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Re: water soaked joists

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        I had an experience with soaked wood structural elements a few years ago and it can present serious problems.
        The building I was involved with was a 32 suite apartment building built about 1912.  The four storey structure consisted of brick exterior bearing walls and wood interior columns, beams, and floor joists.  Unfortunately, careless smoking caused a fire which burned off the entire roof plus most of the interior walls from the ceiling to about four feet above the fourth floor.  Needless to say, the fire department soaked it thoroughly.  All the way to the basement!!  The building, now a derelict, complete with its wet plaster walls and not a small amount of abandoned tenant possessions, stood vacant and exposed to the weather before it was sold (to us, actually) and financing could be arranged for its rehabilitation (a total of about two years in all).
        Of course the structure was thoroughly and completely soaked.  As the rehabilitation progressed two problems related to the soaking presented themselves; these were mold and splitting of structural members as they dried out.  We had professionals deal with the mold; we dealt with the splitting members.  As I recall (and I did not diarize this) it took about two months for the splitting to become really noticeable and another month or two to completely run its coarse.  Where the splitting elements were joists or beams (2x10 joists and multiple 2x10 beams for the most part) we sistered the splitting element.  Where the splitting elements were columns (generally square, ranging from 6x6 to 12x12) we injected the splits with glue and bolted or clamped them back together.
        I think splitting could be reduced if the elements are not dried out too fast but I'm not sure how to control this.  I'm not sure what to suggest about the manufactured I shapes; perhaps the manufacturer can give you some guidance.
        Hope this helps.
H. Daryl Richardson
        What of the building now?  It's been completely rehabilitated and converted to office use.  It's been officially designated as an Alberta Historic Resource and it stands out as an excellent example of what can be done when dedicated professionals set their minds to saving historic resources.
---- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, October 24, 2006 10:25 AM
Subject: water soaked joists

I just returned from vacation and had a voice mail waiting for me from a client.  The message was that he wanted me to check out some joists that had been soaked by water.  How soaked I don't know yet, but for the sake of discussion let's assume very soaked.  Some of the joists according to him are sawn lumber and some are wood "I" joists, and as yet I don't know the particular manufacturer.  I'm fairly confident that the sawn lumber if allowed to adequately dry that they will be O.K., but I don't know for sure what to say about the "I" joists.  I would suspect that a light exposure to moisture wouldn't be detrimental, but a heavy soaking I don't know.  In a way I think a representative of the manufacturer should make the call due to laminations of chords (if they are laminated chords) glue joints at the web/chord joint and possible damage to the web material.

Any thoughts or recomendations out there?

Joseph R. Grill, PE

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