Rusty beams


Our cellar is a very humid place and it's been so for nearly a century. I've recently discovered that all the metal (iron? steel?) beams have rusted so badly that they've shattered brick, plaster and concrete within a few cm of each beam. These particular beams apparently support the ground floor hall way. If I wanted a structural engineer to have a quick look and give me a written thumbs up or down report, how much money would I be looking at for such a 15 minute survey?
Secondly, can such beams (they're apparently only 4 or 5 feet long) be replaced "in situ", or are we looking at major works on the ground floor??
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It's unlikely that a structural engineer would limit a survey to that area alone, and would need to report on any other defects in the property. He could be potentially liable if anything else came to light. On the strength of that, it would be cheap at say, 300 or so. A good builder (emphasis on 'good') should be able to advise and quote for free. It's possible that wooden joists could be inserted - but you would need to sort the damp problem out, or it may be a question of de-rusting the existing beams and coating them if it's just surface rust - quite a bit of work involved tho'
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The brickwork has shattered because the beams have expanded due to severe corrosion. The load carrying capacity of the beams is likely to be impaired and should be replaced. This is a relatively easy job, usually just requiring the joists to be propped either side of the beam to carry the floor loads temporarily. The shattered brickwork should removed and concrete spreaders, or engineering brick, built in to provide a secure bearing for the new beams. Prestressed concrete lintels are a good subsitute for short spans such as this, being relatively cheap and easy to handle. A new treated timber wall plate should be installed above the beam to provide support for the joist ends (the exact design will depend on the arrangement that exists) The supplier should be able to size the lintels correctly. Providing there are no other major defects such as rotten joist ends it should be realtively easy job. Timber should not come into contact with damp masonry. Is there sufficient sub-floor ventilation and can it be improved?
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Thank you very much for the detailed reply. There is no ventilation in the cellar. Sounds like we're looking at big time expenses here... that's life I guess.
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I
You're going to need a lot more papier mache, no? :-))
Steve
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Good luck! stuart
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