Friday, December 14, 2018

Fixing a beam!

This style of Rummer was originally built with beam ends sticking out at the peaks and at the lower ends of the roof. Sticking out anywhere from 9-12 inches. When new, our house had eight of these in total. Long before we bought the house the four beam ends at the peaks had been cut flush and covered with metal flashing. All four lower beams are still there and all are experiencing some degree of rot. They've been exposed to the elements for 42 years. Painted, but no galvanized steel caps. Rot settled in many years ago and started doing its thing.

When you're not sure how to fix something, it's amazing how long you can pretend it's just not there. And the longer you "forget" about it, the worse the problem becomes. After all, the beam ends that stick out aren't really structural, so no big deal, right? 

Because it's the most visible, we chose to start with the worst one. 

YIKES!!! Seriously...the only thing holding it together was paint (Rodda Oxford Brown, of course). 
So how do you fix that crumbling mess? I had NO idea! Tear into the front of the house and replace the whole beam? Make a box beam? Get creative with epoxy?
Luckily we have The Eichler Network. It's a great resource and they have an article on this very topic. If there had been structural integrity at stake, I would have consulted a pro. But this is replacing a non-structural beam end and the steps seem fairly straightforward. 
1- Remove the rotten section of wood
2- Cut a new piece that fits in just right
3- Attach it
4- Fill and sand any gaps/seams
5- Paint it 
You're done
How hard can it be, right? Let's give it a shot!

1- Remove the rotten section of wood. 
Luckily for us, access is pretty easy -- but it's still about 8-feet off the ground so I would need to stand on a ladder. After considering a few saw alternatives, I decided to wield a reciprocating saw. The rot went further into the beam than I expected, but after about 1/2 hour of cutting and 32-inches later, I found "the good wood." 

2- Cut a new piece that fits just right
This is kinda tricky. I was cutting the bad stuff out with a hand-held reciprocating saw, on a ladder, with sawdust and rotten wood chunks raining down on my face, so the finished cuts aren't super exact. I fixed up the ends as best as I could using my grandpa's old belt sander and 40 grit sandpaper, then traced a template for the new piece on some cardboard. It still took plenty of "adjusting" to make the new piece fit snugly. 

3- Attach it
Glue? Lag bolts? Epoxy? Hmmm.....
I talked with the guys at the lumber yard and they suggested we use 4-inch, hardened, galvanized, lag-screws and toenail it together. They thought 4 would be enough, but I used 6. I pre-drilled the holes, then made them larger to countersink the screw heads.

Then I put the screws in until they were almost all the way through the new piece, applied a bunch of waterproof wood glue to both new & old surfaces, got some help to hold it in place and screwed everything together.   

4- Fill and sand any gaps/seams
I used that old belt sander with 40-grip paper where it was really out of wack (1/4-inch off at the worst spot...seems the original beam has a bit of a "cup" to it), then I used a smaller (lighter!) sander to lower the high spots and save my shoulder muscles.
For building up the low spots and filling in the seams and screw head holes, I used Bondo. It's great stuff. Just mixed it up in small amounts, glopped it in there, smoothed it out as best as I could, let it all dry, sanded it smooth, and repeated the process until it looked right.
If you try this, wear safety glasses!!! And maybe a mask, too. That dust gets everywhere! 

(SORRY! I thought I had pictures of this phase...but I can't find any. Just imagine the above pics, only smoother and with Bondo filling up the gaps and screw holes.)

5- Paint it
First a little primer... up the Oxford Brown...

...and finish up with a nice paint job. 

This was NOT an easy job. But it turned out really nice and it's SO great pretending not to see that rotten stump of a beam we lived with for so many years.
One beam down. Next up...the peaks! That'll be super tricky....


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