LVL beam span calculator

Nathan Clark | 🗓️Modified: March 3, 2024 | ⏳Time to read:11 min

Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ve ever ventured into the world of construction, you’ve likely come across the term “LVL,” which stands for Laminated Veneer Lumber

. It’s a bit of a tongue-twister, but fear not!

Today, we’re going to unravel the mysteries of LVL and delve into the fascinating realm of LVL beams.

We’ll explore how to calculate the span of these sturdy beams and introduce you to a handy tool, the LVL beam span calculator.

LVL beam span calculator

Understanding LVL Beams

So, what exactly is LVL, or Laminated Veneer Lumber?

Think of it as the superhero of engineered wood products, especially in the construction world. At first glance, it may resemble plywood, but don’t let that fool you. LVL beams are high-strength, engineered wood products that play a pivotal role in construction projects.

The magic behind LVL beams lies in their construction. Thin layers of wood are meticulously glued together, one atop the other, creating a formidable composite structure.

This innovative creation boasts exceptional strength and versatility, making it a top choice for a variety of construction applications. From beams to trusses, beam rim boards to headers, LVL beams are the go-to material for builders and engineers alike.

Moreover, the flexibility of LVL beams extends to their wide range of available sizes, allowing you to find the perfect fit for your specific project needs. This adaptability is a key reason why LVL has become such a popular and indispensable construction material.

Cracking the LVL Beam Span Code

Now that we have a solid grasp of what LVL beams are, let’s dive into the heart of the matter: calculating the span of LVL beams. This is a crucial piece of information when planning any construction project involving LVL beams.

To begin, it’s essential to know the size of your LVL beam. You see, you can’t determine the span of an LVL beam without first understanding its dimensions. Generally, LVL beams are available in widths ranging from 7/4 inches to 7/2 inches. However, when it comes to using an LVL span calculator, you’ll need to take the beam’s depth into account.

Here’s a handy rule of thumb: for every inch in depth, an LVL beam can span approximately 1.67 feet. To calculate the span of your LVL beam, multiply the depth of the beam (in inches) by this factor of 1.67. Voilà! You’ve got your estimated span.

So, let’s break it down step by step:

  1. Measure the Depth: Determine the depth of your LVL beam in inches. This is crucial for accurate calculations.
  2. Apply the Rule: Multiply the depth of the beam by 1.67. This formula takes into account the inherent strength and load-bearing capacity of LVL beams.
  3. Get Your Span: The result of this multiplication will give you an approximate span in feet.

Armed with this span calculation, you’ll have a solid foundation for planning your construction project. Whether you’re designing a sturdy roof, constructing a robust support structure, or any other application that calls for LVL beams, understanding their span capabilities is essential for ensuring the safety and longevity of your building.

In conclusion, LVL beams, with their innovative composition and impressive strength, are a game-changer in the world of construction. By mastering the art of calculating their span, you unlock a world of possibilities for your building projects. So go ahead, harness the power of LVL beams, and build with confidence!

LVL Beam Span Calculator

Calculate the span of an LVL beam based on its depth (in inches).

The estimated span of the LVL beam will be displayed here.

Maximum Span – Length of LVL beam

The maximum length for an LVL beam is 80 feet, mainly due to limitations in milling and transportation. Most mills produce beams in 48-foot lengths and then cut them into shorter lengths divisible by four, such as 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24 feet, and so on.

While some mills can produce beams ranging from 60 to 80 feet upon request, this is not standard practice. The expenses associated with transporting and installing longer beams often make shorter ones a more practical choice.

How to Determine LVL Beam Size that’s best for you?

To calculate the required length of an LVL beam, measure from one end of the bearing position to the end or middle of the next one. If the beam is supported only at the ends, add the bearing length to this measurement to determine the beam size.

If there are intermediate supports spaced equally, affecting the beam’s span, this also impacts the beam size. The depth and span of the beam influence the minimum bearing length, emphasizing the need for accuracy.

Manufacturers often offer span charts based on various construction criteria, such as one or two stories, beam span, carrying span, beam usage, placement, and live, dead, and/or total loads. Based on these criteria, choose the appropriate beam width and depth required for the span. While a single-ply 14-inch deep LVL beam may suffice, a 9-1/2-inch deep 2 or 3-ply would be considerably stronger and offer more clearance.

A general guideline for determining the depth of an LVL beam is ‘the depth should be equal to the span in inches divided by 20’. For instance, if the span is 16 feet (192 inches), the depth should be 9.6 inches or 9-1/2 inches. The width should be 1/3 or 1/4 of the LVL beam’s depth. Thus, for a 16-foot span, the LVL dimensions would be 3-1/2 inches wide by 9-1/2 inches deep.

Increasing the beam’s width while maintaining the same depth can support greater weight. Therefore, depending on load parameters, a wider beam may be more suitable. It’s crucial to review the rule of thumb calculations and those provided by other methods with a certified professional before moving past the planning stage.

Minimum Bearing Length for LVL beam

The minimum bearing length, or the part of an LVL beam that sits on supports, varies depending on the beam’s depth and span. It also differs between the ends and intermediate supports. Therefore, it’s essential to refer to the manufacturer’s specifications or the structural drawings for accurate information.

For example, the minimum bearing length for a 7-1/4-inch deep and 1-3/4-inch wide LVL wood beam spanning 7 feet or less is 2 inches at the ends and 5 inches on intermediate supports. If spanning 8 feet, it reduces to 1.8 inches at the ends and 4.6 inches on intermediate supports. For spans of 9 feet or greater, it decreases to 1.5 inches at the ends. However, the intermediate minimum bearing length is 3.8 inches at 9 feet, 3.1 inches at 10 feet, and 3 inches for all spans 11 feet or longer.

