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Timber Framing?


Luke March

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Your question is much like "I want to buy a vehicle" but not telling us whether it is a recumbent bicycle, or pick-up truck with a dump bed.

If you want information on existing construction, we need photos and some details.
If you want information on how to build, we need all the information you can provide.

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Actually, I was looking to see if anyone was knowledgeable before going to the trouble of asking my question....


Anyway, here it is.

My shop is in the corner of an old (100+ year old) barn. I think it may have been used as a horse stable in the past. Anyway, as you can see in these two pictures, there are four posts coming down into the middle of the room. One of them is used to form a partition - I believe they were all originally added to form such partitions, as there were numerous boards of just the right length to fit into them, and there were thin boards nailed onto the posts to form slots for the partition boards to slide into.
CIMG5779.jpg
CIMG5780.jpg


The posts are very strong and hard - from the times I've tried nailing, pulling nails, and drilling, I know this for a fact. Despite this, I do not think they were originally added for structural support. If you look at the pictures below, you can see the junctions where they "connect" to the beams above - they are rather crooked, and it looks like one actually had to be shimmed into place to fit!

CIMG5781.jpg

CIMG5782.jpg

CIMG5783.jpg

CIMG5784.jpg


Now this is where my problem lies. I would like to take them out, in order to have more room and flexibility with my shop layout. However, presumably due to settling of the building over time, they are now supporting the beams above. As you can see in the pictures below, the ends of the beams are no longer resting on the supports.
CIMG5785.jpg

CIMG5786.jpg

CIMG5788.jpg

CIMG5789.jpg


So my question is, is there a safe way to remove the annoying posts while maintaining the structural integrity of the building? I considered adding posts at the ends of the beams, (i.e., by the walls) and then cutting the posts that are in the middle of the room, perhaps with a chain saw. Up till now I've just left things how they were, but I would really like to change my shop layout around, and those posts really get in the way.

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I think you need to talk to a specialist who can tour the building.

You may be able to hydraulically list the beams then lower them using a couple bottle jacks, cribbing and bracing...but this may also weaken the structure in a very not-safe manner...

Phil

edit: I think it would be insane to take a saw to the posts and let the beam drop. It would come down uncontrolled and may not stay in position...with you under it.

Phil

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These are the steps i would take in determining if the posts could be removed and I'm sure I'm forgetting something...
1) determine if beams are supporting a load Ie. Roof, walls.
2) determine if the beams are within the structural tolerance to support the span, live and dead loads.
3) if it looks like the posts can be removed after the above considerations, I would use two 12 or more ton bottle jacks to help remove the posts.
4) when setting up the bottle jacks cut the dummy post to be the equal to the distance from the floor to the bottom of the beam minus the hight of the jack and about 5-6" extra for the beams to settle and still be able to get the jacks out. Looks like you have a couple inches of separation between the beams and the bearing wall. look at what will happen when you put the beams on the load bearing support. where is that space going and what will it do.
5) after removing the load from a post. let the jack down slowly check for major sag in the floor above. Listen for cracking in the beam and most importantly watch listen to what is going on! Go slowly and deliberately. We don't want to read in the news about a guy whose shop caved in on him while trying to make more room by removing structural supports!

From the pictures it looks as though there have been beams in those spots from the original construction-note the notches. The current beams are new but that doesn't mean they are not needed structurally.

I mention having 2 bottle jacks so if one gets berried, you have another to use to get the first one out.

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Just from what I can see in the pictures (not nearly enough to get a clear overview) I would say that it looks pretty risky to remove those posts. There is always a way though. I think that if you do remove them you'll need to replace their structural value with some other system... another beam or two at right angles to and supporting the existing joists or some similar support system. If I were in your area I could visit and advise in greater detail but as I am not I advise you to look for a local experienced man who can take a close look at what you have and discuss what you want. There is no real substitute for experience and a close inspection of the details for something like this. An older remodel carpenter would be good, a framer maybe, but many framers are younger guys who just follow blueprints and they'd be clueless. I doubt that you are correct in thinking that these posts are basically superfluous and only intended for partitioning... wishful thinking IMO.

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First of all: No Chain Sawing. At least until you understand the what is going on and make some repairs. Even with all of the pictures it is hard to understand exactly what is going on there. So here are a couple of questions that you need to consider:

1. It looks like one of the beams ends at mid span and is supported by a post. Is that the case. If so that post has to stay until other means of supporting the span are provided.

2. It looks like the bottom of one of the beams, which as been re-supported, has a deep notch in the bottom. This beam will, most likely, need to be reinforced with additional members before removing the supporting post.

3. What are the spans of the damaged floor framing members? You will need to refer to framing span tables to determine the size of additional members needed.

4. How much imposed total load is being supported by the damaged members ? Total load is live load ( contents of the space above, or as required by code in pounds per square foot over the entire floor area above which is supported by the member), plus dead load ( weight of the existing structure).

In general it appears that the floor was framed using timbers salvaged from an older structure. The notches have weakened the member. They would have been seats for secondary framing members called purlins. The beam, in it's original installation , would have been installed with the notches up.

The bottom line is that the floor can probably be reinforced and the posts removed. However additional framing will need to be installed before the supports are removed. There is not much more that we can offer here except to say that the exact nature and scope of the repair needs to be determined by a qualified craftsman/engineer on site.

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Thanks for the replies everyone, I really do appreciate it.

I do want to say that I certainly do not intend to do anything stupid or dangerous - which is part of the reason I decided to post this here.

