A variety of solid and engineered wood beams are used in different parts of the world from North America to Europe and Asia.
The bending strength, width, depth, and length of wood beams are defining factors in constructing wooden frames, woodworking projects, and carpentry.
On the other hand, as a structural element, the beams have to withstand the stresses that a wooden structure may face over time.
This means that it is very important to choose best types of beams and join them by the best methods in the wooden structures to transfer the live, dead, and seismic loads in the buildings!
Here, we want to discuss the popular types of wooden beams and the methods that are used to join them in the structure:
What is a wood beam?
The beams are large pieces that are made of strong materials to withstand stresses and bear heavy loads.
They can be made of several raw materials such as iron, steel, concrete, large pieces of wood, etc.
A wooden beam, as the name indicates, is a type of beam that is made either by using natural woods from tree species or by gluing slats, veneers, grains, and so on.
This means that we have a variety of wood beams each of which has its own characteristics:
Solid wood beams
Solid beams are made by using a large piece of wood usually harvested from the trunk of a tree.
Solid wood beams are very strong and sturdy. They’ve been used for centuries in buildings all over the globe from east of Asia to Europe and North America.
Solid beams from some species are very expensive and may last for hundreds of years. But, common species are cheaper.
Jointed wood beams are made by using several smaller pieces of wood to finally reach the desired length.
Manufacturers can produce finger-jointed beams by using several techniques that combine smaller pieces of solid wood. This method helps in optimizing the use of natural resources.
Finger joints are connected together to assemble a lengthwise.
LVL wooden beams
Laminated veneer lumber beams or LVL wood beams are known as a type of an engineered type of wood.
It is made of several wood veneers with less than 5 mm thickness. These veneers are glued to bind together under high pressure.
In this method, manufacturers may use wood grains in the structure of laminated veneer lumber beams to enhance their strength and increase the durability of the final engineered products.
Glued laminated beams
This laminated engineered wooden beam is made by using slats with less than 10 mm to more than 40 mm thickness.
Note that the thickness of slats can be more than 5 cm (50 mm). In this case, the strength and stability of the final beam increases. But, this class of engineered woods is named glued solid timber beams.
Here, to make the final laminated product, we use water-repellent adhesives as glue as well as fibers that are in the same direction.
more products: Glulam
Glued laminated timbers can have very high mechanical strength and great stability. They can be also very appealing in wooden structures.
Wood beams joint techniques
After choosing the right solid or engineered wood beams, builders have to join them together to have a firm structure in the buildings.
The total load and weight as well as the type of the beams are defining factors that are important in the wooden structures.
End-to-end join is the simplest form of attaching wooden beams to the structure in the building. But, there are other methods that are more complicated.
For example, in some cases, builders use mechanical connectors and fasteners such as bolts, nails, screws, and studs to distribute the stresses and loads.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How can a wood beam distribute the loads?
As a piece of large solid wood or an engineered wooden product, a wood beam can transfer or distribute the load to both ends or to the foundation of the building.
Why is a wood beam important for transferring loads?
We have two types of loads: live loads, and dead loads. As a structural element, the beam transfers these loads. Wood beams also can withstand seismic loads.
What timber is best for beams?
Large pieces of different varieties of cedars can be used as a beam in buildings.
But, bald cypress as well as yellow, red, and white cypress are also among the best species that are used for making solid wood beams.
But as a whole, it is not easy to say that we can only harvest the strongest solid wood beams from a specific tree,
What is the strongest engineered wood beam?
As a type of engineered wood, Power Beam is one of the best-engineered products in the market which is made by using yellow pine lumber and is known as the best-engineered wood product (EWP).
How thick is a wood beam?
The width or depth of wood beams can vary from one project to the other.
For decorative wooden beams, the thickness has to be proportional to the size of the rooms.
A typical range for the depth or the width of a decorative beam is something between 3 to 5 inches.
But, if they are used to carry loads and withstand stresses, their thickness should be large enough to transfer the loads.
Is steel stronger than wood beams?
Steel is one of the strongest materials that is used for making beams for modern structures in buildings.
But, wooden beams can also have excellent strength in comparison with concrete and steel.
The interesting point is that if we consider the beam sizes in glulam and steel for the same loads in the buildings, glulam can have nearly two times the strength to the weight ratio of steel.
Are thicker wood beams stronger?
Under heavy loads, it is important to determine the thickness of the beams and their strength to distribute or transfer the weight of the structure.
Usually, the thicker wood beams from similar wood species are stronger and can resist the bending tensile forces.
What is the strongest beam wood shape?
The circle is the strongest structural 3-d shape in nature. Because it can distribute the stresses equally along the arc and transfer heavy loads.
What is the most popular shape of wood beams?
In the buildings, the rectangular wood beams are the most common shapes. But, in some cases, we use circular beams.
Can wood beams improve the design appeal?
Yes, the wood beams that are used as structural elements can improve the design appeal of the interiors.
In fact, in some buildings, beams are used merely to add style to the ceilings and add extra texture.
How to connect wooden beams?
In modern constructions, we can connect beams using different methods.
Metal connectors, bolts, screws, and nails are commonly used joints in these methods.
How much is the space between beams?
The spacing between ceiling beams in the building can be from 2 feet up to more than 6 feet apart.
The most common spacing is in the range of 3 to 4 feet to help builders create a focal point.
How much is the length of a wood beam?
The typical length of a wood beam can be something between less than two meters up to more than 7 meters. It depends on the structure of the building and the spacing.
It is worth mentioning that the length of the natural solid wood beams is restricted to the size of the original tree species.
But, the length of engineered wood beams can increase by using more adhesives and wood pieces.
So, in the construction of modern and large buildings, you can order engineered beams with the required size.
But, the depth of a beam is far less and can be between less than 10 cm up to more than 30 cm.
What is the difference between wood beams and timbers?
Wooden beams and posts in the building usually use fasteners and metal connectors.
But, timbers use wood joinery and rarely have metal parts. They’ve been used for centuries in many wooden structures to withstand live, dead, and seismic loads.
Why do builders prefer to use wood beams instead of steel beams?
The insulation rating of wood is much better than steel. This is one of the main reasons that experts recommend using wooden parts in buildings.
By using wooden structures, the energy consumption decreases and you pay less in order to maintain heating and cooling.
Which wood beams have higher bending strength?
The bending strength of wood species can show us how much they can resist the stresses in the building.
Here, we’ve listed several popular species that have higher bending strength:
- Yellow birch
- Douglas fir
- Western larch
- Red maple
- Black oak
- Eastern pine
Don’t forget that the sectional dimensions also play an important role in the total bending strength of wood beams.