Non typical beam

I would like some input on a structural beam that I saw at a house. It may be just me but but im not sold on the idea. It appeas to be a creosote soaked lanscape timber used as a structural beam. Tell me what you all think.


Pic is too small to really see, and you would really need a pic of a cut end to help identify that.

As I entered the crawl space there was the strong odor of creosote and it did have a expanded metal plate on the end grain which is consistant with landscape timbers and RR ties.

What is it supporting? How old was the house? Was there any deflection in the beam or floor joists?

I would say that if it is good enough for support of a train, it most probably is good enough for this girder.

I hope this is a vented space.
What is the insulation on this space.
Why a crawl space in your area.??
Wonder why they used a sonotube pier for that support beam, when there is a foundation a foot away.

Vapor barrier??? Floor and ground??

I know, I ask to many questiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiions.


Just thought I would throw this in.

**Are railroad ties safe for me to use for landscaping around my home?
**There are no approved uses of creosote to treat wood for residential use. The Agency is aware that creosote-treated railroad ties are being used in the residential setting for landscape purposes and, in some instances, as a border around gardens. Such uses in residential settings are not intended uses of creosote and have not been considered in the preliminary risk assessment. If you do have creosote-treated wood in your yard, you are reminded to consult the handling precautions outlined above in this document.

Marcel :slight_smile: :slight_smile:


More importantly why was a possible rail way tie used instead of proper wood beam or steel beam? That could indicate to me someone ran out of material and salvaged material to fit the need.

Hi. Raymond;

Boy, you hit that one on the nail.!!


It is amazing how many people can improvize to save a dollar when having a home, and then the buyer has to pay us to advise of all of the sellers’ improvised projects. ha. ha. Good part time job for me. Hell, it’s good and pays the bills.

Marcel :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

There are creosote treated structural timbers used for marine structures that may be completely acceptable for crawl space framing. RR Ties can generally have larger cracks or checks that is not a huge concern since the use is primarly compression perpindicular to the grain, or in applications without significant bending stresses (e.g. low garden retaining walls). It’s not a large photo, but there don’t appear to be any very large checks or splits in the timber. So perhaps it’s just creosote treated structural lumber.

I think that this is the bottom line.
Improvise to what extent.?

There are no approved uses of creosote to treat wood for residential use.

Marcel :slight_smile: :slight_smile:


Ditto the above question and…
How long was the beam?

Common lets get some facts before we speculate on answers!

Does anyone have an idea of how to treat or modify pilings inside the first floor of a beach house that have been treated with creosote? There is a strong odor in the house. Thanks.

This information here might be of some help.

Coal tar pitch and coal tar pitch emulsion are effective sealers for creosote-treated wood block flooring. Urethane, epoxy, and shellac are acceptable sealers for all creosote-treated wood.

Urethane, shellac, latex epoxy enamel and varnish are acceptable sealers for pentachlorophenol-treated wood. EPA Approved.

Hope this helps a little.

Marcel :slight_smile: :smiley: %between%

A little more about the “penta”:

About 8 years ago, I gave a three day seminar to the New Brunswick Lung Association about residential energy efficiency and air tightness, energy retrofits and air sealing, energy efficient new home construction, residential ventilation including HRV’s, general IAQ, energy auditing.

The lady that had hired me allowed us to use her home to do a “Class B” audit of her house. In the basement was a stand on which were stored some garden treeatments as well as a can of penta. I said to the group without even looking at the can: “You’ll all have heard about this since it’s so widely used but there’s a sentence on this can that’ll shock you. I have found this product applied to interior basement framing (wall bottom plates in contact with concrete slab and studs along foundation walls) when finishing for additional living space.”

Since I had worked with environmentally sensitive people before, I had already seen this sentence and had people remove the product from their interior basement storage areas…and recommended not to use it …period!! The phrase on the can in small print:

“Toxic to all forms of life”

Describe it as non-typical, note any sign of failure (or lack of it) such as sagging or splitting, and move on.

Picture is small to tell for sure,… is the post spacing right? and I hope there is concrete in the sonotube! :smiley: