How many times have you opened up a floor or ceiling and discovered that the joists have been notched to accommodate a water line or waste pipe? Or maybe you were putting in a new bath and realized there was no way to get any piping from point A to point B without creating some sizable notches or holes in the joists. Short of reframing, the solution in these cases usually means sistering additional wood or a thick piece of steel alongside the full length of the butchered joists.
Turns out there’s a much easier way, using prefabricated steel reinforcement plates from Metwood Building Solutions. Made from 14-gauge steel, the Notch Reinforcer can be used to patch a notch up to 5 inches wide and 3 ½ inches deep (custom plates can be engineered to reinforce larger gaps). When glued and screwed to the side of the joist (#12 screws are provided), an edge flange and mid-span rib provide the rigidity needed to restore the joist to its original load-bearing capacity.
The Hole Reinforcer is a two-part plate that makes it possible to reinforce a joist that has existing piping or ductwork already running through it. Edge flanges are available on one or both edges, and although the plates are engineered for use with the edge flange facing away from the joist, they are that much stronger with the flanges hooked over or under the joist.
These reinforcing plates aren’t limited to use in the middle third of the span, but must be kept at least 12 inches away from a bearing point. They will fit framing from 2 by 8 to 2 by 12, including PT lumber, provided the metal is isolated from direct contact with the treated wood (the company can provide tape for that purpose). Custom sizes are also available.
Similar plates are available for use with I-joists. The Flange Reinforcer will restore strength to flanges notched up to 4 inches deep and 5 inches wide, depending on I-joist depth. The Web Reinforcer will strengthen I-joists with holes in the web from 5 ½ by 12 inches to 12 by 16 inches, depending on I-joist depth.
We spoke with Shawn Callahan, president and CFO of Metwood, who traced the company back to 1993, when the price of lumber shot up after Hurricane Andrew. His father, a general contractor at the time, turned to steel as an alternative, but few carpenters had experience working with steel studs and joists, so the senior Callahan looked for ways to use metal components in wood structures. The result was the “Tuff” product line that began with Tuff Beam—a hollow, structural steel beam that can be trimmed to length on site—and now includes steel joists, panelized walls, and prefabricated floor and roof trusses, to name a few.
The Notch Reinforcer and Hole Reinforcer sell for about $36; the I-joist versions cost between $100 and $150. If you need something special, we recommend a phone call. Metwood is family-owned and the day-to-day operation is still very much a family business involving Shawn’s father and brother, plus nieces, nephews, and cousins. “We’re the Duck Dynasty of the metal industry,” Shawn says. Lucky for us, it’s a dynasty that knows how to solve construction problems.