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Built-Up Versus Solid Lumber Beams

Ground Clearance
Grade Affects Beam Height

Measure Yard Grade: Before you can start designing your deck, it's important to know how much vertical height you have between the ground and the deck surface. The amount of ground clearance affects how the joists attach to the beams. Knowing how much vertical height there is for the beams and floor joists will allow you to select a construction method that prevents unnecessary digging and keeps the beams above the ground.

Set Beams On Top: If there's enough vertical distance between the yard and the proposed height of the deck, it's best to set the beam lower and have the joists resting on top. It's easier and quicker to frame and is the strongest layout. If there isn't enough vertical room, you'll need to set the beam at the same height as the joists. Setting the beam at the same height as the joists means you'll need to use hangers to support the joists. This type of framing takes more time because of all the hangers that need to be nailed up.

Check Point Check Point - One common way to attach a deck or gazebo beam to a post is by bolting it to the side of the post. This type of method relies exclusively on the strength of the bolted connection. What many novice builders don't understand is that this type of connection is inherently weak and requires special attention. Nevertheless, there are many times when this sort of deck framing method makes sense. When you get a password, you'll learn about when to use this type of bolted-connection and how to size and space your bolts for adequate strength.

Avoid Beam To Beam Framing

Avoid Concentrate Beam Loads
Avoid Beam To Beam Framing

On occasion, when one distinct portion of a deck connects up with another, you may be tempted to attach the end of one load bearing beam on top of, or to the side of, another beam. This type of situation creates what is called a concentrated "point" load. Depending on where the concentrated point load is applied along the beam length, the stresses created may be more than those developed when the load is uniformly applied over the entire beam length.

For example, let's say we've determined the load at the end of the doubled up 2x beam in the picture is 500 pounds. Let's also assume the length of the supporting tripled 2x beam is five feet long. Although you may be tempted to apply this point load as a 100 pounds per foot uniformly distributed load, you should not do this! Point loads need special attention. In fact, BestDeckSite does not cover point loads because they're too involved for the average deck builder. If your design requires applying a point load, you should either place a post at the intersection of the two beams (to support the load) or get a Professional Engineer to help with sizing your lumber.

The content under the "How-To" menu is a small sampling of all the material covered on BestDeckSite. For immediate access to in-depth information on nailing together built-up beams, beam stability, and cantilevering beams, as well as, comprehensive coverage of all aspects of gazebo and deck building, get a password and log-in now.

     Support Beam

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