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What Are Basement Support Beams?

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Basement Support Beams
Basement Support Beams

If you’re a homeowner, chances are you’ve noticed beams in your basement or crawl space. You might not know what these beams do—or if they even serve a purpose at all. In this blog post, we’ll explain basement support beams’ function (and importance!), why they fail, your repair options for them, and more.

What Are Basement Support Beams?

Basement support beams are essential components of any building with a basement. These beams are typically made of steel or wood, and serve as a load-bearing element that supports the weight of the joists.

In addition to providing structural support, basement support beams can be used for other purposes. For instance, homeowners may use them as part of their home renovation projects to create additional space for storage or utility areas. They can also support new walls, archways, or other architectural elements incorporated into a remodel or renovation.

It is important to note that basement support beams require regular maintenance and inspection. Over time, they may begin to show signs of wear and tear, or even develop cracks due to the stress of the building’s weight. Therefore, homeowners should inspect their basement support beams at least once a year to ensure their continued effectiveness. If any damage is discovered, it is essential to have a professional examine the extent of the damage and determine the necessary course of action.

What Are Basement Support Posts?

Basement support posts are vertical wood, steel, or concrete pillars used to support the weight of the building’s structure. These posts are typically installed in the basement or crawl space, supporting the main level and upper floors. Support posts are commonly used in homes with open floor plans or large rooms that require additional structural support. Depending on the size and weight of the structure, multiple support posts may be needed to provide proper support.

To sum up, support posts support the beams, and the beams support the joists. The best way to understand this is through an illustration:

Basement support posts are vertical wood, steel, or concrete pillars used to support the weight of the building’s structure.

Reasons Why Basement Support Beams and Posts Fail

The four major reasons why basement support beams and posts fail are moisture damage, foundation settling, and pest infestation.

Moisture Damage

Moisture damage is one of the most common reasons behind basement support beams and posts failing. When moisture builds up in the basement, it can cause the wooden posts to rot and weaken. High humidity levels in a basement can also lead to the growth of mold and mildew, which can further degrade the structural integrity of the beams and posts.

Foundation Settling

Foundation settling is another major cause of basement support beam and post failure. Sometimes, a foundation may settle into the ground unevenly for various reasons, leading to uneven weight distribution that can cause the support beams and posts to shift and weaken over time. This can result in sagging floors, cracked walls, and other structural damage.

Wood-Eating Pests

Wood-eating pests like termites are also a significant threat to wooden basement support beams and posts. These insects feed on the wood, weakening it over time, which can lead to structural failure. It’s essential to have regular termite inspections and treatments in place to protect the building’s foundation.

Natural Disasters

Natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes can cause basement support beams and posts to fail. These events can lead to significant structural damage, including the collapse of the building’s foundation. Proper construction and regular maintenance can help mitigate the impact of these disasters.

DIY Remodeling

DIY remodeling jobs or unlicensed, inexperienced handyman services or contractors are often responsible for changes that can’t be supported by the existing structural support members.

How Are Basement Support Beams or Posts Repaired?

When faced with damaged basement support beams or posts, most experts recommend replacing them rather than attempting to repair them. This is because the beams or posts in the basement are critical in supporting the weight of the entire structure above, which is why it is essential to make sure that their integrity is top-notch.

Signs That Your Basement Support Beams Might Need Replacing

Here are some signs that your basement support beams may need replacing:

Signs That Your Basement Support Beams Might Need Replacing

  • Wood Rot – As support beams age, they may begin to rot. Wood rot can weaken the structural integrity of the beam, causing it to buckle and eventually break. Signs of wood rot can include a musty or mildew-like odor, soft and spongy wood, and discoloration.
  • Mold Growth – One of the most prominent indicators of basement support beam decay is visible mold growth. Mold thrives in damp, humid environments, and moisture in your basement can lead to fungal growth on the wooden beams. Not only is it unsightly, but mold can also pose a serious health risk to you and your family.
  • Insect Damage – Termites and other wood-boring insects can wreak havoc on your basement support beams. If left untreated, they can quickly weaken the beams, causing them to warp and break. Signs of insect damage can include small holes in the wood, sawdust, or frass (insect excrement) around the base of the beams and the presence of live insects.
  • Cracking – Over time, basement support beams can develop cracks. While small cracks may not be cause for concern, more extensive cracking could indicate structural damage. Signs of cracking can include visible splits in the wood, bowed or sagging beams, and gaps between the beam and the foundation.
  • Differential Foundation Settlement – If your home’s foundation is not level, it can put uneven pressure on your basement support beams, causing them to warp or crack. Signs of differential foundation settlement can include cracks in the walls (particularly above doorways or windows) and uneven floors. For more information, see our article Leveling A Foundation – What Homeowners Need To Know.

In addition to the above, watch out for other signs of trouble such as uneven floors, windows and doors that stick, and wall cracks. If you notice any of these issues, it’s time to call in a professional to assess the state of your basement support beams and determine whether they need to be replaced. Don’t wait until it’s too late—act quickly to protect your home and your family’s safety.

Is Basement Support Beam Replacement a DIY Project?

Replacing basement support beams is a critical construction project that should only be handled by professionals with extensive experience in foundation repair. The support beams in a basement are essential components that provide strength, support, and stability to the entire structure. They are crucial in maintaining the overall integrity and safety of the foundation, making it risky to attempt to replace them without proper training and experience.

If you’re concerned about the basement support beams in your home, contact us today to schedule an evaluation and receive a free repair estimate. We serve areas in four states: Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri.

WRITTEN BY

Dave Epp

Dave is the President at Epp Foundation Repair with over 27 years of experience in the industry. Dave has worked on thousands of foundation, basement, concrete, and crawl space repair projects since 1993. Dave is involved in several civic and church organizations and enjoys coaching youth sports, mainly football, golfing, and elk hunting.

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