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I had an aunt who lived in a house that was built in 1923 and its detached garage was also built in 1923. I am in the process of fixing up both this house and the garage before the house is put for sale on the housing market.

All the outer walls of the garage are brick, and all four walls look solid, I have not found any major cracks or bowing in these walls and the garage floor still looks to be in good condition. There is a 8" x 8" x 8' wooden vertical post that is supporting a 12" x 8" x 17' wooden support beam, which is made up of two pieces (this is shown in the third picture below).

One end of this support beam rests on top of a brick support built up along one wall of the garage, and the other end of the support beam rests on top of an interior brick wall, which separates the garage into two sections. I'm not sure what kind of wood was used for the post and for the support beam.

There are some cracks that run down the middle of this vertical post (see pictures below), and these cracks are wider towards the bottom of the post. I am wondering if these cracks are a sign that the whole post has been splitting apart over time and that it is no longer structurally sound. If so, I am wondering if this means that the structural integrity of the whole garage is no longer structurally sound, and if this means that the garage cannot be sold as is.

The pictures below shows the vertical post and the support beam from different angles. The two arrows in the first picture point out the cracks that I am concerned with.

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Should I be concerned about the structural integrity of this 100-year-old garage?

Also, if this vertical post needs to be replaced, I am curious about what kind of company/contractor that I will need to hire to replace this post, or perhaps just to reinforce it. I am a computer technician by trade so I know very little about the home/garage construction business and who specializes in making these types of repairs.

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    From the pictures, that looks like a darn strong garage. I wouldn't mind if it were mine.
    – RMDman
    Jul 3 at 20:51
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    For a 1923 house, the electrical and plumbing is probably the two main systems that need an upgrade/replacement, depending on what work has been done. If a hundred year house has not fallen apart yet, it is most likely quite structurally sound. Pipes over 60 years old are suspect, and electrical systems have changed a lot for the better.
    – crip659
    Jul 3 at 20:57
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    Those cracks are referred to as "checks" in timbers and are utterly unconcerning. A normal aspect of a large timber drying out. Thus a post or beam cracking is a big deal - yours are not cracking, that's merely checking.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 3 at 23:43
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    I'm sorry, but I always find it amusing that Americans always assume that anything built pre-WW2 needs to be either torn down or enshrined. 1923... check for woodworm, rot and perished insulation and you're done. Jul 4 at 6:57
  • Aren't "as-is" real estate sales a thing in your area? They're all the rage here. The contract of sale makes the buyer responsible for inspecting and accepting the premises with all defects, known and unknown. Your aunt's estate is absolved of any liability. Defects discovered upon inspection become a point of negotiation for price only and this gets you out of the home repair business. Discuss with the attorney who will handle the closing. Some jurisdictions have mandatory disclosure rules, such as for lead paint.
    – MTA
    Jul 4 at 14:09

2 Answers 2

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That beam and post seem to be quite oversize/built for what is needed. The cracks are not that worrying.

The electrical cables on that post will probably need some work.

Cables should have protection below eight feet, usually conduit or inside of walls/protection.

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    The "permanently installed extension cord" is also a potential issue.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 3 at 23:44
  • @Ecnerwal, that extension cord is going to the garage door opener. It is probably a good idea to have an electrician come out to rewire the garage to get it up to code, but I don't want to spend a lot of money on this house and garage.
    – user57467
    Jul 4 at 11:53
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    @user57467 Electrical code will usually grandfather stuff if it was done to code when put in, so most stuff does not need to be upgraded to today's code. If the stuff was not done in code at the time then you need to have it fixed, like that extension. The power cable is probably a two buck fix.
    – crip659
    Jul 4 at 12:22
  • When did code change to disallow permanently installed extension cords?
    – Huesmann
    Jul 4 at 12:51
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    @Huesmann I don't know that the electrical code ever permitted permanently installed extension cords. By definition, extension cords are temporary and may not (and often do not) conform to the electrical standard governing the outlet. In other words, a permanently installed extension cord has a high probability of being a fire hazard. However, the cord in the photo looks suspiciously like Romex 12/2 with a plug end. Funny thing is, the "extension cord" looks more modern than the wire sourcing the plug. Really, it all ought to be in conduit, but c'est la vie in old residential housing.
    – JBH
    Jul 4 at 20:17
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(Speaking from a UK perspective.)

That kind of natural splitting is quite normal for wooden support beams in my experience. Character is usually what it's ascribed to.

Looking towards the roof, it does not appear to be carrying a significant load.

You might make a pre-emptive probe for rot by poking with a screwdriver blade at the base and top. If it's rotten, it'll be quite soft, and that would need attention. But from the picture, it looks dry and sound.

A general builder would be able to replace if you did need/want to. A structural engineer could affirm whether replacement is needed. But to be honest, if you're selling, then you might be better off waiting to see if the buyer's survey (or US equivalent) reveals anything. If it's significant, then you might get your own estimate, then either offer to fix up or simply knock off the equivalent from the sale price and save you the effort. Personally, I'd baulk at anything more than the cost of the post plus a day's labour.

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