Are these support beams necessary?

19 Replies

Hello Everyone,  We are looking to close a multi unit in Chicago and our inspector showed a picture of these two metal beams on the roof. These are towards the back of the building. He says they are not necessary and should be removed to reduce weight. Seller says they are added for support. Any ideas? Should we have them removed or keep them for any use?


From the skids shown in the picture, it seems like those steel beams were put there for a reason. Could be for a legitimate reason or some perceived solution to a problem. Until you know why, I would not remove them. Most likely they are not doing any harm as is.

Don't remove them.  Keep them in place until you get the opinion of a trusted (and licensed) contractor or a structural engineer.  I highly doubt someone would go to the trouble of installing steel beams on the roof unless there was some underlying issue. 

Hard to tell for my phone... But I wonder if they are being used for weight to keep the roof membrane down or something. They are not being used to frame the house. if they were both ends would frame into a column or wall.   

Wait... it looks like a homemade snow guard. To keep snow from ripping off the gutter and falling on ppl below.

Don't trust a contractor to evaluate, get a professional engineer's opinion, have it in writing, you might use it in the future.

If you remove them and the roof collapses, they were necessary. The only other way is to get the opinion of a structural engineer.

As a funny side note, I've met a lot of handymen and framers that thought they were structural engineers. I once nearly panicked when I saw what a handyman had done replacing a big, beefy load bearing beam on my parent's house ... my parents said don't panic, he knows what he is doing and put up a temporary wall ... I looked at the temporary wall, and it was framed with 2x2s ... when I called the handyman out on it, his response was "Are you an engineer". To which I said, "Why yes, I am. Are you?" :)

What would happen if they were removed, and one of those overhanging trees fell on the roof?

Also, are they sufficiently bolted onto their own vertical supports to carry their weight?...

Call the code enforcement office and have them send out an inspector to look at those beams as well as the rest of the property to see what other nasty surprises the seller may have in store for you.

Definitely have it looked at by a professional engineer. Might cost you a few hundred to have them come out but thats nothing compared to the damage you could do the building.

@Brandon Battle How would a building inspector know that? Are they structural engineers?

Building inspector will not come out unless you have a permit.

@Kranti K. the seller says they were added for "support"? What did they need to support with them? This is where I would start. I would also ask my inspector why he assumes they aren't needed. Two very different opinions from people involved in the sale of the house. 

Agreed on getting a structural engineer to take a look. A home inspector is trained in the very basics only.

I would think a city inspector would have some experience with the matter in question.And yes,many inspectors have an engineering background.Look,I was just making a suggestion.Take it,don't take it,I don't give a damn.

Originally posted by @Brandon Battle :

Call the code enforcement office and have them send out an inspector to look at those beams as well as the rest of the property to see what other nasty surprises the seller may have in store for you.

I disagree.  You're shaking the beehive for no reason.  Most likely they will offer no comment on the beams (they lack training) but will issue orders on other stuff, which they will pester you on after the closing.

Your home inspector said they were not necessary? I hope he has good insurance or knows more about those beams then we can see from the picture.  It looks like someone went to great lengths to install those. From the image they look bolted down but the image is a little dark. 

I would have recommended an engineer look it over unless blueprints are on site that I could evaluated. I would also ask for documentation on who designed and engineered the "improvement" to the roof structure.  Also is the existing roof structure designed to carry that dead load weight. 

LOL, no they don't that's why they work with the city, they are only good at inspecting and following minimum code for a book, they are in no way have the authority to give an engineering opinion.  So what if the inspector is an engineer, if they say take it out, and the building collapses, who can you sue? The city? That is the thing, you offered an advice and if the person receiving it believes you, they might end up of their house falling down on them.

There's an easy way to find out if they are needed..

I'm with Kelly on this one. I live and work in that area, and it is highly unlikely that someone dragged those beams up there for no reason.

Also, I believe Taye makes a good point. In Chicago, it is hard enough to get municipal inspectors to look at a project when there is an active permit, much less for this kind of thing. 

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