In this episode, we have the Crackdaddy, Adam Tracy, the Engineer, himself, here to talk to us about temporary lally columns. Adam explains why it is critically important to make your temporary lally columns permanent as soon as practical.
Narrator: It’s time once again for the “Crack Man Podcast” hosted by A1 Foundation Crack Repair. I’m Darren Kincaid here with the Crack Man himself, Adam Comeras. Adam has 30 years’ experience in the construction industry and over 25 years as the president and founder of A1 Foundation Crack Repair. This podcasts provides expert basement waterproofing, concrete repair, and preventative maintenance tips for homeowners and businesses. A1 Foundation’s valuable insight will help avert a disastrous flood within the basement, health problems associated with water infiltration, and protect your biggest investment….your home. The topic of today’s podcast: Temporary Lally Columns - why the word “Temporary” is so critical. A case study in West Roxbury, MA.
Narrator: Today we are blessed with royalty, we have The Crack Daddy, Adam Tracy, the Engineer himself, is here to talk to us about temporary lally columns. So Adam, for those who don’t know, what exactly is a lally column and why is it so important?
Adam: Lally columns are a critical piece to the home support structure. They keep all the rest of the house standing up. You’ll notice them in basements when you go downstairs, they look like these steel posts that when you knock on it, it’s usually solid and they go directly into the floor. They usually attach to the underside of the main beams of the house. So, it’s a critical element of the structural design, every new house has them, every older house has them.
As you start to peel back the years of construction, they go from a steel column with concrete inside back to wooden columns which would be more like tree trunks, and you may even see tree trunks in older homes, somewhere in the pre-1920 eras. Temporary columns are a little bit different. These are the ones that you can go get at the big hardware stores, they have the screw tops on them, and they usually have a bunch of holes up the side that you can adjust to install there.
Narrator: So, Adam, why is it so important then that temporary lally columns be replaced as soon as possible?
Adam: So as you would imagine, temporary lally columns were never meant to be fixed in a house permanently, hence the name “temporary columns”. You may also find them by the name of “screw jacks” or “temp columns”, all common names. What they are is a hollow steel tube, typically, a tube inside of another steel tube. It looks like a telescoping tube with a screw on the top. And they could be used post-construction for added support to beams, or if somebody knocked out one of those old wooden ones, they put in these steel ones. Now, per code, a temporary structure like this can’t be up for more than 180 days, but we constantly find ourselves in this particular case. Like in West Roxbury, the home inspector pointed out to potential buyers of the house that they had 3 or 4 temporary columns on the main support beam of the house, and that they’re not supposed to be like this.
We have people reach out to us directly and ask why, why can’t they be in there for more than a temporary period, and what is the temporary period? Well these ones happened to be in there since, probably about the 70s or 80s. So, the questioner says, well they’ve been in there for a long time, who cares, why do they need to be out, they’re doing fine? But the problem is, with these temporary columns, it isn’t just the name of them, it’s how they’re constructed. They are hollow like I discussed, and they’re also very thin. So, they’re great for adding quick support to an area, maybe there for construction purposes, or if you’re trying to level out some floors, they can be used to quickly lift up the beam a little bit.
But the problem is with these, is that they were never intended to take permanent weight for sustained periods of time. So, the question usually comes up, well these have been in here for 20 years, who cares, it doesn’t matter, these will be fine. Well the problem is with these, is that they’re not fire retardant, so if you happen to have a fire in the basement, that steel becomes flexible. Because there’s no concrete inside, it will not stand up to any sort of fire conditions in the basement. So you getting your family out safely, and firefighters coming in safely becomes a very big question mark. So the reason why we have to get these removed and to go with a permanent installation is, primarily for that reason.
So yes, they have been up there for a long time, but you’re really rolling the dice in terms of whether or not your house is properly supported on these main beams. Now, the right choice for something like this is to go with the permanent lally column. A permanent lally column is like I talked about, half concrete inside and they’re wrapped in steel, like a steel pipe. There are other options that are out in the market that are hollow pipes, but they’re a lot thicker steel and they offer a little less fire resistance in a fire event.
So when we install these permanent lally columns, the other critical part to this that most people miss is that the floor that these temporary columns are on may only be 2-3 inches thick, which is not strong enough to support the weight of the house. Which is usually why when you see an older house, it starts to settle and sag in towards the middle. This is because the floor is not strong enough to support the weight that’s being passed to these temporary or wooden columns. So the right thing to do in these situations, even if they have been there for a while, is to break the floor, dig out and put in a rebar reinforced footing, and then put in a permanent lally column that’s filled with concrete. That way, you have proper support for the house regardless of the age, and it’s going to give you and your family a little bit of peace of mind.
Narrator: Well, excellent information and thanks for explaining why it’s critically important to make your temporary lally columns permanent as soon as practical.
Narrator: If you have a basement water problem and think you need a professional, or, if you’d like more information on foundation crack repair and basement waterproofing topics, please visit A1FoundationCrackRepair.com or call Adam at (866) 929-3171. Or you can email Adam at email@example.com. Thanks for listening and keep that basement dry.