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I want to remove a roughly 18' beam that goes across my garage. Oddly, it's the only one at this level. The ceiling beams are all about 28 inches higher. When I touch this beam it wobbles quite a bit, though it's firmly attached at the ends, leading me to believe there isn't much if any load on it. It seems like the beams above it are doing the same job. What the heck is it doing there, and how can I figure out if it's safe to remove? I'm hoping it's just there as a byproduct of the building process or something.

One potentially interesting note: I measured where the beam would come into my house (to the right of the garage as pictured) and it looks like it would come i directly above my front door. Interesting?

Edit: the "suspicious rope" was installed by myself just prior to taking these pictures; I was about to cut the beam and didn't want it to fall. Then I thought I'd better take a moment to reconsider, and here we are :)

There was previously a garage door opener which I removed; it ran just under this beam and wasn't attached to it. There WAS an electrical ground stapled to it (can be seen in the pictures) which I moved up to the beam above. I can't imagine someone would install a 2x6 just to run a ground when the beam above serves just as well.

full view

left view right view

  • As a structural engineer I'm struggling to think of what structural job that beam could be doing; but I should caveat that by stating that my experience is of bridge design in concrete and steel, not house design in masonry and timber. – AndyT Feb 17 '17 at 12:01
  • That isn't a beam. It looks like a collar tie. It's not clear from what you've shown us why there's a low one. How old is the garage? What does the rest of the roof structure look like? What does the outside look like? (Update your post rather than replying down here.) – isherwood Feb 17 '17 at 15:46
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    I wonder if it wasn't support for the original overhead door. – isherwood Feb 17 '17 at 15:56
  • The fact that there's a bunch of rope suspiciously located as tho to hold up that beam, my vote is that it's a late addition and provides no structural purpose whatsoever. But since it's your house and not mine :-), I would get that struct engineer (or any licensed builder) in to know for sure. – Carl Witthoft Feb 17 '17 at 15:56
  • I'm with isherwood on this. Are there any old screw holes or other evidence that suggest a garage door or opener was fastened to it? – Platinum Goose Feb 17 '17 at 16:38
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From studying your picture it appears to me that the timber is intended to tie one wall to the other. If so, I would be asking why. A couple of clues I would look for are:

  1. Is the height of the placement of the timber, on each end, possibly where the top plates of the framed wall are, behind the drywall? ( As opposed to the studs inside the wall running from the floor plate all the way up to the roof rafters.) If so, this connection between lower studs and upper studs could be a weak area for lateral wind loads to cause some unwanted flexing of one of the walls.

  2. You mentioned your front door was on the other side. Is it possible that the front door wall, beyond, is located in a sturdier wall that has sufficient bracing and the timber in your garage is using the strength of that wall to tie the opposite garage wall into something more stable. If that opposite garage wall is an exterior wall subject to wind I would think that might be the case.

There are some DIY things you can do to experiment with it a little bit. Try flexing the timber back and forth to see if one wall stays rigid but the other moves just a tiny bit. If so, that would indicate that the wall that moved needs that timber.

A good framing carpenter ( think This Old House) could probably access your situation adequately. Maybe for free if it is easily apparent to them what is going on and they can give you an estimate for any modifications that would enable you to remove the timber.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

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I would feel very confident that this beam could be taken out. Although I would certainly cut it from the wall that is closest to your front door. Just in case it continues as a header.

It is for sure not carrying any load across the garage. That is well apparent because this beam isn't very thick nor tall so it would have sever warping over this span if it had a load on it - even a light load.

In my area seeing one or two of these beams are quite common for some reason. The explanation I have been given is that they are either to hold garage doors/tracks or there were extra joists often ordered and they would install them for future shelving. Since this is in the path of the door I would gather it was for that at one point.

If you want to be absolutely safe - Cut out a little bit of drywall on each side, make sure beam isn't attached to anything important, knock it out, save it for a few months, then do whatever you want with it if there are no issues.

However what I would do with it... I would add some 2x6s perpendicular to it going to front of my garage, use some deck braces. Then put a layer of 1/2" plywood on top of it, paint it all white, and then you have some really nice custom storage in your garage. Nothing I would put serious weight on but still for $75 you are getting a huge upgrade in storage. Also this takes marginally more time then knocking out the beam (not including painting).

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A picture would help of the beam and where it attaches to each wall.

To be safe, removing any wall shouldn't be done without talking to a structural engineer that can come out, inspect it and make sure it's not load-bearing. It will cost less than repairing your garage (and cars) after the ceiling falls on them.

  • The question doesn't involve walls. A photo has been posted. – isherwood Feb 17 '17 at 15:48
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This could be a rafter tie which is loaded in tension only dynamically, under wind or snow loads. It's an interesting conversation piece, why mess with it?

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It's probably in tension, (I.e.: keeping the roof from pushing the walls apart. It's called a "tie". Make sure the wall was not constructed with a horizontal split in the wall, (I.e.: double top plate, etc.) This would put a "hinge" in the wall and need both ties to remain.

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