Beam too low in bedroom?

87 Replies

Hi I'm doing a rehab and pulled out walls of a load bearing hallway to combine two bedrooms to a master suite. Problem is a few things, the floor upstairs feels like a trampoline because the old owner who had built the upstairs addition used 4" floor joists instead of 6". My contractor says he can double them up to make them more stable which I hope is correct. 

The other issue is I almost hit my head on this new support beam they put in the ceiling where the hallway walls used to be, but they added it to two 2x4 header beams rather than removing all of those 2x4's and replacing with the beam for some reason. So now the beam is about 2" below the doorway entrance making an odd entry beam lower than the entry door. I think this is unacceptable. My GC says he can cut away half of the beam if we add a closet to the corner of the room which we planned to do up to the beam. 

Any second opinions would be helpful.

Updated 27 days ago

The rehab job is in Nashville TN

Updated 28 days ago

*sorry the joists are 2x6 existing from the old addition, but are supposed to be 2x8

OMG!!! Time to get someone else to do the work I think. I would get a structural engineer in there to look at what is going on. Pretty sure you can't just double up 2x4's to correct floor. You could have used a steel beam instead of huge header. GC says he can just cut away half the beam... If he can cut away half the beam then why is the beam that big to start with? There's a lot going on here that doesn't look right.

Wow- there's no such thing as a 2x4 floor joist! 

You need a new contractor. Lam beams integrity is completely compromised if it's notched. No way this would pass inspection and will cost you significantly in the long run. 

Wow.. @Leland Smith . @Alan Pederson is right. Firstly let me put my disclaimer out: 

Disclaimer: I am an architect, but I am not YOUR architect. I am not giving professional advice only general information. Contact a local architect/engineer for a detailed consultation specific to your project/locale.

..having said that- Your Contractor is cutting corners and it makes me question if he knows what he's doing. No way 2x4 should be holding any floor. That's against most if not all building codes. The fact that your Contractor is trying to band-aid fix it by adding more 2x4 is a big red flag. Then there's the head height issue. Building codes (here in NY State) say the lowest clear head height is 6'8", but for most spaces it has to be a min. of 7'. So if you are hitting your head than unless you are NBA tall, this shouldn't be happening. 

Who is your architect and/or engineer!? Who designed the headers that way, especially with the top plates remaining in place above support beam? What do the plans say? 

Based on the height of that open door, if this is the low head height area then likely due to the beam installation. The top plates are superficial and unnecessary. Joist should sit on new support. Another option if head height is an issue to complete a flush installation by joist hanging above framing to new beam allowing to eliminate the visible beam altogether. Who's inspecting these? They have a single 2x as shoring/support for the framing above? So so many questions.. 

Nice tree trunk you got there under those beams. 12 studs in a row! Unless you have a swimming pool on the second floor theres no way you need that much framing under there. I can immediately take out 4 completely useless studs there.

 @Jared W Smith @Alan Pederson - sorry I was mistaken, the joists are existing joists from a half-*** prior homeowners upstairs addition, they are actually 2x6 but my contractor said they should be 2x8. So he was proposing putting in 2x8 beams in addition to the existing 2x6. Then this cuts my ceiling height down to 3" under 8' apparently... :( 

As far as the 2x8 header beam they installed, that comes to 2" or so below the doorway which I said was ridiculous and had to be fixed. I assumed the doorway is 80" standard, if they aren't I need to find a new guy I think.

Jared - can you show me an example of how to eliminate the visible beam? I was standard 8' ceilings, at least as close as I can get, but the main house support was based around the old hallways walls traversing the left-right long side of the rectangle house. 

@Corby Goade - which beams are you referring to?

BTW I do have a building permit (in my name tho because he isn't licensed) - so should I preventatively call the building codes inspector out now or hire a structural engineer instead to make recommendations for fixing?

I hired an architect to make me drawings for the floor layout but he didn't do anything to help determine what kind of joists or proper support to make the layout work is required. I probably should've hired someone that could help me there too cause I paid him $700 for a couple drawings I essentially didn't even use. 

@Nik Moushon - sounds like I need to hire a structural engineer. Contractor said he needed all that for overlap beam support. 

Originally posted by @Leland Smith :

@Nik Moushon - sounds like I need to hire a structural engineer. Contractor said he needed all that for overlap beam support. 

I'll explain a bit more. From left to right. The first stud is not needed. As you can see by the sill plate they framed that small wall to the left on the floor and tilted it in place. It does nothing for the beam itself. The could've just used the next stud as the "end" of the framed wall part. 

Studs under a beam are called jack studs and the ones that go up the end, to the top of the beam, are called king studs. There are 5 kings studs there. the 3 middle ones are not needed. More than likely they put them there for ease of construction but they are not needed. One king for each beam should be plenty in most cases, especially an interior wall. If this was an exterior opening then it might be more reasonable because of shear loads. 

What they did isnt wrong. Its just over kill. 

What I am hearing is you hired an architect "just to submit a few plans to attain permits," correct? This is a problem if so, especially if you are a novice when it comes to construction. $700 is not much therefore he's likely left all coordination up to you. 

