Sagging 2nd Story Floor After Main Floor Load-Bearing Wall Altered Below

Discussion in 'Framing and Foundation' started by Ever111, Jan 17, 2012.

  1. Jan 17, 2012 #1

    Ever111

    Ever111

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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!

    PICT3346.jpg
     
  2. Jan 18, 2012 #2

    nealtw

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    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.
     
  3. Jan 18, 2012 #3

    BridgeMan

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2012
  4. Jan 18, 2012 #4

    Ever111

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    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?
     
  5. Jan 18, 2012 #5

    nealtw

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    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.
     
  6. Jan 18, 2012 #6

    BridgeMan

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    Ever:
    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?

    nealtw:
    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.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2012
  7. Jan 18, 2012 #7

    inspectorD

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    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?
     
  8. Jan 18, 2012 #8

    nealtw

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    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.
     
  9. Jan 25, 2012 #9

    Ever111

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    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?
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2012
  10. Jan 25, 2012 #10

    nealtw

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    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.
     
  11. Jan 25, 2012 #11

    BridgeMan

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    The beam is definitely too small, unless Mr. Carpenter sandwiched in a steel plate. Without knowing a lot of the details (type of wood, loading factors from upper floor, etc.), it's not possible to make a reasonable determination as to what would be required to make a workable beam that's not overstressed. If we assume the 2 x 6s are good for an allowable bending stress of 900 psi (middle of the likely range of normal values), the beam could support a combined uniform load of only 91 lbs. per linear foot, before deflections become noticeable. Not very much, considering that number is the sum of everything that will be carried by the beam, including its weight, possible snow loads from upstairs interior walls partially supporting the attic, floor joists, flooring and floor covering, furniture, people, dogs, cats, etc. And not factored in are the second floor room sizes (larger rooms apply heavier total loads to the beam).

    That being said, I think it's time to ask Mr. Carpenter exactly how he determined the size of the beam he installed. Along with asking him how he proposes to make things right.
     
  12. Jan 25, 2012 #12

    Ever111

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    Thanks for the responses. Initially, he had written in his quote to me that he planned to use LVL. Would 2 2x6 LVL be more appropriate? Also, I'm not sure what has been used as column on either side to support the beam. Any ideas how to look in to what would be appropriate the bear the weight in those columns? Or is that less of a concern than the beam itself?

    Also, anywhere good online where there is a chart or something that I can show him as a sort of proof that the 2x6 is not going to work?

    I am glad to be figuring this out now... the plan seems to be that he will fix the problem. Then I will follow up on my own with someone else to check out the work.

    ETA -- What are the consequences of using a beam that is too small, so that I can discuss with him? That the beam will sag/bow and then, eventually, possibly break? Also, I am just assuming that this is not an immediate problem, where it's likely to snap on me in the next couple of days before any corrections are made. Am I right in thinking that it's safe on a temporary basis? Or should I be taking other precautions?

    ETA -- Room sizes above the beam are small (about 7'x9' and 8'x11'). The longer measurements in each room are the ones that meet along the new beam below.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2012
  13. Jan 25, 2012 #13

    nealtw

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    I would have had an engineer look at this job to start with, which the home owner pays for. This is the time that you need him in to have a look. He can figure out weights and loads and make a call as to what needs to be done. I would be looking at a couple feet of temp wall in the center of this. It just isn't enough!
     
  14. Jan 25, 2012 #14

    nealtw

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  15. Jan 25, 2012 #15

    Ever111

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    nealtw -- Can I clarify something about the chart with you? I know very little about this which is why I hired someone to do it for me. :(

    In the first section of the chart, when it says "Supported Joist Length", does that refer to the span of the beam? And, in that case, does the chart say that they require 3 2x8s just to cover the 8' span? And what does the "9-8" under the "3-2x8" refer to?

    Thanks for this help.
     
  16. Jan 25, 2012 #16

    nealtw

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    I never read these charts, I let engineers figure this stuff out, but I think that number might be the length of the floor joist that are sitting on it.
     
  17. Jan 25, 2012 #17

    nealtw

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    Just for example we just had a house fail inspection. A 9 ft header failed and has to be changed out for a beam, it was 3 2x10s and the floor doesn't land on it.
     
  18. Jan 26, 2012 #18

    Ever111

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    Not that this makes any difference regarding safety and code, but was that 9 ft header showing any signs of actually physically failing?

    Also, what do you have to change it out to now?
     
  19. Jan 26, 2012 #19

    BridgeMan

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    Check out the header table published by Scott McVicker, a California licensed Professional and Structural Engineer. (www.mcvicker.com) That table shows a double 2 x 6 header with one floor above it as only being good for a 3'-0" span. For your situation, even a double 2 x 12 wouldn't cut it, being good for a 6'-0" span. Granted, his tables may have earthquake loads factored into them, making them somewhat more conservative than non-earthquake country tables would be.

    If your carpenter is using LVLs, he needs to refer to a manufacturer's span tables (or helpline technical support) to make sure the size he goes with will be adequate. Trus Joist (Weyerhaeuser) has a good helpline engineering staff, the last time I used them. 1.800.628.3997. If you find a local supplier that sells a lot of Weyerhaeuser, they may have an in-store tech who could come up with a properly-sized member.

    To answer your earlier questions for nealtw, the allowable maximum beam span values are numbers shown under the built-up beam sizes. Under Doug Fir, meaning a triple 2 x 8 beam supporting joists 8' long is good for 9'-8". The larger the rooms above, the shorter the allowable span (6'-10" if the joists are 16').
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2012
  20. Jan 26, 2012 #20

    Jdmrenovations

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    My :2cents: can sort of be summed up in my signature line.

    Definitely get a qualified engineer on it asap. Just reading through this thread made me nervous and angry at the same time

    Good luck with it all.
     

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