During a home inspection in Aurora Colorado, my company, Magpie Property Inspections encountered a serious situation. One of the owners cut a hole through the middle of the steel I beam in the garage in order to install a garage door opener. This is a very bad idea. The beam is a critical support member holding up a second story of the home.
I-beams are widely used in the construction industry and are available in a variety of standard sizes. Tables are available to contractors, architects and engineers allow easy selection of a suitable steel I-beam size for a given load. It is critical that the selection of the size and material used be made correctly for structural integrity and safety. Beams may be used both as beams and as columns. I-beams may be used both on their own, or acting with another material, typically concrete.
I-beams are commonly made of structural steel but may also be formed from aluminum or other materials. A common type of I-beam is the rolled steel joist as is the case in this home.
I Joists are I-beams engineered from wood with fiberboard and/or laminated lumber are also becoming increasingly popular in construction, especially residential, as they are both lighter and less prone to warping than solid wooden joists. However there has been some concern as to their rapid loss of strength in a fire if unprotected or covered with some type of fire stop material.
Whatever type or beams or support system which in place in your home, never make any alterations to changes to the beam, beam pockets or supports on your own. In the example above, the dead load capacity of the beam has been diminished and this has the potential to result in deflection or movement of the beam causing damage the structure of the home. If you notice cracking, flexing, twisting or evidence of movement in the beams and/or supports, have it checked by a qualified engineer or expert.