Beam Me Up, Scotty



Load-bearing beam and a bunch of second-floor joists.

Lots of lifting things ten feet in the air Thursday and Friday. We also got our first taste of unpleasant weather. It drizzled pretty much nonstop, with a few heavy torrents that sent us running for our raincoats. All the more reason to get a roof over our heads as soon as possible.

We discovered real fast the low spots on our slab. The drain, right of center, worked perfectly where the slab sloped in, but elsewhere we had to wade through a puddle or two. The water also tripped the GFIs causing us to lose power frequently. It’s true, electricity and water don’t mix, and we sort of depend on the circuit breakers for our safety. I’ll take the inconvenience of no corded power tools or boombox over an electrical shock any day.


The interior stud wall.

The interior wall went up Thursday without a hitch. Next task: build a beam to span the remaining distance from the interior wall to the far side. We built the beam by gluing and screwing together a trio of 2x10s, for an ultimate size of 5 ½ inches wide by 9 ¼ inches deep. Interestingly, from a strength perspective, it doesn’t matter whether the lumber is connected. Three separate 2x10s next to each other would provide exactly the same total capacity under vertical load. So why did we bother to join them? Two major reasons: these lateral connections help to distribute the load equally between the three pieces, and they prevent out-of-plane twisting.

Thus, we had a massive beam (back-of-the-envelope weight calculation: 16 feet x 5.5 inches x 9.25 inches x 50 pcf = about 300 pounds) and we needed to lift it to the top of the stud wall. No need for mechanical aid! Terry set up a ladder at each support and the three of us lifted one end at a time until it was high enough to slide into place.


Terry installs a top plate on the massive load-bearing beam.

This is not to say we shun the help of machines; on the contrary, we take full advantage whenever a lift is available. When a delivery truck arrived with a pallet of plywood, Terry knew he wanted the materials for the second floor. So Colin and I set up some cribbing at a corner of the stud wall and Ben, the driver, used his onboard crane to place the pallet atop it. That’ll save all kinds of effort when we’re ready to lay the plywood down.


Ben hauls plywood from the truck…


…straight to the second floor.

With the loadbearing beam and interior wall in place, we were ready to erect floor joists for the second floor of the Barn. The spans are just shy of 18 feet in the front and just over 12 feet in the back. Terry measured the exact length we needed for each joist, but we didn’t need to cut them – he staggered the studs so the joists can overhang. What we did do was mark the correct length, in pencil, on the bottom of each 2×10 joist before we lifted it into place. The pencil lines gave us a guide to line up the top of the loadbearing wall. If at any joist the top of the wall didn’t quite align, we tapped the wall into place with Sluggo the sledgehammer before Terry toenailed the joist down.


Terry above with the nail gun; Colin below with Sluggo.

Carole came by and defied her grey hair by carrying wood and confirming measurements. She used to work in a lumber yard and definitely knows her way around a construction site. Late Thursday the four of us gathered round a block of scrap wood to plan the Barn stairway. The architect’s plans show a U stairway with equal legs, but we designed a configuration that provides much more storage space downstairs and appears simpler to frame out. Collaboration at its finest.


Wood is versatile.

One thought on “Beam Me Up, Scotty

  1. Pingback: Two Hundred Fifty | PERCH ENGINEERING PLC

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