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Old 08-08-2012, 12:58 AM   #1
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POST and BEAM question


Hello All-
In the midst of a kitchen and bath reno...

Opened up some walls connecting kitchen to family room to allow kitchen to "flow" better into that room. Family room is an addition added to back corner of original house structure by prev owner.
In a perfect world, I would choose to remove the vertical corner beam you see in the photos entirely, transferring the load to left and right by about three feet on each side. But I think we've decided to compromise and simply box in the beam with finishing trim, etc, creating a free-standing post with passageway on either side.
You can see where this is leading... when I opened up the wall I found the diagonal "buttress" beam you see in the pictures. Goes from about 30" high down to floor level. As visible in the other picture, there originally was another one of these "buttress" supports 90 degrees to the existing one, but all that is left of it now is the empty slot it once resided in.

My questions: what is it (the diagonal brace), what purpose does (did) it serve, and is it a big deal if I remove it?

Secondly, you will see in the final pictures that it appears that the main vertical beam is resting upon a similar beam 9-10" from floor level. There is no visible sign of them being held together with any sort of connector or fastener... might the upper just be lying on the lower solely through its sheer weight? Or does anyone suspect, as I do, that there may be some sort of vertical dowel/peg between them? (see pic of type of peg I am referring to on diagonal brace)
Should I tie the two together with some sort of steel plates or something?

By the way, the diagonal brace peg has some play to it. I could slide it out if I chose to, leading me to believe there is not much load on the brace.

Thoughts??

THANKS!
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Last edited by SCORCH; 08-08-2012 at 01:00 AM.
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Old 08-08-2012, 08:30 AM   #2
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Rather interesting post on top of a post there...despite it holding up for a VERY long time, it wouldn't pass modern inspection...

The diagonal is used for shear loading. It helps keep the walls upright and the structure from racking. I don't recommend removing that without consulting a structural engineer first. I say that for two reasons. 1) The split post might actually be held together by that diagonal and removing it may require some kind of a splice plate to ensure the upper post doesn't slide off the lower. 2) If you remove a shear element, will the structure need a new one elsewhere to ensure structural rigidity (especially in high-wind instances)

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Old 08-08-2012, 08:48 AM   #3
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I agree.
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Old 08-08-2012, 10:01 AM   #4
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With that post sitting on top of another post, the brace does no good, for that post could slide if any stress were applied. The only thing that would hold against any stress would be the post behind the front post as it looks like it isn't cut anywhere. I would not remove the brace without an engineer looking it over first.

After going back and reading the post again, I said about the same thing AG said.
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Old 08-08-2012, 04:58 PM   #5
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If you look at the 3rd pic down, there appears to be a mortice cut into the post at the same level as the top of the brace, and at right-angles to it. Could this suggest that there was originally a second brace at right angles to the one we see, that has later been removed?
If this was the case, the post would have been braced in 2 directions originally, presumably to stop it coming off the post below. If this is right, it might be risky removing the remaining brace - just a thought

(It looks as though the brace is secured by dowels (pegs); could this suggest the work is quite old? Nineteenth century?)

(Sorry OP, I just re-read your post more carefully and realized you had noticed the mortice for the other brace!

Last edited by tony.g; 08-08-2012 at 05:01 PM. Reason: not paying proper attention originally).
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Old 08-08-2012, 05:53 PM   #6
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Thanks for the feedback thus far.
Could someone please address the idea of tying the two vertical beams together with a steel plate or plates?
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Old 08-08-2012, 05:57 PM   #7
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Also, if I do remove the remaining brace, now I've got two deep mortices cut in approximately the same part of the vertical beam... Should I assume its strength has been compromised? What would I fill the mortices with to regain some of the vertical beam's strength/integrity?

Thanks again.
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Old 08-08-2012, 06:21 PM   #8
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Looking at the 4th picture it shows another mortise where another brace was at one time. The brace there now is only good for one direction of stress as the peg would not hold if there was a pulling stress instead of a pushing stress applied, nor would the post as the splice would give. Not knowing how long the post has been cut, there is no way to know how long it has held in that position. I have restored old homes as far back as 1822 and the post and beam construction was the same as you have there, the only difference I see is the hand hewn of the timbers back then.

Adding the steel plates would help if they are installed correctly and are long enough.

A question, are any of the doors and windows sticking or showing uneven margins because the building has moved?
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Old 08-08-2012, 06:43 PM   #9
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I’ll bet those short braces (one removed) were put there just because they had to stack a post on a post for whatever reason (running out of long stock maybe). The stacked post don’t look like a remodel.

Cool pictures though.
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Old 08-09-2012, 04:19 AM   #10
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A tricky one, as you obviously need to join the posts effectively in some way.

On the far side, the posts seem to be flush on 2 faces. Could you get some folded steel plate, say about 3/16" thick, to make an angle, and screw it to each post on the two faces of each?

I say screw rather than bolt because a number of short screws would be less damaging to the timber, which already seems split.

The disadvantage with this method is that, although you could have a long length of steel on the upper post, there is not much length of lower post to fix to; ideally the lengths over each post should be the same, and the longer the better.

As for the mortices compromising the strength; just saw off the brace leaving the tennon in, and glue another piece of timber in the other mortice, tapping it gently in. If the post is not carrying too much vertical load, its strength in that direction won't have been too badly compromised.
Its the lateral stability you have to watch. I doubt its an important part of the building's overall stability, but you certainly have to keep it in position. Its probably an old botch-job, but a well-done one at that.
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