dt516

beams for wall opening too wide?

dt516
January 11, 2020

Our engineer claims that for our 12 foot opening (sliding glass doors) we will need to add either four 2x12 headers or three 1 3/4 x 12 LVL headers. However our walls are only 3.75" thick with 2x4 construction. We are questioning the advice given that the headers would protrude from the house and we've never seen protruding headers before on any other home.

Any thoughts?

Comments (111)

  • PRO
    RES, architect

    An owner might be willing to give up control of the design team for a small project but it is unwise for a larger project even a house.

    For any size project Massachusetts allows a Registered Design Professional (architect or engineer) to provide the required construction oversight in place of a Construction Supervisor and only an RDP can provide the required Construction Control for a building over 35,000 s.f. therefore "a construction supervisor's license is not required for larger projects since the RDP is considered the licensed person for the project".

    This will give you an idea of how the MA legislature feels about the capacity of architects and engineers compared to contractors. This is not the case in all states.



  • catinthehat

    I’ve seen this mentioned twice now. Sorry what am I missing RES et al when folks reference the design team as a subcontractor? I‘ve worked on the industrial/municipal side my entire career, and obviously that is the complete opposite of what we do, and for good reason.


    I am wondering if it is actually standard practice for a homeowner to hire a contractor who does the majority of the layout and then hires design subs for a second opinion on a few portions of the building? Sounds like some sort of backwards design build process where the builder also controls the design. There also seems to be a general notion on these forums that a city building inspector can actually catch design flaws in the field.

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  • PRO
    RES, architect

    It depends on the region and the size of he project but you are correct that it can result in a backwards design build process and also conflicts of interest.

    However, I have been an owner's project manager for two multi-family design-build projects and it went well but I attribute that largely to the fact that the three owners of the firm were architects.

    I've not corroborated this but I don't believe an architect or engineer who provides Construction Control for a project in MA can be an employee of a design-build firm because that would mean the firm was "practicing architecture" and therefore at least one principal would be required to be a MA architect. I think that may also be the case if the architect is a consultant to the design-build firm.

  • ksc36

    I thought we were discussing residential remodeling.


    Typically, things can change almost daily on a large remodel. Decisions have to be made after demolition exposes existing conditions. A good general contractor will know who,if anyone, to call to remedy any problems. This will happen whether the homeowner hires the designer or the contractor hires his preferred designers. Rarely would an engineer be required in these situations.


    Whereas an architect might write "architect assumes all existing framing meets current code" on the plans, an experienced GC knows that won't be the case and expects the worst but hopes for the best.

    By the way RES, it's 35,000 cubic ft, not sq ft.

  • dt516

    RES - looks like contractor picked up e2.0 ers 2909. Any issues with that? engineer didn't specify. I saw you said something about 3100 ers.

  • dt516

    sorry might have some of those abbreviations mixed up. but here is the beam. lumber yard said they only sell one type.

  • lkbum_gw

    Food for thought for the OP, (from what I've read on your question and not the banter from the pro's), The vertical load on one of my walls with a similar span was not the design criteria. So span charts really didn't come into play. Mine was a wind load, but It was on a large wall with a vaulted ceiling (which it doesn't sound like you have). Really surprised me, and as a result I had to redesign the wall. I paid a PE $500 for analyzing the wall which in my opinion was money well spent.



  • dt516

    ikbum. thanks wish we could swap homes! nice room

  • PRO
    RES, architect

    2909 is the ICC ESR Evaluation Report number. The Fb should follow the 2.O stamp but it appears to be smudged. Its the 2.0 Modulus of Elasticity rating that determines the deflection so don't worry about it.

  • PRO
    RES, architect

    An architect is allowed to oversee a residential remodeling project in MA in place of a construction supervisor.

    An architect would never write "architect assumes all existing framing meets current code" on the plans. There is no reason to mention the building code on the design drawings other than to make sure the contractor is aware of the current edition. I've never known a residential remodeling contractor to own a copy of the current edition.

