Tuesday, December 13, 2016

DIY: Ceiling Beam - Building an In-Law Apartment from Scratch

Our first MAJOR snag in the renovation: We pulled the rickety patchwork plywood pieces from the ceiling in the former garage (future living room) to find the joists drooping - a lot (2.5").  The center support joist was a 1x10 (drastically undersized for the 15 foot load it was carrying) and some of the lateral joists were attached with a single nail. Knowing that this part of the structure was originally constructed in the 90s and was not sagging from age, but rather from poor craftsmanship (and apparently really bad math) was aggravating at best.  Reframing the ceiling was definitely not in the original budget or time frame, but something had to be done.

We got some advice from a local guy who was familiar with structural loads and decided on a home made LVL. Not cheap or easy, but certainly cheaper and easier than reframing it all from scratch. So, after several days of rigorous calculations and painful design decisions, Mr. Steady gathered (2) 2x12s and a sheet of 3/4" plywood and sandwiched them together to make one massive - and insanely heavy beam. 

  So heavy, in fact, that we had to hire some muscle to get in place.  Mr. Steady wedged a 4x4 under the original ceiling joist to lift it to the correct (and level) height (a creaky, terrifying experience in itself) and everyone quickly took their places for the new beam installation:

  • Three sturdy ladders
  • Three sturdy young men
  • 2 heavy duty rafter hangers
  • 3 hammers
  • Hundreds of nails
  • Lots of upper body strength
  • and 1 nervous photographer behind the camera
  • ....Oh, and my father-in-law pacing around making wise cracks about the ceiling caving in (oh so helpful)...

After all the heaving and the hammering was finished, everyone stepped back. We pulled the 4x4 brace away and held our breath.

The new center beam sits almost on center in the room. The original one was off by about 18" - don't ask! We still had a long journey ahead of us....but at least we didn't have a health hazard above us.
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From our home to yours,

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