Structural Failure of a Wood Beam

By Brian Ki, P.E. | February 4, 2021


As engineers, we often get the call to inspect and design improvements for structural members that are close to failing. Building owners often catch these deficiencies before the worst-case scenario comes to life. Surprisingly, we rarely see any that have actually failed, but this is one of them.

The age of this home is unknown, but it is definitely not modern construction. The homeowner noticed a significant sag/deflection in the floors above that we were called upon to investigate. After creeping into the crawlspace below, we noticed that the existing floor beam has cracked/split at the center, i.e. the lowest point observed in the floor above. In other words, the wood beam has structurally failed and needs replacement/improvements immediately.

Although the construction practices are standard, the size of the members just does not size up to the modern loading requirements. It is a perfect counter example to the argument of “we’ve been building this way for X amount of years, why do we need to meet modern code?”.

The repairs for this property were simple to engineer and have thus been implemented. If you start seeing or hearing awkward signals from your building (i.e. cracks, sagging floors, noises, etc.), give us a call before you get to this point.

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