    An engineer is usually not required for remedial structural work except when a beam is an LVL or steel or some other condition not covered by the residential building code. Changes to the design must be approved by the architect or engineer of record if there is one.

    Yes, lateral bracing is unrelated to gravity load resistance and acts parallel to the walls in question. Replacing bracing that is lost from a large opening is one of the benefits of having an engineer involved instead of using the LVL manufacturer's engineer.

  • dt516

    thanks!

  • ksc36

    Never say never, you'll lose that bet every time. A few weeks ago I got a free lunch from a young carpenter who bet he could find a code faster than me. He used his smartphone, I used the blue book...

  • PRO
    The Cook's Kitchen

    Not an engineer. Just married to one, and I try to avoid these types of in house hypothetical questions, because 6 weeks later....

    I think the verification that needs to happen for you here is if that current beam and subsequent posts and footings will actually support the build out of an upstairs live load. That was part of your original brief for the design, and was the big complicating factor to the whole situation, not just the large expanse of glass or the length of the span. The subsequent change to the shorter span has helped to reduce costs and build logistics. But is that all that has been reduced here? If it requires replacement of that beam in a future second floor build? Is that a trade off that is acceptable to you?

  • PRO
    RES, architect

    If this beam isn't designed for a full second floor. it must be designed for a zone 6 snow load.

    It would be helpful to know the location and the size of the house.

  • dt516

    the cooks kitchen - engineer said will also support full second story load.

  • dt516

    how do I find out what climate zone I am in?

  • ksc36

    Snow loads are usually specified by town. Search "your state snow load map"

    Not many states included here but you can try. You only get one free "click", make sure you pick the right town.

    http://design.medeek.com/resources/snow/statesnowloads.html

  • PRO
    RES, architect

    Also tell us the dimension of the house perpendicular to the beam or the dimension from the beam to a central girder..

    The IECC Climate Zone map is only a rough indication of snow. The required ground snow loads will be in your building code. Just telling us your state would be enough for checking the current beam design.


  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes

    @catinthehat,

    Here in coastal VA where we work, new construction projects are typically fully designed, engineered, reviewed, and permitted before putting the first shovel in the ground. Plans get a pretty thorough review from code compliance folks, but their plan reviews and field inspections during construction don't guarantee the owner that the structure fully complies with applicable codes. Indeed, builders are required to remedy any deficiencies with respect to codes that are found up to three years after completion.

    Although remodeling projects typically involve a complicated marriage of old and new parts, homeowners typically don't want to spend a nickel on design work. Many remodeling contractors are quite content with that. Plans produced by an owner are sometimes submitted for review on the back of an envelope--yes, really-- and code officials who understand they work for those same taxpaying homeowners bend over backwards to accommodate. If you spent some time at the counter at one or our local building departments, you'd find that plans submitted by builders and remodelers are held to a quite different standard.

    Due diligence during design of remodeling projects doesn't always identify the full scope of problems; some are hidden and need to get worked out in the field when they present themselves. The fix might be guided by the prescriptive code or an engineer might need to be called in to help design a solution. We call on structural engineers a lot more for remodeling issues than we do in design of new homes. Sure, engineers may tend to be conservative (full disclosure: I'm a P.E. but not in the structural discipline), but having a P.E.'s stamp on a design limits my liability and serves my clients better than winging it in the field.


  • worthy

    Climate Zone by County.


    *****

    For a current project, I considered one of the previous P.E.s I employed. Until I Googled and discovered a Court held him liable for a design failure resulting in one death. He is still practicing.

  • dt516

    Alrght so the new header went in and doors installed. But a funny thing happened. Before basically most of the supports were taken out (see pic) except for whatever was under the window, the exterior door, screen door and some windows began having problems opening and closing. Wonder if the banging from taking down the plaster and exterior siding boards could have caused this. Or any other theories....

