shimming, or whether the column supports require complete revamping, or how extensive the drywall repairs will be, etc.) to come up with an accurate figure.

As an aside, I noticed a flat 2 x 4 being used as a door header in the photo--not a good idea. Is that original construction, or a modification by your contractor?

Installing a beam wouldn't necessarily straighten up sagging ceiling joist ends. If the beam shows gaps at the ends when initially lifted into place, a typical quick-thinking contractor will reverse the beam, such that any camber in it is now negative camber, closely matching the sagging ceiling. That way the end gaps are eliminated without much shimming, and things can be buttoned up nicely with drywall.

inspectorD 01-18-2012 04:34 AM

And, a less expensive fix may be to add a post in the middle as a last resort.

I agree, I would get an "structural" engineer out there to give you a better idea.
And somehow, somewhere, did a town building official even look at this?
And if not, what else could be a problem?

nealtw 01-18-2012 10:24 AM

Our city inspectors would have asked for an engineers report, so I doubt any inspections were done here. I want to know how long this thing is. It does need to be fixed before the upstairs wall starts to settle down on it.

Ever111 01-24-2012 10:14 PM

Sorry for the lack of updates on this... been working on discussions/opening up of things with the contractor to figure out all the details of what has been done. Turns out that the beam is made up of double 2x6s with a layer in between (see pic in OP). Span is 10'. Is this anywhere close to strong enough to support things? There is a second story above, and empty attic space, as well as the roof, of course.

ETA -- There is a slight sag in the trim covering the bottom of the beam when checked with a long, flat, solid object. I am not sure yet if the beam underneath has the same sag. Is ANY sag in that beam considered normal? Is there a certain amount of allowance? Or does it need to be 100% straight all the way across?

nealtw 01-24-2012 11:00 PM

There is no way 2 2x6s are enough. You would use 2 2x10s when you are just carring the floor. This will only get worse as the wall upstairs will settle down.
Bridgeman may be able to help you out with what it should be. How is the roof constructed? If you have factory trusses there may be little or no weight from the roof but if you a hand framed rafter system, the roof load has to be factured in.

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