“Hmmm,” I said, quickly scanning. “This doesn’t seem so bad, actually. But your designer should have known it was coming.”
“Well, this house will have a view to the south, won’t it?”
“That’s your problem,” I said. “All these windows on the south side do not comply with prescriptive code for wind and earthquake. Take out half the windows and you would have gotten away with no engineering. So, what is your choice; fewer windows or engineering?”
“Engineering, I suppose,” he replied. “What’ll that cost?”
“Before I answer, let’s talk about your post in the countertop. The reason your designer put it there is to support a beam above that is holding up a big portion of the second floor as well as a lot of roof. Without the post, the beam would span 21-feet. With the post, now you have two, 10.5-foot span beams. It looks like he was trying to keep the beam small — less than 12-inches deep so it would fit within the second floor framing. Omit the post and you’ll need a much deeper beam, maybe a 20-inch glu-lam. Which begs this question: Can you live with a beam that protrudes below the ceiling?”
“I don’t know,” Randy replied. “Are there other options?”
“Sure, I could size a steel beam to fit within the floor system. It would probably be 10-inches deep and weight upwards of 50 pounds per foot. The problems arise during construction. First, handling a 1,000-pound chunk of steel on a residential job can be tough. And second, connecting steel to wood is always challenging. I’d have to come up with a way to hang the floor joists and also connect the steel beam’s ends. It can be done, but it’ll be costly compared to using wood throughout.
"But there is yet another option. If there is space in the attic above the second floor for a large wood beam, we could put one up there and connect to the smaller beam in the floor below using a steel rod. The rod could be exposed or concealed in a wall. It would be tricky, but doable. Lastly, there is one final option, but I don’t like it much. We could use the big glu-lam and have it project above the floor, concealed in a continuous wall above. I don’t like this option because it disrupts the second floor diaphragm, plus the above-wall must align exactly over the beam. Again, it is doable, but messy and expensive.”
“Hmmm, okay,” he said, mulling.“I think I like the wood beam protruding below the ceiling — your first option. It will actually create a line of demarcation between the kitchen and dining room anyway. Could the beam be an exposed architectural-grade glue-lam?”
“Sure,” I answered. Of course, you’d only see the bottom half or so, but it’s done all the time. Or you could wrap it with drywall. I’ve got several in my house that way — they look nice.”
“Great. Done,” he said. “So how much will your fee be?”
“For you and Teresa, no charge,” I said with a smile. “But for anyone else, the lateral analysis and this beam design would be in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars.”
“You’re too nice! We’ll have you and Cindy over for a barbecue when it’s done,” he said.“Prime rib and prawns.”
“Throw in some good merlot and you’ve got a deal.”
Tim K. Garrison P.E. of ConstructionCalc.com has authored books and short courses and lectures on topics relevant to builders. Got a technical or management issue? E-mail email@example.com. Tim reads every one.
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