Out With the Old (Vigas and Beams)

One task that might not seem obvious at first when it comes to building a new home, green or otherwise, is deciding what to do with the old place. For me, that’s been an easy decision with this house: sell it! I HATED this house for the first couple years I was in it–a long, sad story I don’t need to repeat–and yet, to my amazement, I’ve now been here for almost 10 years, longer in one continuous stretch than any other location in my adult life! But before it can go on the market, certain things need to be fixed, especially the rotting exposed wood “vigas” and beams.

The current house is a Santa Fe-style place, which means it has a flat roof, parapet walls, and these round wooden things sticking out of the walls that are supposed to look like the tree trunks “Native” peoples used to support the roofs and upper floors in pueblo-style homes. Those things are called vigas, and if they’re real wood (plastic ones are now available), between the heat and dryness we experience here most of the year, and the Monsoon rains we get mostly in July and August, they’re vulnerable to splitting and rotting over time. Actually, all exposed wood is vulnerable to this, even if it’s painted.

I had the vigas replaced when the exterior was painted about eight years ago, but that’s enough time for them to fail again. Plus, two wooden beams, one facing south, one facing west, on one of my patios were succumbing to the same problems. How bad were they? Well, a 6″ X 10″ solid beam should not be squishy and crunchy when you squeeze it with your fingers. And it shouldn’t look like this…

Rotted beam 1

…or this…

Rotted beam 2

…when it’s taken off.

Since these were load-bearing beams, supporting the patio roof above them once they were out was a challenge.

Beams being replaced

It takes a BIG saw to cut the new pieces to fit.

Cutting the replacement beam

Even that one wasn’t big enough to cut all the way through on the angle. But the new ones are in and as I write, the stucco guys are working on replacing all the insulation and stucco that had to come off as the beams came down. There’ll be drywall to fix too.

Replacement beams in place

The vigas turned out to be their own kind of challenge. The last time they were replaced, some didn’t get a good anchor inside the wall, so those had to be built. They’re actually screwed on to 12″ long lag bolts, which is a job for more than one person.

Mounting the new vigas

So it’s good-bye and good riddance to the old stuff…

Waste vigas

… and hello to the new. Get the stucco fixed up, the caulking and painting done, and that’ll be a few more things to check off the checklist.

Now, about that flat roof….

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