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We have 2x10 triple wood beams which are not only uneven lengths, but they have chipped wood from when a steel column was installed.

My question is, how should we go about sanding/smoothing out the uneven chipped wood so that it can be perfectly level and so then we can install a wall along the beam probably in between our 3 posts? Would a belt sander work, or would we need a random orbital sander, or is there some better way to do it? We don't have to do it ourselves, we could have contractors do it, but we're kind of just wondering the recommended tools for doing this to make sure it's done properly.

Here are a couple pictures of the uneven wood in question: enter image description here and enter image description here

Here is a picture of the entire basement: enter image description here

Cheers.

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  • wood filler would work
    – Ruskes
    Sep 10 at 22:06
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    Maybe you don't have to do anything. This is something to spend a few hundred dollars on to ask a professional structural engineer what the safe options are to achieve what you want. You don't want to have the supported beams break and collapse. The fact that there are 3 steel supports fairly close together indicates to me that they are holding a lot of weight.
    – Armand
    Sep 10 at 22:29
  • I believe it's not that high of a load, it's just one floor above, I believe the 2 end posts are permanent unlike the middle one. I'm kind of just wondering the best way of sanding the beams smooth including near the chipped parts, that way if we want to wall it off, or encase the columns with like a box of wood (just like 4 vertical two by eights) it'd be smooth and able to have lumber sit flush.
    – JS99
    Sep 10 at 22:43
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    I really can't quite gather if you are trying to do something over the whole length of the beam or only in the area where the one post is standing. If it is only the area around that one post, I'd probably use chisels - it looks like it was chiseled out before, just not with big enough care to make it look nice. Doing that over the whole length of a beam is a chore though.
    – Arsenal
    Sep 12 at 14:11
  • Well, we'd probably want to box the posts off with some sort of lumber, and then build some sort of wall around them. Chisels could work but I'd worry it'd cause chipping, though I guess it could get sanded flat.
    – JS99
    Sep 12 at 20:52

6 Answers 6

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I would leave the posts in place and build the wall around them. The footings for the posts are not the same as a footing for a load bearing wall. That slight difference in the beam at the bottom will be of no consequence if you leave the posts and build a slightly thicker wall around them. Perhaps a 2X6 wall to get wiring around them or at least 2X4 with a 1X material added to get past the posts that way.

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    ^^ this, with extra agreement to “leave the posts”. Anything else is expensive or dangerous. Sep 10 at 22:37
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    That's a good suggestion, but given the price of metals these days, those posts are probably worth quite a bit. 2x6 walls are great, my entire home's walls are 2x6, made it so much easier to run electrical and plumbing. Sep 10 at 22:38
  • To me, from the picture, the placement of the red posts looks uneven, which I interpret as "temporary use". Building a wall around them would lead to an uneven wall.
    – user19565
    Sep 11 at 13:09
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    A 2X6 wall will give about an inch of play to get around that type of issue Sch 40 lally columns should be about 4 1/2" OD. Other than that the way they are lagged in at the top, anchors in the bottom with new footings poured, they are most likely permanent. The gray one in the middle is the temporary one....
    – Jack
    Sep 11 at 18:22
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    I know this answer did not directly answer your question, but in my opinion you may be sweating a detail that is not critical at all. If the floor could be made bearing for a replacement wall, then there might be a small issue with the wood below the rest. Since it would be a new bearing wall, it would in essence eliminate the need for the beam. not to say remove it, but the wood could be simply chiseled off since a wall plate with studs will reinforce anything that is removed. If a wall was simply added the wood there will be ample to keep it steady for the long haul.
    – Jack
    Sep 12 at 13:35
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You want to even out the underside of a (presumably) nail laminated beam to install a wall where the line of posts are.

So to make it level just add thin wood (MDF . plywwood, hardboard, card, building paper etc.)to the beams that are too high so that they come out level on the understide.

You could staple it in place or just shove it in on top of the top plate of the wall after standing it up.

Unless you need an opening in the wall where one of the posts is I would leave the posts in-place and just build non-structural walls in the gaps. I would use the same nail gun I hired to nail the bottom plate to the concrete to also nail the end studs to the posts.

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You don't need to do anything. You don't need flush attachment along the entire underside of the beam. That defeats the purpose of a beam.

Consult with a skilled framer. He'll show you that you'll need to put a few load bearing posts under the beam, and then frame in studs around it, which hold no load.

To me, from the picture, the placement of the red posts looks uneven, which I interpret as "temporary use". Building a wall around them would lead to an uneven wall. I'm open to being wrong here, but they really don't strike me as a permanent solution. Or, if they are, they look poorly installed. I'd bet the middle post is doing nothing. Someone put it there for peace of mind.

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    I think there's a camera lens effect causing those red posts to appear out of line. To me the wall the the left also looks like it has a weird curve to it as it gets closer to the camera.
    – brhans
    Sep 12 at 0:28
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    Yeah, it's just a lens distortion effect. The posts are actually plumb and level.
    – JS99
    Sep 12 at 12:56
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You don't want to build a load bearing wall under that beam. The posts are, and will continue to support the load of the beam (in conjunction with the pockets at the end that the beam is resting on) on the footings that are evident in the concrete at their bases. The rest of the floor is likely not designed to support the weight of whatever is above this beam since it's highly likely that there isn't a footing under this stretch of floor except where the posts are.

You will want to build a non-load bearing partition wall that will fill in the spaces between (and be wide enough to hide) the posts.

Additionally, there is no need to "tidy" up that chiseled out area. The new top plate can just be banged into place and nailed up to attach it to the beam to keep the wall from moving when someone leans heavily on it. (You will, of course, want to attach the sole plate to the floor, as well.)