When I get the chance to go out to my shop again (which may not be for about a week, I'm so busy this week), I will check the structure to try to determine what I can about it. If memory serves, all that relies on the two beams are the floorboards of the loft. There's not much up there - mostly stuff that needs to be thrown out, and wood scraps that are only good for burning. I should probably clean it out, anyway - I think there are one or two floorboards that are rotted through and need to be replaced, and I can't get to them with the stuff up there.

In response to knot's #1, I can say that neither of the beams ends in the middle - both of them span the whole length of the room. (Unless I'm totally blind - now I'm second-guessing myself, so I'll double check).

The interesting thing is that on the other side of a wall (outside the left of the first picture and outside the right of the second picture), the loft continues on for about 3 to 4 times the width of my shop. None of the beams for the rest of the loft have any supports in the middle. Incidentally, I believe they are all round (the ends are squared off, of course, to fit the structure) - some of them still have bits of bark on them even.

The only other picture I have right now which might be helpful is of the corner of the building on the outside:
http://s169.photobucket.com/albums/u228/Luke_SkyMarcher/Blacksmith%20Shop/Forge%20and%20Blower/?action=view&current=CIMG3476.jpg
You can see where the chimney exits and where the "window" is, and compare to the first picture.

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From the pictures it looks like there used to be some posts supporting the beam with bridle joints where the newer posts are now. If that is the case, you will need to replace the structure with something that will support the weight. The unused bridle joints are also a point of weakness that will need to be addressed.
You really should find someone who knows timber framing and structure who can come out and look at it in person and figure out what can be done with what you have and what you want.

ron

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Old barns are interesting since some of them were built out of the remains of the previous smaller barn or several barns. Our ancestors were rather frugal when it came to salvaging timbers from other sources. If you have any Amish folk nearby they can perhaps give you some help with the framing questions that you have since they still build with timber framing in some areas. It could be possible to build a steel frame in the area of your shop to bear the weight of the structure above and then remove the wood columns and thus open up your shop. You could accomplish this with salvaged materials like the original builders of the barn.

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I did get a chance to run out to my shop really briefly this morning before leaving for work, so there are a couple more things I can say.

knots - I have double checked, and both beams are complete all the way across the room.

r smith - The beams on the other side of the wall do span the same length - approximately 187" [+ or - ~2"] (15' 7" - not counting where they overlap on the load bearing wall/structure supporting them). As to size, I did not have time to measure - it varies, because they are basically logs with the ends formed into tenons. My guess would be that they vary between 8" and 12" in diameter. I am less sure of the dimensions of the square beams.... but the posts holding them up are basically 4x4's (actual 4x4's not nominal), so you can take a guess at the size of the beams from the pictures.

I'm busy after work every night this week, so I'm not sure when I'll have time to get out there and look at things in more detail.... Sunday afternoon may be the earliest opportunity I have. I'll try to get some better pictures while I'm at it.

Since most of you have suggested finding an expert, I've been looking around, and I found this guy who lives not too far from me: http://barncatweb.com/
I think I'll give him a call when I have some time during decent hours, find out how much he would charge to come out and take a look.

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My thought would be it is OK to remove the posts due to the other side which is similar has none. I do think it a good idea to have someone familiar with structures look at it to be sure there is nothing funny going on and the new posts are needed.

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First of all: No Chain Sawing. At least until you understand the what is going on and make some repairs. Even with all of the pictures it is hard to understand exactly what is going on there. So here are a couple of questions that you need to consider:

1. It looks like one of the beams ends at mid span and is supported by a post. Is that the case. If so that post has to stay until other means of supporting the span are provided.

2. It looks like the bottom of one of the beams, which as been re-supported, has a deep notch in the bottom. This beam will, most likely, need to be reinforced with additional members before removing the supporting post.

3. What are the spans of the damaged floor framing members? You will need to refer to framing span tables to determine the size of additional members needed.

4. How much imposed total load is being supported by the damaged members ? Total load is live load ( contents of the space above, or as required by code in pounds per square foot over the entire floor area above which is supported by the member), plus dead load ( weight of the existing structure).

In general it appears that the floor was framed using timbers salvaged from an older structure. The notches have weakened the member. They would have been seats for secondary framing members called purlins. The beam, in it's original installation , would have been installed with the notches up.

The bottom line is that the floor can probably be reinforced and the posts removed. However additional framing will need to be installed before the supports are removed. There is not much more that we can offer here except to say that the exact nature and scope of the repair needs to be determined by a qualified craftsman/engineer on site.


the best post i seen with out re typing and saying it again , there are many quality Craftsmen in Michigan that would be willing to give you an writen estament for the repairs and dicuss the work that will be needed so you will have a better understanding of what is involved in this project .
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I am not going to tell you to remove them or not, but what I can say, is that the posts and wood slats attached to them look to be part of a granary. They would slide boards into the slots to form walls within the granary. For most of the barns I have been in, these posts are not structural and were added after the barn was built. That being said, a couple of yours look like they are strategically positioned under weak points... probably where another member was taken out.

If you have any amount of weight on the floor above (ie// full of hay or straw) those beams that are notched would likely crack if you took the posts out. Would it all come crashing down? Probably not, but I don't know if I would risk it. It is amazing though how well those old barns still hold together even if some structure is removed.

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  • 3 weeks later...

There is a gentleman ("Pole framer") who posts on IFI. I think if you look in the Presses section of IFI he is in a dissicusion at or near the top of the chapter. Also "The Forestery Form" has a subforum on timber framing. You should be able to find someone close to your area that can help you.

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