Friday, Mike went to Suburban Welding and Steel and picked up the three pre-cut beam sections totaling about 45′ and one 20′-long piece of square tube steel to cut into columns. He has a big pickup with a rack on the back, so they were able to lower the steel onto the back with a crane. Total cost came to $1,083. Saturday morning I picked up some donuts and made some coffee and people started showing up. After a little bit of work getting the front basement window opened all the way and and the gate to swing wider, Mike got his truck angled up to the curb and we unloaded the first 384 lb, 16′ beam section. Predictable this was actually the last section we needed to put in, but the way they were loaded on the truck didn’t give us much choice. We fed it through the window and set it on a couple of ladders in the basement.

Old beam removed

Old beam removed

Next we started taking out sections of the old beam. We got a bit of a surprise when a couple of 2x4s in the ceiling for drywall nailing edges were pulled down with the beam. This was especially alarming because they nearly pulled down the gas pipe that ran under them! Fortunately the pipe didn’t rupture and we were able to remove the 2x4s and re-anchor the pipe to the ceiling. The rest of the beam came down without incident and the temporary wall showed no signs of any problem carrying the load.

Cutting the beam

Cutting the beam

There was a slight miscommunication about one of the beam measurements so Mike cut a couple of feet off, but better too long than too short. He has a fancy gas-powered saw for just such a purpose. Having someone that not only knows how to do the job, but has the tools necessary to do it was critical to us being able to tackle this ourselves. With the beams cut down we used the jack posts to hold them in place. Then Mike ran a string line from one end to the other to that we could line them up properly and get everything level with the hydraulic jacks.

Positioning the beam

Positioning the beam

We used clamps to hold the two beam sections together because it was slightly torqued. Then Mike used his arc welder to weld the beam sections together. Normally the separate sections are just bolted together with a steel plate, but this will be stronger and hold everything together better. Next up was the columns. Dean took a turn with the big saw and cut the columns.

Cutting the column

Cutting the column

The columns were a tiny bit too long, so I used the angle grinder to trim them down about an eighth inch. When we went to fit them again they were still too long, but it turned out one of my hydraulic jacks wasn’t quite holding pressure and the beam had just dropped slightly. We pumped it back into place and fitted the column in. Mike welded the columns into place, directly to the beam at the top and to a steel plate notched for the bolts at the bottom.

Dean and I tried our hand at arc welding on the base of one of the columns, which was a really interesting experience. There’s a strange balance between keeping the end of the stick from touching the weld so that a spark gap is created while still continuously pushing the stick in so that it is consumed. We used the rotary hammer to drill holes into the footing for the bolts and pounded them in, tightening them up so they were good and snug. It was done.

Finished beam

Finished beam

Today I took  down the temporary wall and got my first look at the basement completely opened up. I’ll still need to paint the beam so it doesn’t rust and Mike thinks I should put a column at either end since the ends of the beam are pocketed into the brick, which isn’t in terrific shape. At some point I’ll bring in a tuck pointer to clean up the brick foundation inside and out and we’ll see if that does it. Otherwise we’ll have a bit more steel work in our future. You can also see from the picture that I have a lot of cleaning to do!

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5 Responses to Beam Project: Steel

  1. That’s a lot of work – looking good!

  2. Impressed at just how temporary the temporary wall was!

  3. Impressive, most impressive!

  4. Impressive, most impressive!

  5. good work matty j. I wish I could have your knowledge when it comes time for me to renovate the house I hope to buy!

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