    Also, the guy used remaining piece of the LVL to frame out new exterior door 38" or so in size. I know this calls for a smaller header - any issues with him using the oversized 12" deep header?

  • dt516

    To clarify, the problems arose in the room to the left where that white screen door is.

  • lkbum_gw

    The contractor should have used temporary braces to support the overhead loads before taking the wall apart and installing the header. If he didn‘t (don’t see any in the pic), the wall top-plate sagged as he altered the wall and wracked your wall. The top plate is The layer of 2x4’s that the studs attach to. If it sagged where the wall was taken apart, it pulled the adjoining section of wall with it. That’s my theory anyway. Did the windows and doors still stick after. The new header was installed?

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC

    I agree ^.


    Using an oversized header for the other door won't be a problem.

  • ksc36

    Over sized headers decrease the R value of the wall, though probably negligible in this case.

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes

    Judging from your photo, it doesn't appear that the demolition was performed in a very professional way. It looks like an HGTV scene where Chip and the gang threw something through the wall. For me that raises questions about the level of care in the reconstruction part, too.

  • dt516

    charles - not sure what you mean...

    also - maybe hard to see in first photo but there is a support wall in the room. but again, the problems seem to have arisen before those beams in the first pic were taken out.

  • dt516

    and yes still sticking after new header installed. supports were built after plaster taken down.

  • PRO
    RES, architect

    The shoring studs appear too far from the exterior wall and too far apart considering that they're indirectly supporting the roof from the bottom of the attic joists. That might have allowed the top plate to sag a bit.

    I hope you're not planning to keep the unprotected flooring.

  • ksc36

    Or most likely, the existing framing had a sag in it and the new beam straightened it out. It also looks like the existing floor joists run parallel the opening based on the subfloor so all the weight could be on a single joist. I wouldn't be alarmed at this point. Any more pics?

  • dt516

    RES - the unprotected flooring actually doesn't look all that bad. I mopped it up the other day and looked so much better. will need a good sanding sometime in the future but one thing at a time!

    ksc36 - thanks for the comment but the functional problems happened prior to installing new header and prior to taking out all the beams in the picture.

  • ksc36

    It sounds like something moved then. Without seeing all the framing all anyone can do is guess, but it can be moved back at this stage of the project. Have your contractor fix it before proceeding with any other work (it might require removing the door).

  • lkbum_gw

    If It occurred after your siding and interior wall coverings were removed, then the wall shifted. Not from banging, but because it was being held square by the siding. Over time, as the lumber in the wall dried out, warped and settled, the wall wanted to shift. It was held in ”square” by the siding.

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes

    @dt516,

    My comment is in reference to the photo you posted which shows ragged pieces of sheathing material and felt hanging from the studs, construction debris all over your deck and the use of your patio furniture for staging materials and/or a work table. That's not a careful de-construction. It's looks like the aftermath of a made-for-HGTV demolition scene where someone threw an object through a patio door or a wall as part of the demolition effort. The only thing missing is the broken glass.

    The lack of protection for the hardwood is telling.

    When I see stuff like that it makes me wonder about how carefully the reconstruction part will be (was) executed. I agree with RES about the too-wide spacing of the studs in the temporary support wall and its position being too far back from the exterior wall.

  • dt516

    ksc36 - my concern is much more with is my house permanently damaged and gonna have long term structural issues / fall down on my head or sag vs. fixing the door and windows!

  • PRO
    RES, architect

    So far I can see no reason to be concerned about the structure of the house but I haven't seen the beam in place or post to beam and post base connections yet.

    I'm still curious if there is a snow load. The first thing anyone should tell us about a structural project is the climate.

  • dt516

    any blue tape is my own doing in temporarily taping foam board to cover up cracks

  • PRO
    RES, architect

    I would have expected to see a gap between the structure and the glass door frame and a metal connector at the beam to post joint. What's keeps everything together when the wind blows? Connectors are cheap insurance.