Leaving the construction in the hands of the contractor has let them run a muck. How is it there were plans drawn up but not used? Who is determining what needs to be built if there are no plans for the contractor? Normally there's a framing inspection anyway? Has that occurred? Has the city been out there for anything?  

A recessed beam (LVL, Glulam, etc.) is very basic. You would cut the joist above and provide joist hangers to connect joist to the new support beam. support post will be needed at each end properly sized depending on length. Your architect, engineer or at the least, the contractor should have told you your options. It is more costly to install but a clean look. Various parameters have to be investigated for feasibility. The second photo has temporary shoring in place. See some photos I found off google as reference below. These are not my photos nor do I know any project details: 

I've seen on a number of occasions here on BP where investors do not see the value in an architect. This is the paramount reason for having an architect part of your project, even if it's just as an adviser on an hourly basis.  

@Jared W Smith - I agree with you and that is why I hired an architect to make me drawings so the rooms were the right size because I could tell my GC was doing everything off the cuff. But all he did is give me floor plans. I assumed my GC knew how to put in beams. But when I went to inspect and had this beam nearly hitting my head (I'm 6'3) and pointed out it was below the doorway entrance I said this isn't right, why weren't the old 2x4's above the header beam removed? Anyway - I did pull a permit out in my name and it will be inspected, maybe I should have that done now or hire someone to do it?

I'm not sure how much that recessed beam would cost me, but since all that wood is up which I paid for the labor and wood already, probably a lot. I don't have a lot of margin in this project due to all the existing non-standard handyman work done by a prior owner.

@Nik Moushon - OK I don't mind being overly cautious, but not happy they didn't put the beam directly on the upper floor joists because now everything sits too low for proper doorway. GC says he's going to cut into the beam to create the clearance. I have a bad feeling the city inspector is going to say WTF. Am I right? Should I put a stop to this now?

@Leland Smith Sorry to say but you were mislead and I cannot condone an architect completing plans for your renovation but handing them to you to blindly oversee their completion. And the plans should be in such a way that it shows adequate level of detail for construction. Never trust the contractor 100% unless you have a long standing relationship and even then it's still "trust but verify." Inspectors aren't going to look at everything and this is my fear. They will overlook stuff. So it will be up to you to look at everything. With out the experience, you just may not know. See if you can bring the architect back on board for CA (Construction Administration) to review milestones like this (framing).  

I beg to differ. In order to provide a (hopefully code compliant) opening, they will have to remove the beam and re-do the opening anyway. That's their error not yours and you should not have to pay any extras. However you are right, this will be additional and if it's not in the budget, don't bother. 

I wish you well in your project and hope things smooth out. 

Originally posted by @Leland Smith :

@Nik Moushon - OK I don't mind being overly cautious, but not happy they didn't put the beam directly on the upper floor joists because now everything sits too low for proper doorway. GC says he's going to cut into the beam to create the clearance. I have a bad feeling the city inspector is going to say WTF. Am I right? Should I put a stop to this now?

CUT INTO THE BEAMS!? Get some help from a local architect or engineer. Preferably one that assisted with permit plans. You are the owner and have full right to stop the job. Ask the City inspector to come asap. 

Originally posted by @Leland Smith :

@Nik Moushon - OK I don't mind being overly cautious, but not happy they didn't put the beam directly on the upper floor joists because now everything sits too low for proper doorway. GC says he's going to cut into the beam to create the clearance. I have a bad feeling the city inspector is going to say WTF. Am I right? Should I put a stop to this now?

Short answer. DO NOT LET HIM DO THAT!

Long answer. DO NOT LET HIM DO THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He is not an engineer. Unless he can show you and the inspector the math for the loads and that what is left of the beam is still structurally sound the inspectors going to do more than just a WTF. If he is willing to cut the beam to a smaller size to fix your head height problem why didnt he use a smaller beam in the first place? Is an inch or three really going to make the difference you are looking for? I seriously doubt it. Make him recess it. 

I think switching GC/contractors is a last resort, because it will cost you a lot more money in the end, but if he keeps pushing back like this with stupid lazy a$$ suggestions I would start considering it. 

@Jared W Smith is right. You need to go back to the architect/engineer and talk this over. Also getting an inspector out there asap is probably a good thing.

@Leland Smith I was in a house that was “optimized” for AirBnB last week where they obviously converted an attic space into a bedroom. I’m 5’ 11.5” with my shoes on and this bedroom was no taller than 6’. Just wanted you to know there is MUCH worse out there :-)
Originally posted by @Tyler Faison :
@Leland Smith I was in a house that was “optimized” for AirBnB last week where they obviously converted an attic space into a bedroom. I’m 5’ 11.5” with my shoes on and this bedroom was no taller than 6’. Just wanted you to know there is MUCH worse out there :-)

 Much worse doesnt make something bad better. 

That attic is also against code then. Something that bad I would actually spend the time and call that in. Those kind of house is what gives AirBnB bad tastes in ppl mounts, especially with all the legal stuff going on with them. This kind of crap needs to get called out and fixed.

