When it comes to your home’s foundation, often times a small problem can have widespread effects. Many of these issues start out of sight, making them easy to overlook until they escalate.
Even something as small as a slight misalignment can set off a chain reaction of problems throughout your home. This seemingly minor issue can compromise structural integrity, leading to costly repairs and significant safety concerns.

chain reaction

This homeowner noticed hairline cracks in the south end of their home on both floors, which seemed to originate from the termination point of a large steel beam in the basement. Additionally, there was a noticeable slope to the beam itself.

Concerned about these signs, the homeowner wisely called in Cole Engineering to investigate the issue. Upon opening the wall, they discovered a steel post with a steel baseplate bearing on top of the beam. The column was not positioned correctly by the builder. Instead of fixing it, they left it off-center, sealed up the wall, and called it a day. Because of this unbalanced load, the baseplate had significantly rusted and was bowing downwards along the center, compromising the entire structure’s stability.

 
So, what happened here?
The builder miscalculated and instead of fixing it, placed the beam off-center. Over time, the steel bent under the pressure, allowing moisture infiltration. When steel rusts, oxygen atoms combine with the iron atoms in a chemical reaction. In red rust, the ratio is two iron atoms to three oxygen atoms. Since the diameter of an iron atom is about twice that of an oxygen atom, this combination causes the metal to expand, similar to how ice expands during the freezing process.

The expansion of the steel where it was lodged between the corner of the beam and the house above, along with the weight from the bearing post, caused the beam flange to be pushed downwards. This expansion also caused the beam to rack and the concrete to spall. Additionally, the compromised load above it led to the development of hairline cracks in the drywall of the upstairs areas.

To remedy this, Hughes Construction installed shoring on both floors and shifted the beam under the support column according to Cole Engineering’s plans. We also installed welded stiff plates in each web of the support beam and welded the new column base plate to the top of the existing support beam. One floor joist also needed to be reattached and one crack sealed with structural epoxy.

Are you seeing cracks in your home that weren’t there before? Some cracking is just normal settlement in older homes, but it’s always a good idea to take note of any cracks you have and monitor for changes. Call a licensed structural engineer if you are worried about any cracks. Not sure what to do? Feel free to reach out to us by filling out our contact form, and include photos. We are always happy to point you in the right direction.