  • dt516

    RES. thanks. how wide or a gap and what is that for? I know he is still planning on bolting the headers together. not sure about the metal connectors between the structural connections - though don't recall any of those in any header that came out.

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes

    You had a structural engineer size the beam. His/her report should specify not only the required beam, but the required posts at each end supporting it, and how the connections were to be made. They may have specified how the two plys that make up the beam were to be joined or referred you to the manufacturer's instructions. In my opinion, they should be joined at installation not at some future date. Ditto for installing whatever connectors are specified.



  • dt516

    yes - required posts were 3 at each end.

  • PRO
    RES, architect

    You will need the engineer's approval but thru-bolts or lag-bolts are not needed for two LVL's especially since they are not side-loaded. Even if they were, you should use 3 1/2" FlatLok (FastenMaster) high-strength structural lag screws to avoid drilling and recessing the bolt head and nut. These LVLs would normally be nailed according to the manufacturer's size and pattern..







  • PRO
    RES, architect

    There would not have been any 12 ft. LVL's in a house built in 1952 nor would it be likely there was a building code. Look for asbestos on heating equipment and pipes as well as failing cast-iron pipes and ungrounded wiring possibly even aluminum wiring from the 60's and early 70's.

    The need to tie structural elements together and tie the walls to the foundation varies with the location but its always a good idea. When I don't know something I assume the worse case.

  • ulisdone

    Along with the afore mentioned gap, modern standards call for flashing all around a door opening.

  • PRO
    The Cook's Kitchen

    I would have expected the engineer to design new point load foundations as well, as this is expected to support a second floor at some future time. Or else a substantial excavating should have occurred to verify the foundation depth and integrity.

  • PRO
    RES, architect

    The structural design of a 1 story house foundation shouldn't be much different from that of a 2 story house unless there's a serious soil bearing issue and this house is already designed for an attic floor load and there's a dormer and a skylight on the roof indicating the attic is partially occupied. I would expect the increase in the foundation load for a new dormer over the new beam to be about 20%.

    The ground floor is wood framed so If there's a basement or crawlspace wall, it was designed to resist lateral pressure and is over designed for vertical loads but the footing might be the weak point. Adding a dormer above the new beam should not require a new foundation but it might be necessary to open up the basement floor to see if the existing footing is adequate. If the footing isn't adequate, the foundation would need to be underpinned below the posts that support the new beam.

    The engineer may have already investigated the existing conditions.

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes

    I don't really care if a multi-ply beam is top loaded, side loaded or loaded in the imagination of the plans examiner. Our practice is to join them together at installation according to the engineer's prescription or, absent that, the manufacturer's instructions. Joining multi-ply beams together helps to keep everything in registration (i.e., aligned) during installation.

    We typically use a post and hydraulic jack at either end of a beam during installation to pre-load the beam, fine tune level, and get exact measurements for the posts that support it on each end before we install them and connect them to the beam. Joining the plys together prevents an issue if a jack isn't perfectly centered under the beam during that operation. It also helps keep the face of the beam in the same plane as the studs-- avoiding a potential issue for the drywall installation.

    The bottom line is that your builder may have adopted standard practices that they find to work in the real world irrespective of what is technically required.

  • PRO
    RES, architect

    Whenever you choose to attach the beams together, the FlatLOK screws are a good option because they’re designed to pull the LVLs together and the engineer of record should be willing to accept them. You’ll never want to use anything else after you’ve used them. Watch the video link above.

  • ksc36

    As RES stated, those FlatLOK's are the way to go, though a little pricey. In the high wind area's along the coast, the assorted hardware and fasteners can cost as much as, or more than the beam.


    Sign up for their PROStar program and they send you a box of various fasteners every month or 2

    https://www.fastenmaster.com/prostar-signup.html

  • PRO
    RES, architect

    The FlatLOKs are $1.50 to $2.00 each if bought by the dozen at Home Depot.

    If a through-bolt is required, you can use FastenMaster's ThruLOK.

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