I bought an older house (1917) that had renovations done in 2009. I was in the basement earlier today with the oil delivery man and I noticed some of the support beams splitting. The inspector never said anything about the support beams so it may be nothing or maybe he just didn't do a good job. I've included pictures.

I guess I'm just curious if this is problematic or how long do you think these will last before needing to be replaced?

Beam 1

Beam 2

Beam 3

Beam 4

  • I think it's time to call in an engineer and/or building inspector... Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 17:13
  • I'll start researching building inspectors. I literally bought this place in August, is it not the house inspectors job to point out stuff like this? First time home buyers, so I have plenty of questions.
    – user44111
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 17:55
  • A home inspector should at least bring it into question if the cracking and "checking" is extensive. They should leave the implications of such things to professionals.
    – Damon
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 21:38

4 Answers 4


This is not meant to be an authoritative answer, but I have worked in many homes and buildings of similar age and you almost always see some cracks in the beams, they are usually there for decades, in fact they probably occur when wood is new and drying out for the first time.

Still it can't hurt to have someone take a look at it. You could take some measurements and recheck it periodically, see if it is sagging or the crack is getting bigger. If it isn't, it may be of no concern. If necessary, they may be able to fill the crack with epoxy and / or sister on some lumber to stiffen it.

  • 2
    From apti.org/clientuploads/publications/PracticePoints/… , "... checks are not a defect and do not reduce the performance of the piece structurally, unless two checks on opposite faces form to join a through split..." +1 to getting it looked at, though. Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 18:00
  • 2
    Picture three is quite common where heartwood is included within the beam. It's a radial split that forms because of the tension developed as the timber cross-section dries. On log cabin construction, I've seen it controlled by cutting a saw kerf the length of the log. Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 20:03
  • 4
    The word you want is "check" - distinct in meaning from "crack" despite a certain similarity. A check is simply from seasoning (drying) shrinkage. A crack is a failure. I don't see anything to worry about in the pictures here.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 22:36

My house has encountered a very similar issue with joists splitting in the basement. I was told by two contractors that its been like that and not fallen down so no need to worry.. I don't accept that as an answer.

I (as an engineer) called in an engineer who specialized in residential construction and inspection. The engineer I brought in had a surprisingly simple solution involving joist hangers but you need to have a Professional Engineer review your specific situation to make sure all other portions of those beams are done correctly. It could be a simple fix like mine was or it could be a symptom of a much greater foundation issue, but nobody could tell you the correct answer over the internet.


Yes, checks are a natural feature of the wood. Running either horizontally through the wood or vertically or a little of both. Generally they're ok. The BAD checks are ones that have a natural strong diagonal line across beam. Moving towards or close to a forty-five degree angle. This means a bad piece of wood from the start as the board may been cut a bit across the grain or included a section of the tree where a large main branch connected through the trunk. These tend to be failure points eventually. Think the weak link in the chain. Although they often hold up for decades before some level of failure. Don't be afraid to ask an old time carpenter ( like me ) their opinion as twenty to thirty years of watching which boards fail is pretty good training too.

Bad checks in a bad board are the ones turning from checks to a real crack (read here a "broken" piece of wood) Good luck


One thing you can do is tape over the cracks with masking tape. If the crack gets bigger it will rip the tape apart.

They use the same technique to detect if cracks in roads get bigger during nearby construction work.

masking tape over road crack during road work

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