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I have a (roughly 40 year old) house with a crawlspace, and then an upstairs above it - I believe this considered a 1.5 storey house. The upstairs is being held up by a long wooden support beam, and that beam is being held up by a metal pole but recently after getting forced-air HVAC installed, I found out it is not screwed into the wood support beam or to the concrete below. How dangerous is this?

I am thinking that for screwing the pole into the wood beam, we'd use wood screws, and then for screwing the pole into the ground, we'd use masonry screws? Does this sound accurate, and if so, does this sound safe? Is this something that would need to be reviewed by a structural engineer, or is this "safe" to do and very low risk? I think the pole is rated for 9000 pounds, if that matters.

Here is are pictures of the support beam and the pole: enter image description here
enter image description here enter image description here

Thanks.

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  • 8
    Should be screwed. Don't want a bunch of teenagers seeing how far they can toss each other to knock it down. Then you are screwed.
    – crip659
    Aug 18 at 18:22
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    Not addressing your question but it looks like you have two 4-inch or larger ducts penetrating your triple joist at the far end of it by the brick wall. Is that right?
    – jay613
    Aug 18 at 18:28
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    @jay613, it looks to me like the ducts are routed up and over the triple joist.
    – Milwrdfan
    Aug 18 at 20:27
  • @Milwrdfan I think you're right.
    – jay613
    Aug 18 at 21:32
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    Don't trust the advice of random well-intentioned Internet people. Hire a structural engineer to come in and take a look. It might be strong enough, or it might be the cause of the upstairs part of your house collapsing one day. I sure wouldn't want to be in your house during a decent sized earthquake. Aug 19 at 3:19
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First that post is not carrying the load of the whole house. The beam is and the beam is attached on both sides. The post's job is to keep the beam from sagging and act as a point load.

I would not leave it like that for sure - and in my area there is no way in the world it would meet local code. Always have to be secured on both ends by at least two fasteners.

I would put a couple of big headed screws on the top plate and pop a couple ramset nails in the bottom. (MAKE SURE THE POST IS PLUMB BEFORE SCREWING!!)

Remember these posts are really strong for vertical forces... not horizontal.

What could happen if you don't secure it:

  1. Someone slams into it and knocks it out of place. At that time you find out that the beam was not really the right size, it starts creaking, 20 minutes later you hear cracking, your house caves in (I am kidding but hey could happen).
  2. Someone knocks the bottom of it. It seems fine. In actuality it's over 1-2" throwing off its angle. Now the beam starts sagging by 1/8" to meet the post... The wall above it lowers by 1/8" over a period of time and you notice small cracks in your drywall along the ceiling.
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  • Also if it is off plumb it's easiest to temporarily support the beam with another telepost while making the adjustment.
    – Myles
    Aug 19 at 15:57
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At least in the area where I live, that type of support post is used when a house is modified (wall was removed, to prop up a sagging beam, etc). If the house was designed to have a support post there, the post would either be the same type of wood as the rest of the frame or would be a solid (not adjustable) metal post. The lack of screws/bolts on either end reinforces the notion that this support was added after the fact.

What I don't see in your pictures are any markings on the concrete around the base. Support posts that are bearing significant load need to be placed on top of a footer. Since the house wasn't designed to have a post here, it's unlikely that there would be a footer in that exact spot. Before the post was installed, you'd cut a hole in the foundation and pour a footer deep enough to support the load. Doing this leaves noticeable cut marks on the foundation, and the old and new concrete are usually a slightly different color. Your floor looks nice and uniform, which makes me think that this wasn't done.

I recommend having a structural engineer take a look at this (many will give estimates for free). It may have been a DIY-type job by a former homeowner and may not have been done correctly. The load could end up cracking your foundation if this was installed improperly. The engineer can also ensure that the post is attached to the floor/beam according to building code.

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  • People can always double check but 1- this person bought the house and it was inspected. 2- If you look at the joists - solid timber... it seems to me that this trio-beam is original. While not common these posts are used. There is nothing wrong with using them... although I preferred they are secured and framed. Also the fireplace is a hint too... That looks time period for 40 years and was created after beam install.
    – DMoore
    Aug 19 at 20:39
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    @DMoore: I wonder if this post might have been installed because impact events like someone jumping up and down in one room (e.g. doing calisthenic exercises) would cause the house to shake by an amount that wasn't unsafe, but was nonetheless undesirable?
    – supercat
    Aug 19 at 21:11
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    Putting some big screws into a wooden joist [NOT a RSJ] isn't going to enhance its strength. Consider building a proper pillar in place of that builders temporary support. Also, that joist seems to be just propped up on top of a pile of bricks at one end. Aug 19 at 21:31
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    @DMoore: When you say "sag a bit", I think we're perhaps on the same page, though I was thinking that momentary deflection from dynamic loads would be more likely than long-term plastic deformation from a static load. Having the dishes in the kitchen cabinets rattle when someone does calisthenics may be annoying without being unsafe. Maybe someone added a static load like a waterbed which would not in and of itself require any kind of building permit, but if the post would require a mid support for safety, I think it would have a real support.
    – supercat
    Aug 19 at 21:32
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    @MichaelHarvey I think you're getting an I beam/RSJ confused with a jack post/acrow. Also, joists are horizontal..
    – Caius Jard
    Aug 20 at 16:14
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Notice the post is not just supporting the beam, it’s holding up ends of the boards that make up the beam!

