What size beam do I need, and can I build one from lumber and steel?


Column and Beam Construction TIPS

Week In Week Out

Every week I get an email from a homeowner who wants to tear down a wall or she/he's contemplating some other structural modification to their abode.

In every case they want me to wave my magic wand and size a beam for them. If they only knew how complex beams and columns were!

My answer is ALWAYS the same. Hire a local structural engineer. You do this to prevent a collapse!

Complex Math

The reason for this is simple. For one thing, each situation is different. The loads above the beam location can be significant or there may be very little load. Just about every situation is different.

Structural engineers need to look at your home or plans and calculate all the loads that will be carried by the beams. Don't underestimate the complexity of this.

Then they have to decide what material to use that will support the loads. It's not easy.

You don't just email someone and...

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Last Updated August 13, 2016 08:09 AM

I had a 10' addition added after a fire and the beam the (worthless) contractor installed is sagging. The city inspector said it needs to be replaced with something suitable.

From photos I have it looks like single 4x6 (not LVL) that angles with the roof.

I live in the midwest so it need to support snow load too.

The distance, inside the house, from peak to outside wall is 25' (7.6m) and the beam spans 19.5' (6m) wall-to-wall.

Thank you.

Answers 2

You need to determine the spacing of the beams as well as the load or weight capacity. There is a formula but you need to consider those values to determine the size of beam. Also going to be pretty tough finding beams over 20 ft. Unless your using steel but expensive. Steel beams will be smaller than wood and are very handy for smaller spaces. I hope this will get you to the next point. Plugging all your numbers into the...

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|By Tim Carter, Tribune Media Services | Ask The Builder

DEAR TIM: I'm getting ready to build a large room addition that needs a beam to support the floor joists. I've been told that a wood beam will work, but I've always seen steel I-beams in other houses. Is it possible for wood to do the job? What are some of the pros and cons of wood I-beams and of steel? If you were building, would you use wood or steel? I don't want to make a mistake on such a critical structural element. --Peter L., White Plains, N.Y.

DEAR PETER: Oh, gosh, there's no easy answer for you. Both wood and steel can make fabulous load carrying beams. I've used both materials for decades in all sorts of situations. In fact, you may not realize this, but you can mix the two making a hybrid beam of wood and steel.

First, let me tell you that I am not a structural engineer, although I have worked with many and installed the beams they've designed. The good news is that both wood and steel can...

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Been there, done that, (missing verb) it up.

In my first effort I used 2 x 10 cedar beams glued and bolted together. Looked great - about 20 years later we got home after a night of heavy wet snow to see that the thing had partially collapsed. Turned out the wood had rotted around the bolts ..

When we bought this house in Lethbridge - it had (and still has) a classic open pergola roof sunroom at the back. It has 2 x 10 beams and they're fine but.. the people who built it didn't think about foundations enough. Two years ago I had to shore up the walls, remove the deck, dig out the muck
underneath, and replace the foundations with 6" concrete posts dug and hammered 3 ft down, then put new floor beams and deck. (and now she wants it replaced with a glassed in sun-room )

The point is that not thinking about what water and bacteria will do to your design will eventually bite you, or somebody else, where it...

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Hello. I'm getting all kinds of different info from friends for my diy project.

I have a 17ft x 14 ft deck. I want to put a lean to roof over it.I will not be attatching it to the house. It will be free standing. It will have a metal roof with no ply wood under it. One friend says this: the 17 ft pieces need to be 2x10's doubled together with 2x8's spanning the 14 ft every 16 inches with 1x4 to screw the metal roof to.. with 6 - 4x4's for support. 3 in the rear and 3 in the front.

My other friend says to use 2x8s with osb sandwhiched in the middle for the 17 feet sections and then 2x6's sandwiched with osb every 24 inches for the 14 foot span. with 1x4s to screw the metal roof to with 6 4x4's to hold it up.

One friend says the others is overkill the other says his is not enough. I live in S. carolina so there wil be no real load to it like snow. We rarely get snow and its not usually very much.

I personally wanted to build the frame with the steel...

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Building a cabin yourself is much more economical than buying a prefab storage shed. The cost of materials for this build, including doors and windows, was around $2,200, which was about the same price as the install would have been on one of this large size if I’d purchased it from a hardware store. I know this for a fact because six years ago I bought a 12x16 shed from a well-known company close to where I live and it cost $2,000 for them to build it and drop it off. Today that same building would cost $4,200. With such a big price increase I decided that if I wanted to add a cabin to my property I had to build it myself.

If you decide to do the same, remember to check with your local authorities to make sure you don’t need a permit. It’s not likely that it’s required for a building of this size, but you never know.

If you would like to see the finished inside of the cabin please click here:...

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Total load in pounds = FBd^2 / 9L.

Fill in the parts of the formula that are already known. L stands for the span of the beam, in feet. In the example, the beam spans the 10-foot width of the roof. The total load is 4,000 pounds. F stands for the beam's fiber strength in bending, which depends on the species of wood. For the initial calculation, F can be estimated at 1,000. Now the example formula is 4,000 = (1,000)Bd^2 / (9 x 10).

Choose a convenient value for B, which stands for the breadth of the beam in inches. A typical beam breadth is 6-inches.

Rearrange the formula to solve for d, which stands for the depth of the beam: d = square root of ( (load x 9 x L) / (F x B) ). In the example, d = square root of ( (4,000 x 9 x 10) / (1,000 x 6) ).

Calculate the initial value for d, then round it up to the nearest inch. This tells you the size of the beam needed to support the porch's roof. In the example, d calculates to 7.75. This means the example porch...

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