When using wider or thicker LVL-engineered beams, the minimum bearing length also increases. For instance, a 1-3/4-inch by 9-1/2-inch deep beam spanning 6 feet requires 2.8 inches at the ends and 7 inches on intermediate supports. Similarly, a 11-17/8-inch beam should have 3.8 inches and 9.4 inches, respectively, while a 14-inch beam needs 4.7 inches and 11.8 inches.

For a 7-inch wide LVL by 16 to 24 inches deep, the minimum bearing length is 5.5 inches at the ends and 13.8 inches on intermediate posts. As the span increases for each width and depth, the minimum bearing length also changes accordingly.

What size of LVL beam is best for 16 feet span?

The required size of an LVL beam to span 16 feet depends on the total load requirements and the beam’s rating. For instance, using a single 2.1E 3100 beam that measures 1-3/4 inches wide by 7-1/4 inches deep, the total allowable load when spanning 16 feet is 58 pounds per linear foot (plf). With a depth of 9-1/2 inches, the total allowable load increases to 132 plf, while for 11-7/8 inches, it rises to 257 plf, and for 14 inches, it reaches 414 plf.

When using wider engineered beams with doubled, tripled, or quadrupled ply, the allowable load per linear foot significantly increases for the same thicknesses. In residential construction, it’s common to use a double or triple ply 9-1/2-inch deep LVL beam to span 16 feet in most building situations. For heavier loads, increasing the depth to 11-7/8 inches nearly doubles the allowable total load compared to that of the 9-1/2-inch LVL.

How to check for maximum span?

Determining the maximum span for any beam, including LVL beams, involves considering various factors such as load, stress, location, purpose, and dimensions. For example, a 2.1E 2800 LVL beam measuring 1-3/4 inches wide by 7-1/4 inches deep can span up to 16 feet, while a 9-1/2-inch deep beam can span up to 20 feet, and an 11-7/8-inch deep beam can span up to 26 feet.

Using a 14-inch deep beam that is 1-3/4 inches wide can extend the span to over 30 feet. Switching to a 3-1/2-inch wide 2.1E 3100 LVL beam, a 7-1/4-inch deep beam can span up to 20 feet, a 9-1/2-inch deep beam up to 26 feet, and wider or thicker beams can span more than 30 feet.

For instance, a 30-foot 7-inch wide by 24-inch deep 2.1E 3100 LVL wood beam has a total allowable load of 1241 pounds per linear foot for supporting a single floor or 1594 pounds for a roof experiencing snow loads.

Some mills offer LVL beams that are 24 inches deep and 7 inches wide, manufactured up to lengths of 60 or 80 feet. These extended lengths are provided only if the beam can span such distances while still providing functional support.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is an LVL beam?

  • Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) is an engineered wood product made by layering thin wood veneers together with adhesives to form a strong and versatile structural beam.

2. What factors determine the maximum span for an LVL beam?

  • The maximum span of an LVL beam depends on various factors, including load requirements, stress considerations, location, purpose, and the cross-sectional dimensions of the beam.

3. How do I determine the appropriate size of an LVL beam for my project?

  • The size of an LVL beam needed for a project is determined by factors such as the total load requirements, the beam’s rating, and the span it needs to cover. Consultation with structural engineers and reference to manufacturer specifications is recommended.

4. What are some common sizes and spans for LVL beams?

  • Common sizes for LVL beams include widths ranging from 1-3/4 inches to 3-1/2 inches and depths ranging from 7-1/4 inches to 24 inches. Spans can vary from 16 feet to over 30 feet, depending on the beam’s dimensions and load requirements.

5. Can LVL beams be used for both residential and commercial construction?

  • Yes, LVL beams are suitable for both residential and commercial construction projects. They are commonly used in applications such as floor joists, roof rafters, headers, and beams for both residential homes and commercial buildings.

6. How do I ensure the proper installation of LVL beams?

  • Proper installation of LVL beams involves following manufacturer guidelines, consulting structural engineers, and ensuring that beams are adequately supported and fastened according to building codes and regulations.

7. Are there limitations to the length of LVL beams?

  • While LVL beams can be manufactured in lengths up to 60 or 80 feet, the practical length is determined by factors such as transportation and installation considerations, as well as the beam’s ability to provide functional support over longer spans.

8. Can LVL beams be used in areas prone to moisture or humidity?

  • LVL beams are generally resistant to moisture and humidity, but proper sealing and protection measures may be necessary in areas with high moisture levels or exposure to the elements to prevent potential degradation over time.

9. What are the advantages of using LVL beams over traditional lumber?

  • LVL beams offer several advantages over traditional lumber, including greater strength and stability, uniformity of size and shape, resistance to warping and twisting, and the ability to span longer distances with fewer support columns.

The bottom line

In conclusion, understanding the specifications and capabilities of LVL beams is crucial for successful construction projects. Factors such as beam size, span, load capacity, and depth play significant roles in determining the suitability of LVL beams for various applications. While LVL beams offer versatility and strength, their performance is contingent upon proper selection and installation based on specific project requirements. By adhering to manufacturer guidelines, consulting structural engineers, and conducting thorough assessments of load and stress factors, builders can ensure the effective utilization of LVL beams to meet construction needs efficiently and safely.

About Nathan Clark

Nathan Clark is a seasoned professional framing expert boasting an extensive career spanning over two decades. With over 20 years of hands-on experience in the field, Nathan has established himself as a trusted authority in the realm of framing and carpentry. His unwavering commitment to craftsmanship and attention to detail have earned him widespread acclaim among clients and peers alike. Besides work, he loves exploring places, traveling, and fishing.

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