Would strongly recommend consulting an engineer ASAP and having the beam supported correctly. Versus any “I think it’ll be ok” patch that could indeed make things far worse.

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    By jove, I think you're right! When zooming in, it does appear that there is a splice in the beam right above that column. If you look carefully, there appear to be other splices, as well. Unfortunately, it looks like there are locations where 2 of the 3 boards end at the same point instead of having their ends staggered. However, I don't think the post is there specifically to support this particular joint, though. Your recommendation for having an SE take a look at it is right on the money, too.
    – FreeMan
    Aug 20 at 17:57
  • +1 for noticing the splice in the beam members over the post.
    – Lee Sam
    Aug 21 at 22:05
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As they say, not a real answer but can't comment. A caveat is that I don't actually know the local or national building code.

I just wanted to address the idea that it could have been intended to be temporary. While that's certainly possible, I disagree with bta's certainty. I've lived in several houses (one in QC and the rest in ON) and visited a few others, and all of them that had spans like that in the basement used adjustable posts like that. I also have my doubts that it would have been built without any support at all and added later. Having said that, I can't explain the lack of attachment.

The post was made in Canada (and the CMHC on it stands for Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a crown corp. that insures mortgages, so gets to set some building standards) so maybe that's where the OP is from, and it's a local (i.e. Canadian) practice.

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  • Yeah, I don't think it was designed to be temporary. Not very much has been DIY'd at all, we are the original owners, and we've had this house for decades. Perhaps it was to-code before back decades ago, and it isn't now. I think we're gonna end up needing a structural engineer to come out and it's probably gonna cost thousands to get everything up to code properly lol.
    – Smith99
    Aug 19 at 22:35
  • @Smith99 in the US, anything in the house that was to code when it was installed remains "grandfathered" in, even if code has been updated since. I'd imagine it's similar up north. i.e. while this may not be to code for new construction today (though I'd suggest that it may well be) you probably won't have to do anything more significant than straighten & attach it if that's what the SE says. Not likely to run to 1000s. Of course, newer code is, generally, safer than older, and nothing preventing you from updating, it's just not required.
    – FreeMan
    Aug 20 at 11:34
  • I'd imagine that having like an SE (or someone else??) replace the post "properly" would likely run 1000s, though?
    – Smith99
    Aug 20 at 18:18
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    @Smith99 I don’t imagine it being over a day’s work to either screw the post in, or swap it out. Of course, you might have bigger issues which the SE finds, which could cost more.
    – Tim
    Aug 21 at 10:15
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Those incredibly cheesy "adjustable lally columns" are really rinky dink. Will it hold the beam? Yes. Will it eventually rust out or fracture? Yes.

You should never screw in a support post to a beam. Yes, I know there are all kinds of inspectors out there who say you should and even code saying you should, but those people are just totally ignorant about how physics works. The loads on those columns start at 5,000 pounds and go up to 30,000 pounds or more. A screw will do absolutely NOTHING to secure that column. Any kind of load against the screw will tear it out like the beam was made out of tissue paper. So do not screw into anything. All you will do is weaken the girder.

You should replace the adjustable column with a real lally column and use a heavy duty cast iron plate, not one of the cheap steel plates. The cast iron caps are sometimes sold as "Springfield caps". They look like this:

enter image description here

Notice how it is 1/4" cast iron NOT steel. Do not use an "adjustable" lally column. Have the column cut to the exact length needed, filled with cement, then capped. You then jack the girder 1/8" up, slid the column in place and lower the jack.

Don't believe the idiots who say that you have to screw in some lally column otherwise somebody might knock it out. There is TEN THOUSAND POUNDS on that column. Trust me, they are not knocking it out. And if they could knock it out, then structurally it is unsound to begin with. I have heard inspectors say crazy stuff like, "earthquake tremors could vibrate the column out unless it is secured with screws". This is just total BS by bozos who know zero about engineering or physics and are talking out of their butts. Do you ever see screws in ancient Egyptian temples? No, and there is a reason for that.

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