If you live in a moist climate in the winter and a dry climate in the summer and you have exterior wood beams exposed to these elements. You could develop wood beam problems over time. If wood beams are properly maintained and painted often they could last for a long time. Wood beams can last many years if properly taken care of.
Exterior wood beams that are used to hold up roofs, patios and decking can suffer from wood rot if not taken care of. Let’s take for example a wooden beam located in a patio holding up a section of a large roof. The span of the roof being is only 10 feet long. As we look at the exterior wood beam. We noticed the upper corner of the beam is soft and rotted.
The beam damage is roughly the size of a baseball. The wood beam itself is a 6 x 10. Do we need to replace this beam even though the damage is not real big. The answer to this question is yes, any amount of damage to a wood beam takes away from its structural strength.
If you have a wood beam holding up the roof and the beam fails you could end up replacing a large section of your roof as well as the damaged beam. Replacing the damaged beam is usually a difficult task. The beam is usually sandwiched between two walls and will have siding or stucco around it.
If you’re lucky enough to have the wood beam sitting in a saddle or on top of a wood post this will make your job easier and will require less skill. If however the beam is located between two walls this will require shoring up the roof and removing the beam.
Beam replacement should be left to professionals. This is not often as easy as it looks and could create a safety hazard if not done properly. I have seen beams replaced by homeowners or handyman and the damage that was done after the repairs, was worse than just leaving the beam alone in the first place.
The biggest problem with exterior wood beams is that they are usually holding up large amounts of weight. If the beam is removed without the proper bracing and shoring of the roof or floor area you could have a larger problem than you started with.
Exterior beams over time seemed to develop large cracks or splits in dry weather. These large cracks and splits weaken the structural strength of the beam adding more stress to the beam itself leading to structural failure eventually.
Extreme climates where temperatures very over 40° in one day seem to suffer the most damage to exterior wood beams that are not properly maintained. Beam maintenance will require painting and keeping moisture away from them.
Be aware of structural beams in or around your house. A little painting now and then can save you thousands of dollars over the life time of your house.