Frequently Asked Questions

 

Read through this selection of commonly asked roof beam dry rot repair questions. There are images and video answers included. However, as with most FAQ pages, the answers are brief and you'll probably want more information. You can find it, along with images and guides, in the article Roof Beams. I encourage anyone with roof beams to read this article.



Why not just use beam caps to fix rotted roof beams?

While only capping the beam ends might improve their appearance, it usually allows existing dry rot to get worse. This is particularly the case with rot that continues to get damp with rainwater. (It's like capping a rotting tooth. Your smile may be pretty, but the cavity and rot would just get worse until the tooth finally crumbles.) A rotting roof beam that does not have its water source and its ongoing decay removed will fail. A few examples are in the gallery below. Click the top photo to expand and read the explanation. (On some iPads, you'll need to use a slow double tap.) Use the arrows within the expansion to read flip-book style. (On mobile devices, tap and swipe left.)

Why not just cut off the ugly rotted roof beam ends?

 

First of all, it ruins the unique original architecture. In fact, many homeowners' associations require maintaining the original architecture. Second, depending on the amount of dry rot, cutting back too far can lessen the structural capacity of load-bearing roof beams. More importantly, though, it's not likely to eliminate all of the hidden pockets of wood rot fungi; this risks the continued spread of decay and potentially the loss of a once savable roof beam. There's no cut and paste solution:

(*Note: I have no control over the "more videos" selections YouTube adds on pause or stop.)

Isn't epoxy, caulking or wood-filler with some fresh paint enough to fix dry-rotted roof beams?


In cases of established rot, the short answer is no. It would be nice if it were that simple. If the infection and its water source are not eliminated, the decay will simply continue to spread. You can see for yourself some roof beam dry rot "repairs" I was subsequently contracted to correct; below are two less-than-a-minute videos I created to show "What's Really Under There?" and "Failed Roof Beam Repair" to illustrate a couple of these failures. To learn more about the hidden costs, visit Insufficient Repairs.

(*Note: I have no control over the "more videos" selections YouTube adds on pause or stop.)

Why not simply enclose or clad over rotten roof beams?

The type of covering makes no difference to the dry rot fungi. If rainwater continues to worm its way in, dry rot fungus will continue do the job that nature intended it to do — eat away at the wood. Below is another gallery of clad and enclosed beams; in these, I was subsequently contracted to come in and repair the "repair." (On some iPads, you'll need to use a slow double tap.) Use the arrows within the expansion to read flip-book style. (On mobile devices, tap and swipe left.)

What happens if the dry rot in a roof beam is so bad that it can't be restored?
 

If restoration isn’t possible, the roof beam must be completely replaced. In many cases, this process will be as overwhelming as it sounds. In other cases, not so much. The price tag for this method of repair depends on several factors: 

  • whether it's a load bearing or decorative beam

  • the size and length of the beam

  • the complexity of the structure with respect to the beam

  • the accessibility of the beam, and

  • the height of the beam, etc.  

Decorative beams are usually shorter than load-bearing ones, and their replacement is typically less labor-intensive. Large covered patios with exposed load-bearing beams often have accessibility advantages that keep the labor down. These beams usually extend from an exterior post to an exterior wall and can be removed and replaced without having to work from the inside of the home. 

Some beams, however, span halfway through the interior of the home, if not all the way through (this would be the overwhelming part). You can expect that extracting one of these will be, at the very least, time-consuming, messy, and expensive. The size and scope of this kind of project is best suited for a company with a sizable crew; this is a service I do not offer. 

In short, the best answer is not to find yourself in this position. Attend to roof beam decay as soon as you are aware of it. (See how to identify decay: Detecting Roof Beam Rot.) Complete roof beam replacement can be avoided. With dry rot, the worst thing is to do nothing at all.

What does a roof beam inspection and estimate cost?

Nothing, they're free of charge.

What happens during a roof beam inspection?

 

I arrive at our appointment with ladders and tools. I'll inspect each roof beam to determine the amount of dry rot, if any. Afterwards, we'll sit down together and go over what I've found. I'll show you detailed images of the beam restoration process.  I'll answer any questions you might have. Then, at your request, I'll mail you a detailed estimate (bid). If you're happy with the bid, sign it and return it, or simply call or email with your decision. We'll set a date and sign a contract. If you choose not to have me do the work, no more contact is necessary. I don't do the "hard sell" routine . . . ever.

What's the worst that can happen?

 

The short answer is a roof beam failure that results in roof collapse.  Left unchecked, the dry rot fungi will continue to feast until there simply isn't enough solid wood left to hold up the roof. Dry rot compromises the timber and gravity does the rest. Fortunately, very few episodes of catastrophic roof beam failure happen suddenly. Usually, a beam appears crushed and distorted over time before losing its structural integrity entirely. I've included a few images showing a range of roof beam failures.

Click the top photo to expand and read the explanation. (On some iPads, you'll need to use a slow double tap.) Use the arrows within the expansion to read flip-book style. (On mobile devices, tap and swipe left.)

Where can I find more information on roof beams and roof beam dry rot repair?

 

You can find it, along with images and guides, in the article Roof Beams. I encourage anyone with roof beams to read this article. 

If you haven't already done so, go to the Roof Beams article now. If you're ready to consider the services I offer, you can jump to the Services page or allow me to answer your roof beam questions via phone or email. Everybody should visit the Before You Repair page to be safe when hiring. If you're curious to know more about me and my history, go to About The Beam Guy.

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