LiteSteel beam helps Atlanta remodeler achieve long-span header when LVLs, hot-rolled steel fall short

An Atlanta homeowner was looking to expand her 2,300 square-foot, mid-century modern ranch-style home with a space large enough to include a kitchen, living room and fireplace. The issue that many remodelers wrestled with was the homeowner’s desire to have a large roof span with no columns, and accomplish that with a cost-effective solution. LiteSteel beam (LSB) was the solution.

October 12, 2010

In the client’s eyes, the vision for her home’s remodeling project was simple: add a room with a long-span high ceiling, but without any supporting columns obstructing the new space.

In the remodelers’ eyes, however, the project wasn’t quite as cut and dry as that. The Atlanta homeowner was looking to expand her 2,300 square-foot, mid-century modern ranch-style home with a space large enough to include a kitchen, living room and fireplace. The issue that many remodelers wrestled with was the homeowner’s desire to have a large roof span with no columns, and accomplish that with a cost-effective solution.

Unhappy with the quotes and options she was receiving, the homeowner let Kevin Buckley take a look at the plans that were previously drawn up by an architect.      

“I didn’t think they would work with the spans that she wanted,” said Buckley, owner of Kevin Buckley Builders, a custom home builder and remodeler in Atlanta. “I took the plans to my pro-dealer and had him to take a look at it. He suggested using LiteSteel™ beam (LSB®) for the span. So I asked him to spec it for the job and tell me what I had to do to make it work for the client.”

LSB is a patented, cold-formed, light-weight steel structural beam designed for remodeling, residential and light-commercial construction projects. Unlike hot-rolled steel W beams or LVLs, LSB can be hand-lifted by framers on a job site, eliminating the need of a crane for installation.

The homeowner was looking to have a smooth ceiling extending at a 20 degree angle down to the side of the house, and as much open space as possible without any support beams running down to the floor.

“She said ‘find a way to make this happen,’ so we did,” Buckley said. “LiteSteel beam is the only product that could deliver the kind of span she wanted, unless we went to a heavier steel. The expense with that and the welding involved would have been cost prohibitive. We also could have used some LVLs, but then we’d need to run posts, and she didn’t want that.”

A 14-inch LSB spanned the entire length and supported the load, while giving Buckley an extra two to three inches of clearance before he reached the windows. The beam provided the aesthetics the homeowner wanted, plus the structural support to make it happen.

Buckley used one 14-inch beam that stretched 26 feet as the main support. The span helped create a “split-roof,” allowing the roof of the new addition to be about three feet higher at its peak over the original roof. The new roof also extended about three feet over the original roof, creating an artificial eyebrow. Within the three-foot space below the LSB, Buckley added horizontal windows that overlook the lower roof and allow natural light to enter the room.    

“It’s a remodel, but it’s almost like new construction,” Buckley said of the project. “We took a ranch house and converted into a Frank Lloyd Wright-esque contemporary with offset gable roofs and big glass panels that’s holding all the ceiling joints up. It’s pretty striking.

“It’s still technically a ranch, but the new addition is huge – like a gymnasium.”

Since the beam was being positioned 25-feet in the air, Buckley and his team used a duct lift to hoist it in the air. Once elevated, three framers moved it by hand into position and used joist hangers to secure it. Although it’s steel, LSB has the workability associated with wood.

“It allowed my framer, who doesn’t have a lot of steel experience, to do something that he couldn’t do otherwise,” Buckley said of the installation. “It’s like working with wood. It really bridges the gap nicely because we can cut the steel on the jobsite with a steel-cutting circular saw and use self-tapping screws.” 

The new addition measures 26’ x 30’, and brings the home from 2,300 to 3,000 square feet. 

Buckley said he is now considering using LSB on other remodeling projects currently in development, including a porch and deck where it could replace treated lumber, and on construction of a new garage. Overall he’s pleased with how the project turned out, and more importantly, his client is happy too.

“LiteSteel made us look good in front of our client,” Buckley said. “No one else had proposed something like that to her, and we were able to make it happen when everyone else was giving her more complicated solutions that weren’t as appealing. Using LiteSteel allowed us to get the span she wanted.”

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