What’s Wrong With This Picture?
Photos supplied by canon4me show the engineered beam, one of two in the basement, toe-nailed into the header and supported by a length of 2x blocking. It will eventually get a metal hanger to make a permanent connection.
“Question is,” canon4me writes, “can this triple thick window header carry the weight of this beam...If I had known this, [I] probably would have made the windows smaller and had [the] beam supported by vertical 2x6s.”
Let the architect do the math
“I am no engineer,” writes calvin. “If the calculations are right then it will be all right.”
Ditto, says, Joe Carola. The connection will be fine, providing the architect designed it correctly, and no one but the architect can really answer that question. But assuming the architect has specified the correct hanger, this is “normal, everyday framing.”
Residential framing is relatively simple, compared with commercial work or bridges, adds k1c, and this should be a pretty simple calculation for a structural engineer. Load-bearing members don’t always have to have a direct path to the foundation, and even though the beam doesn’t land directly over a stud, it’s fairly close.
The location of the beam, he adds, “may be a compromise between the strucutral demands and your demand for big windows.”
A bigger issue, says Carola, is how a metal hanger might be attached.
He points out that the header is not tight to the bottom of the plate. Instead, it’s separated from the plate by a series of small blocks. If a face-mounted hanger is used, some of the pre-punched nail holes may fall over a void. And a top-mounted hanger should be completely supported by solid material.
“Those little nothing blocks above the header are wrong and would never carry the load of hanger, or pass inspection where I’m from anyway,” Carola says. “That’s no good. The framer made a big mistake by doing that.”
And what about the aesthetics?
The structural connection is but one issue in canon4me’s basement.
As the photo shows, the floor joists above run on top of the beam, meaning the beam will extend below the ceiling plane when it’s finished.
“The aesthetics of a dropped beam plugged into a window header might look a bit goofy,” says Scott. “Is this the look you want? And how are you going to cover them? Also think about how you are going to trim the windows.”
DanH doesn’t see a problem with the trim. From the look of it, there should be something like 6 in. between the top of the window and the bottom of the beam–plenty for window casing.
But that still leaves canon4me looking at two dropped beams in the ceiling, along with the added work of boxing them in.
“A conventional house built with conventional techniques holds few surprises, DanH adds, “and what surprises there be are easily rectified in most cases. But just scale up the house with bigger windows, longer joist spans, larger open spaces, and things get more complicated, even before you add in ‘fancy’ features like multi-story rooms, cathedral ceilings, cantilevers, glass walls, restaurant kitchens, etc.”
On that issue, k1c has one other idea:
“I thought one way to erase the beam just in that area may be to make the window area into a nook with window seats and matching drop ceiling,” he writes. “I would just double check if your corner is properly braced.”
How to fix it
OK, Carola says, the framing detail isn’t great. But it’s also easy to fix.
“All the framer has to do is take the jack studs out and move the header up tight to the bottom of the top plate and put new jack studs in,” he says. “…If the header is strong enough, the right size hanger is normal every day framing and you have no problem.”
Canon4me has another plan.
He thinks the beam should be enclosed, and supported by two jack studs and two king posts. Consequently the window will be resized and moved slightly so the beam doesn’t butt against the header at all.
“Problem solved,” he says.
What would you do?