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Missing structural column (C) Daniel FriedmanMissing Structural Columns
Removing or compromising a structural post or column can cause a building collapse

  • COLUMN / POST MISSING - CONTENTS: How to spot missing structural columns in buildings. What are the dangers if a post or column has been removed?
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about the types of structural column failure in residential & light commercial buildings: inspection, diagnosis, & repair
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Dangers of removed or missing structural columns or posts:

Here we discuss removed or missing missing structural columns or posts, perhaps removed during remodeling, and risking building damage or even fatal building collapses.

Our page top photo shows a mark where a telepost has been removed: you can see the rectangular post-cap imprint (lighter colour) and you can see a mark where a bolt or nail had secured the post top plate to the under-side of the girder.

Watch out: Some of these residential column or post defects are dangerous and risk collapse. This article series explains how to notice defective, damaged, improperly supported, or missing structural columns, and other structural column & pier mistakes.



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Missing or Improperly-Removed Structural Columns & Posts & Footings

Missing lally column  (C) Daniel Friedman

Detecting omissions, such as leaving out a column or it's pier or footing is an important step in learning how to recognize and diagnose various types of building failure or damage and collapse risks.

Completely missing structural columns, such as a basement Lally column or telepost, might be detected in a building where an owner has removed the column to open up a basement space being remodeled for use as living area.

Our photo (above/left), illustrates one way you can spot a missing column: a Lally column top plate remains tacked in place on the under-side of a built-up beam in a basement.

How Serious is a Missing Post or Column in a Building? Potentially fatal.

In a modern two story wood frame residential building the removal of a single center post beneath the main girder in a basement is not likely to cause a catastrophic building collapse. More-likely the defect will show up first as a sagging girder and sagging floors above, perhaps cracking a ceramic tile floor above.

But removal of multiple posts could result in a beam failure and floor collapse in a frame structure.

Watch out: Worse, in a structural brick wall-built building, if one or more main beams lose their support, sag, and collapse, there is a high risk of a total catastrophic structural collapse. The hazard is similar to a structural-brick building collapse during a fire if the fire burns through floor joists or beams.

As the beams sag downwards in their center the ends of the beam actually bend upwards in the brick wall pockets in which they are supported. This upwards lift of the beam ends can break the masonry wall and bring down the entire building.

Reports of a Removed Column Cause Fatal Building Collapse in Mumbai

In Mumbai, India, at 10:45 in the morning of Tuesday the 25th of July 2017, a five-story building collapsed killing at least twelve people. Building occupants received a brief warning: a shudder in the building just before it fell, trapping at least six people in the rubble and killing at least seventeen people.

On July 26th 2017, The Times of India that twelve people, including two infants were crushed to death when a four storey building collapsed in Ghatkopar. - Richa Pinto & Ahmed Al,TNN, The Times of India, City, 26 July 2017, retrieved 2017/07/27, original source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/sena-man-held-for-illegal-repairs-after-ghatkopar-bldg-crash-kills-17/articleshow/59764300.cms

Photo: The Times of India, July 2017, original story link given above.

"The survivors allege that the extensive repairs being carried out in a maternity home on the ground floor owned by Sunil Shitap, a local strongman linked to the Shiv Sena, has led to the collapse."

Reporting in the New York Times on 26 July 2017, Geeta Anand wrote that Mumbai's mayor, Vishwanath Mahadeshwar had ordered an investigation of the building collapse and that anyone responsible for this catastrophe would be punished. - Anand, Geeta, "A Deadly Collapse in Mumbai Starts With a Shudder", The New York Times, 26 July 2017 p. A5.

The next day Anand, again writing in the Times, reported that Mumbai police had arrested Sunil Shitrap, a local man who was accused of making illegal alterations to the ground floor of the five story building causing it to collapse and killing at least 17 people and injuring a dozen more.

Shitrap, affiliated with Shiv Sena, a local political party, owned three flats on the building's ground floor. Anand reported that Shitrap had "... emptied and broken a foundational pillar, which is why the building fell" according to a building resident. At the time of that reporting rescuers in Mumbai were continuing to search the rubble for survivors. - Anand, Geeta, "In India, Arrest in Fatal Building Collapse", The New York Times, 27 July 2017 p. A7.

How to Spot a Missing Structural Post or Column in a Building

Missing structural column (C) Daniel FriedmanVisual Clues of Removed Posts

Sometimes you can spot the imprint of a Lally column top plate as a rectangular impression on the underside of a beam even though the steel plate itself was removed.

See our photo above/left: you can spot the rectangular imprint of a typical steel Lally column top plate and even two nail holes where the plate had been tacked to the beam underside.

How can we take a photo of a missing structural post or column?

Unless you believe in auras you can't photograph a missing object, but you can photograph and document conditions that suggest a strutural post has been moved or removed. Below we discuss contextual clues that may be helpful in spotting a missing structural column.

Historical Clues of Removed Structural Posts

If a building has been or is being "remodeled", perhaps to gain space or to combine areas whose floors or roof above were previously supported by structural columns or by partition walls, the original building plans, its construction history, or perhaps even jobsite photographs, may show that supporting columns or partition walls were included in the original construction.

Now they're gone. Which leads to contextual clues of missing building components.

Contextual Clues May Indicate a Missing Structural Column or  Post.

A clue that a supporting column could be missing is contextual: in a conventionally-framed contemporary one family wood structure with a finished basement, especially if the main center girder is a built-up wooden beam, notice that the basement has been converted to a large, open rec-room.

And notice that there is a long span, perhaps sixteen feet, with no supporting post. Perhaps the center girder has been boxed in or covered with paneling and corner molding.

Ask yourself:

When this building constructed? Think: given that typically I see a Lally column every 8-feet, I wonder if there was one in the center of this room.

Was a column removed to open up a space?

Has the center girder been reinforced with steel?

Should it have been reinforced? (Yes by a licensed deisgn professional if a required support was to be removed.)

Is there sagging in the floor above?

Are there cracks in ceramic tiles in the floor above?

Do doors stick or fail to open or close properly above this area?

Are there plans, photos, or historical or even anecdotal accounts that discuss removal of posts or partition walls?

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Continue reading at COLUMN / POST RUST DAMAGE or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see PORCH COLUMN REPAIR or REPLACEMENT for the repair of round or wood columns used on porches and in building interiors

For problems with settlement of piers below Lally columns see SETTLEMENT CRACKS in SLABS

Also see FOUNDATION DEFECTS OF OMISSION - MISSING

Or see this

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