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Old 05-15-2011, 11:12 AM   #1
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Steel I Beam Construction

I am looking at a house (bungalow) to buy that has steel I beam contruction, but the beam is not continous across the span of the house (approx 40 ft), instead it is fabricated from sections about 12 ft long. These I beams are butted close to each other (1/4 in gap) but not weled or fastened to each other, and instead of a steel post to support the ends there is a concrete block support built from the floor up for them to sit on. Is this type of fragmented I beam construction legal or even safe?


Last edited by jeme; 05-15-2011 at 11:31 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 05-15-2011, 11:23 AM   #2
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As long as nothing else looks unusual, this wouldn't bother me a lot. Maybe this was a house that a mason built himself. He preferred the block columns because thats his specialty, and the short beam sections could be set by one or two men.


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Old 05-15-2011, 12:22 PM   #3
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As noted by previous poster, there is nothing unusual about discontinuous I beams. A 40 footer would be difficult to maneuver into position, and would not necessarily be any stronger than a discontinuous beam.

What is important is that the beam is adequately fastened to the supports using J bolts or similar attachment detail. I have seen a lot of houses where the steel beams are attached simply by friction, which means that the beam can move in the event of an earthquake, impact on the house (see tornado or car crash), or settlement of a column. This can lead to structural failure under extreme conditions.

As for legal and does it meet code, well that is going to be difficult to determine, as you would need to verify the year of construction, and determine if the method of construction met the code which was in place at the time.
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Old 05-15-2011, 01:17 PM   #4
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I'm surprised Mr. Holzman did not suggest a structural engineer to inspect the building system. While code compliance is great, there are times that abiding by the code is simply not enough.

If confronted with a unique system, many inspectors are overwhelmed and start using "well, I think it looks pretty good" without having the education (not meaning to be demeaning) to actually determine if it is a sound system. While they may not be able to point at something that is not code compliant, it does not mean it is a properly designed or installed system. As such, they give it an approval because it looked good to them. Not saying this is the case but I have seen too many times it was.

Due to that, I suggest it be inspected by an engineer that can review the construction to determine if it is actually a properly constructed system and it provides the necessary support for what it is intended for.
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