@Leland Smith you need to fire this guy and get a licenced contractor as well as a structural engineer. It just keeps getting worse! Cutting the beam will negate having it there in the first place. Floor joists should be a min 2x8, preferably 2x10. Ceiling height should be at least 7'. If he doesnt know these things, he should not be building structural pieces to your property. What he should have done is sisters up 2x8s to the 2x6s and recessed the beam (which should probably be steel or a LAM beam, for that span) so you have proper headroom

@Jason DiClemente - yes I made a rookie mistake and crossed my fingers going with the off the books cheap guy. Now I did hire an architect but as I mentioned he gave me nothing on the framing or support beam requirements - for the price I paid I wish he had. If you didn't catch it, I mentioned the existing structure was already way out of code with an upstairs addition having the 2x6 joists - actually his contractor fell right through the floor when they did demo because the joists were almost 80% notched to put pipe through - he had pointed that out to me this was out of code and he'd support it somehow, but clearly not enough was done. 

I'm sending the architect, who apparently specializes in the structural design, to inspect the job and determine how it needs to be made right. Recessed beam sounds great. I'm glad I posted when I sensed a problem and you all scared me straight.

Did the architect seal the drawings? If so, then they should be required to do the structural design for it. I'm surprised it passed the city without specifying structural members, especially in a bearing wall with those spans. 

10 to 1 he's a designer not an architect.  If you don't see a seal with his name on it on the drawings he's a designer.  Do not cut any lvl's.  From the quality of the manure show in your pictures one has to assume that those posts holding up those beams are not over a footing / foundation?   In my state if you as a homeowner pull a permit they hand you a form that you have to sign specifically stating you're not eligible for any funds from the state "unlicensed contractor" remedy fund.  Go to the basement and follow those loads.  Make sure they are accounted for.

Originally posted by @Jay M. :

10 to 1 he's a designer not an architect.  If you don't see a seal with his name on it on the drawings he's a designer.  Do not cut any lvl's.  From the quality of the manure show in your pictures one has to assume that those posts holding up those beams are not over a footing / foundation?   In my state if you as a homeowner pull a permit they hand you a form that you have to sign specifically stating you're not eligible for any funds from the state "unlicensed contractor" remedy fund.  Go to the basement and follow those loads.  Make sure they are accounted for.

This is exactly what I suspected also. $700 is not enough for most architects to do much with. Let alone a full permit set.  

@Leland Smith I may be reading you wrong but I am under the impression that you think the architect should have given you a lot more for $700. My past job was as a mechanical engineer and every now and then I would pick up side work doing CAD as-builts of floor plans. I would get payed about $1 per square foot of the floor plan. That was with no actual design work associated with it. I hate to say it but I suspect you got what you paid for. Both with the architect and contractor. Take it as a learning opportunity of what not to do next time, but do not sacrifice this house and let the contractor keep designing as he goes.
@Leland Smith ok, photos 4 and 5 look really bad. The first couple not so bad, just your floor joists are probably spanning too far (general rule 1” thickness for every 1’ of span, sometimes floorjoists can span a little further than a beam on this rule). Changing your floor joists to 2x8 or 2x10 is a total blowout. That huge beam on photo 4 and 5 is not needed as it has all the door framing and studs breaking up the span. I want to just drive over there and straighten this thing out for you without blowing out the whole job! Don’t spend too much on this crap. Framing is the easy part and finish takes longer. With inspections it has to look good and follow the general correct way to do things. You might have to see if you can get away with those joists, and if not, you’ll have to put more beams :). The recessed beam is nice, but you might be able to get away without installing them because you’ll need a few if you’re going that road. The big openings aren’t as jacked up as that stuff going over your doorways. I understand it’s hard to know the proper way to make it all look good for code, but someone who knows framing can straighten this out by removing the giant beam on photos 4-5 that sits too low and isn’t framed correctly. Hope you don’t have to pay too much for someone who knows how, and I would get rid of the first guy. He’s probably a cool guy, just doesn’t know how to frame correctly. If I was doing a basic framing correction like that I’d probably charge $1200 materials included on the doorway stuff and other little stuff. Try your best to not redo it all! Talk to a framing company. Probably don’t waist too much on GC title or engineer title. Let me know if you have more questions.
@Leland Smith If its to your advantage, just make your guy frame a standard wall with headers, jack (trimmer) studs, king studs up to the double top plate he left there. Google the proper way to frame doorways and show him what you want. Just put in some decent headers, 4x6 over the doorways with cripples above and you’ll be fine there. Sounds like that’s the main problem area on photos 4 and 5 specifically the doorways. You have to have those wide beams on the big openings, otherwise you can make the opening smaller and place a smaller beam. I like the recessed beam idea, but money will be flying out your window if you get too crazy here at this point.

I've never had a job this big.  However, I agree with others who have said "You need both a new GC and a new architect".  

If your GC can't pull a permit for a structural job like this, they ought not to be your GC.  

And don't let the GC cut the beam.  It might be sized correctly for a flush/joist hanger installation.

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here