The recommendations to build a 2x6 wall make a lot of sense, as this will allow you to bury the posts in the wall. However, there is no reason to build the whole wall out of 2x6 since it's not going to support any weight. Use a 2x6 for sole and top plates, then use 2x6 at each end and a 2x6 next to each post. Once you've got that part of the wall outlined, fill in the rest of the spaces with 2x4 studs, alternating which face of the footer/top plate they're lined up to. This will give you sufficient attachment surface for your drywall at a lower cost than 2x6.

It would look something like this (looking down at the wall from above with the ^ and v representing a post):

---------------------------
|     |     |^|     |     |
|  |     |  |v|  |     |  |
---------------------------

This type of wall construction is often used for improved sound insulation in partition walls, so it should be perfectly acceptable for this use, too. If you do want to reduce noise between the spaces, it gives you plenty of room for insulation to do so.

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It would seem that the 3 existing posts are temporary, right? So to install a load bearing wall to replace them would involve a top plate nailed or screwed to the 2x10's when you say "uneven lengths" do you mean uneven widths, that is apparent from the pics. If you tried with with a random orbit or even a belt sander, you'd make a big mess of sanding dust as well as take years to get done!

If I had to do this, I'd use a hand held power planer. (see pic below). You'd have to draw a perfectly level line, plumb as well along the 2x10's and go at it.

But I don't think that's necessary, maybe others with more framing exp. can chime in, but you could also cut thin strips of wood and fur it out, making a level surface that would land evenly on the top plate. A small cutout like pictured is of no consequence if you're doing what I believe you are doing. Better to leave it alone rather than reduce the width of the beams, IMHO.

hand held power planer

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    I believe the 2 on the end are supposed to be permanent posts. I feel like with the posts attached there wouldn't be enough room for a hand planer, since it cuts from the middle. With a low grit sandpaper like 80, would it technically be possible to smooth out the chipped parts with a random orbit or belt sander? Dust wouldn't be a concern since that could just be vacuumed.
    – JS99
    Sep 10 at 22:41
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    OK, but often it takes multiple tools to get a job done. Maybe a belt sander near the cutout would work best, but there's nothing wrong with using a powered plan cross grain or diagonal across the 2x's. I would think that would be easier and more reliable than a belt sander and a lot less messy. Removing that much material with a belt sander would produce a lot of dust. you could minimize that with an attached vacuum, but without, I'd be wearing a full blown respirator. Not only that, belt sanders are pretty heavy, unless you are a gym rat in good shape, you'll be sore the next day. Sep 10 at 23:41
  • That makes a lot of sense, that's a good point that the majority of wood removal could be done with a powered plan across the 2x10s and then use a sander near the cutout. I may not even end up doing this myself, I can always have a contractor do it, but it's just good to get ideas of how this can be approached. It's less than like a quarter inch that would need to be shaved to get it flat so it's not like it's a huge amount or anything I think, it seems pretty doable. Thanks for your replies.
    – JS99
    Sep 10 at 23:46
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    The red posts are not temporary. I've done a lot of basement finishes, and it would be dangerous and awkward to replace them with wood, which needs to be on the point-load footings and not evenly distributed. The beam is the expensive part. If it wasn't needed it wouldn't be there.
    – isherwood
    Sep 12 at 21:28
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    @isherwood THAT makes a lot of sense, in retrospect, those 2 red posts do look permanent. The tough part is for the OP to decide on whether to fur the 2xs out to the exact same height (level?, Square, etc.) or to try and cut them back to make them even. Frankly, I don't think it's all that big a deal considering now that the 2 red posts are doing most of the work. Still, as Ive said before, I'm a belt and suspenders kinda guy and having both the posts and 2x6 walls as supporting is not a bad idea. Sep 13 at 3:23
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My question is, how should we go about sanding/smoothing out the uneven chipped wood so that it can be perfectly level

It looks to be unlevel for the entire length of the board, correct?

Aside from smoothing out the jaggies I would advise against tackling the entire length of the board because you are more likely to make it worse than better.

and so then we can install a (likely) load-bearing wall along the beam probably in between our 3 posts?

Sorry, this is nonsense. The two red posts are load bearing and hold up your house; notice how they are set on a concrete footer?

You are most likely not qualified to put up a load bearing wall so if you add a wall in between the posts then it is effectively a non load bearing wall.

However, I am a bit confused/worried about that jack post in the middle. Those are typically considered temporary. The most common use case for those would be to support a heavy static load like a large couch, entertainment center, or cast iron tub.

Would a belt sander work, or would we need a random orbital sander, or is there some better way to do it?

Either choice would be excellent for smoothing out the jaggies.

For leveling out the entire board, I would expect a circular saw to be used.

We don't have to do it ourselves, we could have contractors do it, but we're kind of just wondering the recommended tools for doing this to make sure it's done properly.

Yes, ask the contractors.


Closing thoughts:

I am confused as to how that proud beam board prevents a wall from being built.

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    I don't think it's the chipped part that's the potential problem, but everything else. The one board in the beam was hanging down a bit lower than the other two and was chiseled out to be the same height above the floor where the post was added. Sep 12 at 20:38
  • Yeah, my question was more about how to best go about making the beams all the same height so some sort of wall could get put in, maybe even box in the posts with some lumber, etc - I didn't word my question in the best way. I'm sure contractors could take care of it but I was just more curious about how it'd be done in general.
    – JS99
    Sep 12 at 20:54
  • @JS99 I don't understand how that proud beam board prevents you from building a wall.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Sep 13 at 15:34
  • @DanIsFiddlingByFirelight I don't understand how that proud beam board prevents a wall from being built.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Sep 13 at 15:35

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