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Homehelpers: Hiring a contractor to replace beams damaged by termites

Saturday, October 07, 2000

Termites have damaged the support beams in the basement of my 75-year-old house. The beams need to be replaced or reinforced. I had a city inspector check the basement. He wanted the basement ceiling removed, which I have since had done. I don't think the floors above are sagging but the wood is very soft. I need a contractor who knows how to do the repairs.

L. Maxwell,
Schenley Heights


HomeHelpers is a home improvement column that tackles readers' problems with local experts. If you have a home-related problem or question or are a contractor who can help answer readers' questions, write to: Kevin Kirkland, HomeHelpers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or send e-mail to


Patrick J. Folan, president of Accent Contracting Corp. in Ross, replies:

It's always difficult, of course, to determine the extent of any project without being able to actually see the problems or troubles before tackling the job. It seems, however, that this basement problem can be solved.

First, a temporary wall should be built near the area where the beam is being removed. This wall will carry the load of the existing beam while it is being replaced. Once the old beam is removed, the joists should be checked to make certain they are solid and can continue to bear weight. This is crucial in any situation where beams are damaged and in any instance where there are termite problems. If the joists are indeed solid, the new beam can then be installed and the temporary wall taken down.

Difficulties can occur if the beam is long and the basement access is inadequate to allow proper full-length installation of the beam. To arrive at a cost, a contractor would need to visit your home and determine the extent of the project and the time involved in correcting the problems.

Some of the issues involved are the size of the beam, how accessible the basement is, whether the posts can be reused and how much room there is to work. All that being said, a budget price to install a glued, laminated beam that is 15 inches wide and 51/2 inches thick would be about $60 per linear foot.

As always, treat any situation where you are hiring a contractor just like a job interview. Ask for references, and make sure the contractor actually does the type of work you need done. In other words, don't hire a roofing contractor to install a bathroom floor.

Make sure the contractor has workmen's compensation and general liability insurance in case there are any problems. If the contractor doesn't have these, you could be held liable for any accidents that occur on the project. Call the people who are given as references, and find out if they were satisfied with the job the contractor did.

Check to make sure the contractor has an established business location in the area, and find out how long they have been in business.

Finally, find out if your contractor belongs to a professional organization. This will show you how committed a contractor is to the industry and will help you determine if he is in business for the long haul or is a "fly-by-night" contractor. The Remodelers Council at the Builders Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh has a variety of publications and other information for consumers. To contact the association, call 412-231-8111. The council will be glad to send you information on how to hire a qualified contractor.

Remember, always have a contract signed by both you and the contractor detailing the exact specifications of the project.

Patrick J. Folan is a past president of the Remodelers Council and a board member of the Builders Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh. Accent Contracting Corp. is at 3457 Babcock Blvd., Ross. He can be reached at 412-367-8508.

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