Load Bearing Walls Beat LVL Beams

By John Turner, P.E. | December 24, 2020

We have had the pleasure of working with Chuck Wood of Colonial Builders recently.  He is leading spectacular renovations of a few old buildings in Concord.  Each time I visit the site, I’m impressed by the experience of his crew.  Said another way, many of his team members have been carpenters for decades!  Said yet another way, at 50 something myself, my appreciation for practical structural design is growing.  We, as structural design professionals, can help those in the field by minimizing beams and maximizing bearing walls, especially in roof framing.

We were recently presented architectural plans for an addition.  To the architect’s credit, the 2 plus story design was carefully laid out so that rather than a 22” deep LVL beam that would have been required to frame the ridge, the design lent itself to bearing walls to support the rafters and still create the same dramatic cathedral ceilings and lofts.  I have long believed this –the best architects have a good working knowledge of structural components and thus create beautiful and functional buildings that are easy to build.  Far easier to frame a bearing wall with 2×4’s than to lift and place a 26’ LVL 30’ above the ground!

One of my favorite examples of this concept is in the basement.  Too often, I encounter designs where adjacent to basement stairs, the plans specify a beam supported by columns on a strip footing.  The same plans will show a wall framed under the beam when the project is complete.  As lumber prices skyrocket, the value we can add as engineers to eliminate such wasteful practices becomes increasingly important.

Let us help you with our practical structural design skills.  As in our Mission Statement:  We are building systems experts who thrive on the challenge of unique building projects by designing creative and practical solutions!

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