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A lot of us know that the load-bearing walls in our homes are supported by the foundation, but not all of us are aware of the role and importance of basement support beams. In this short read, we’ll introduce you to the role of basement support beams and how much it costs to replace them.
How do support beams work?
Let us take into consideration any floor of your home. The floor joists bear the weight of the furniture and the people on that floor. Your home’s foundation walls and basement beams bear the weight of the floor joists, while these are supported by the columns as well as the main foundation.
A concrete floor pad below the basement floor bears the weight of the columns, and the pad transfers the weight to the ground.
The reason for this is quite simple: while a home’s foundation may be strong enough to bear the load of some external walls, it alone is not enough to guarantee the structural integrity of the whole house. Even if it is a single storey family home, the support of internal structures from the basement is essential to help bear that load.
Most often, this weight is borne by a single main support beam running the length of the foundation. This beam is usually placed at or near the top of the foundation wall in specially made pockets. Additional vertical support posts, also called jack posts or lolly columns, are used to help fortify the main beam.
Read more: Foundation repair financing options
Why do they need replacement?
A lot of older homes use wood beams for support. While these beams were often hewn from a single tree, multiple pieces were laminated together to form a large beam. Even now, it is not uncommon to find laminated engineered wood support beams.
The downside to using wood beams for this purpose is that with time, wood as a material is liable to damage caused by rot and cracking, especially when exposed to dampness and moisture. Wood also cracks under pressure.
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Most modern constructions use steel beams for the purpose nowadays. And while steel is impervious to rot and cracking, the beam can rust if the basement is constantly damp.
However, the most common reason for beams being replaced is home renovations. For example, a homeowner wanting to add to the existing home may be advised to add support beams or replace the existing one with a stronger beam to avoid structural problems. Or, if you wanted to turn your basement into a man cave or an extra bedroom, you may need to replace the existing support structures to make space. Even in this case, a stronger beam with a larger span may be the solution.
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Cost and factors
A number of factors affect the cost of replacing basement support beams.
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For one, you will need the services of a structural engineer to design and inspect the work, considering it is a specialized form of structural foundation repair. This engineer will look into the condition of the foundation, how many support columns will be needed, where the placement of these columns should be, the length of the beam, and more
Then, there is the cost of local building permits and licenses. The project will also need the construction of temporary load-bearing walls for supporting the weight of the home while the beam is being replaced.
HVAC systems and ductwork may also need to be moved in order to complete the replacement, so that will add to the final cost as well.
A simple replacement may cost as much as $7,000 to $8,000, whereas a more complex one that includes multiple temporary load bearing walls and long spans could cost as much as $25,000.