Lally columns (the red columns pictured above) are found in basements. When I'm sitting in Arizona which doesn't have basements, it's hard to grab a photo. So Brian Kimerer kindly gave me permission to use one of his photos, part of his journal about building a house.
Being from New England, I have lots of experience with lally columns. My first experience with these weight bearing columns came when we built a house in Poughkeepsie, New York. I loved the big open basement. I wasn't too excited about the ugly red columns breaking up the space. So here's the creative solution I came up with. Now I'm amazed by my builder accepting my request without too much debate – he must have thought I was crazy.
My story went something like this:
- With two small boys under 4 years old, I knew they would play in the basement when it was cold or raining cats and dogs.
- Rather than wait for the inevitable accidents, I asked for the columns to be covered to reduce the bumps and bruises.
- There was also the need to keep them out of my husbands workshop, planned for the other side of the basement.
- We talked and I got a wonderful storage closet in the center of the basement, with a playroom on one side and my husband's workshop on the other side.
My storage room was nothing more than drywall covering all the lally columns. It was a long time ago so I'm not even sure if the drywall was taped and mudded, but it didn't matter.
What is a Lally Column?
A lally column is a round, structural steel column used to support load bearing beams. The steel shell is typically filled with concrete to help prevent the shell from buckling. Theses columns are used under long beams to prevent sagging or flexing of the floor above it. What's most important to understand is that a basement lally column is just one part of a very tall structure (watch video for more details) that:
- Starts below ground with a concrete lally column footing for stability.
- The column is attached to the footing and extends up to a metal plate screwed to the basement support beam.
- On top of the support beam is the floor joist and typically another load bearing wall which continues up to the roof.
While a lally column is permanent, the basement floor jack is designed to be a temporary support column that looks a lot like lally columns. These jacks are adjustable, typically up to 12 ft. We had several for my handyman business to raise decks and other beams while we replaced rotted wood or poured missing footings.
Missing footings? During a building boom, builders are completing as many homes as possible. Most of them have a deck and because these are added at the end of the build cycle, footings were often overlooked. That's when I had to invest in several floor jacks so we could prop up the deck and/or stairs while digging out and pouring concrete footings that are required in New Hampshire.