It's Paint and Caulk—or Else!

You don't have to be a contractor or painter to protect your home's beams from disaster
Its paint and caulk or else
Keeping your Eichler healthy is an important part of extending its life. But don't forget those exposed overhead beams, which need periodic caulking and painting. Otherwise, experts tell us, you're just marking time before your
home's date with an execution squad staffed by termites and moisture. Above: beam replacement in progress. Construction photos: courtesy Larco Construction Services
Its paint and caulk or else
The ugly face of them dirty rotten beams.
Its paint and caulk or else
Frank Larson of Larco Construction Services.

There are certain inescapable fates in this life, with death and taxes getting the harshest reviews from pundits. Their inevitability, however, does not in the least discourage schemers from trying to cheat them.

It's the same way with your mid-century modern home. It's going to age and some of the results are not pretty.

But what's a homeowner to do about such omnipotent hazards as rotting overhead beams?

Must we drearily accept this fate in an architectural style so structurally and visually dependent on wooden beams? Are we just marking time before our date with an execution squad staffed by termites and moisture?

Frank Larson doesn't think so—not that he minds homeowners thinking that to be the case.

"If you keep them caulked and painted, that'll keep them out," said the owner and general contractor of the East Bay-based Larco Construction Services, which has repaired or replaced scores of damaged beams in mid-century modern homes. "You don't have to be a contractor or a painter to do it."

Fortunately for Larson, the aging of structural beams in Eichler homes—and the frequent lack of maintenance by homeowners—keeps his phone ringing.

"I'll lose a lot of my work if people maintain their beams," he admits with a wry smile.

"It's exposed beams, that's what's going to get you...[and] you have a lot more exposed beams with an Eichler," Larson said, alluding in particular to the signature center beam of Eichler carports and garages. "Even though there's only about eight to ten inches of beam showing, nobody ever deals with it."

"The beams in the atrium are often the other culprit," he added.

Even when people do take the time to repaint their overhead beams, mistakes are made. Sometimes a homeowner will use what is advertised as 30-year paint, and think they are done for at least the next quarter century. They fail to consider the extreme weathering the beams take with certain orientations.

"The southern exposure is going to take the hardest beating," Larson explained. Also, he said, sometimes people only paint the beam sides that they can see from below. You need to paint the top of the beam because "a lot of times, the water comes from above."

The other main preventative measure homeowners can take against rot-causing fungus is installing metal caps on exposed surfaces of the beam. Larson is very particular about this because he has seen so many caps with straight edges get crunched when ladders are leaned against them.