LVL Beams

LVL Beams

I finally got the beam on order (technically beams since there are nine pieces). Actually, I placed the order a week and a half ago. Given how long it’s taking to come in, I should have ordered it much sooner. I wound up ordering from Home Depot after checking with several different lumber yards. I ordered Weyerhauser Microllam, which is SFI Certified and classified as ultra low-emitting formaldehyde, the lowest possible for engineered wood. Microllam is a brand of LVL, or laminated veneer lumber, which is much stronger and stiffer than regular wood.

Things got more complicated when I started looking at brackets.The beam will be supported by a total of four columns that will be incorporated into the walls. Each of these columns will have both a “column cap” which is a metal bracket that connects the column to the beam, and a column base, which will be welded to the steel beam in the basement. The beam itself consists of three sections, each of which is three layers of 1 ¾” thick LVL, for a total of 5 ¼”. The columns are 3 ½” x 5 ¼” PSL (parallel strand lumber).

Column Cap

I spent a lot of time on Simpson Strong-Tie website reading specifications and learning about the different brackets, but I should have spent a bit more. After I ordered, I went back to the website to figure out what fasteners I needed to put it all together. First I noticed a note stating that for 5 ¼” LVL I should have ordered the 5 ½” bracket instead of the 5 ¼” bracket. I’m hoping it will still work because there’s a 15% restocking fee on special order returns and these brackets are more expensive than you’d expect. Then I discovered that the column caps I ordered require machine bolts that go all the way through the beam and columns, whereas if I had ordered the “Q” line, I could have used screws (albeit special “SDS” screws). I’d much prefer to use the screws, since they’d not only be easier to install but they won’t stick out from the surface of the bracket and complicate drywalling. For now I decided to hold off ordering the bolts, because if the brackets wind up not fitting I’ll return them and order the 5 ½” Q versions and use the SDS screws instead.

In addition to the column caps and the bolts (or screws) to connect them to the beams and columns, I need fasteners to connect the three layers of LVL beam together. I did some research and settled on Trusslok engineered wood screws, which are specifically designed for the purpose. The advantage over nails is that I only need about a quarter as many and can put them all in from one side. The other option was bolts, which (as I mentioned) make drywalling more difficult. I also tried ordering some low-VOC polyurethane adhesive to glue the beams together in addition to the screws (not necessary, but it would add additional strength), but the company wound up canceling my order. Since I’m now concerned about the beams fitting into the bracket I decided to skip the glue, since it has the potential to make the beams slightly thicker.

Once my order finally comes in I’ll need to schedule delivery from the store and then I’ll find out if the brackets will work. Given how expensive the LVL (and the hardware to install it) has wound up being, if I had it to do over I’d use steel. It would be a lower profile (stick down less from the ceiling) and not any more money.

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