I ran into this past summer. We ( me and 3 friends from college ) had
purchased some pieces of engineered lumber for use in a detached
workshop. I had cruised some shelves at the spot and was asking about
using some engineered lumber elsewhere - namely for a commercial
building ( A paint shop for boaters - you know, where you want your
boat painted? ).
The owners told me that I could not use engineered lumber in a
commercial building as it does not meet the fire code. When I asked
why I could use it in a house ( they use it like water up here ) they
said they had no idea.
Anyone have an idea what they mean?
I am curious as I am in the steps of planning for some home
modifications and they all depend quite heavily on engineered lumber.
Hate to find out I made a fire trap.
Thanks to all for your help.
Could they mean "I don't know and I'm just guessing"? I am in Georgia
and I see plenty of buildings with laminated beams supporting the roof.
Very common practice- restaurants, churches, you name it.
Sometimes local code is just based on politics. Not 100% sure that it
is still true, but at least as far back as the late 1980s it was the
law in Allegheny county, PA (home of Pittsburgh and many steel mills)
that houses had to use a steel beam for its main foundation beam
support. Glue lams and other wood based product were not allowed.
Everyone in surrounding areas used laminated beams, but I guess that
the steel industry and the steel unions were not quite as powerful as
they were in Allegheny County.
I guess the point is that we don't know what the local code is
wherever the OP lives.
There are all kinds of commercial buildings, ranging from barns to
multistory office buildings, and the building code reflects the usage,
hazard, and occupancy of the buildings.
Basically, wood burns, so it is not allowed in large, multistory buildings,
where there are hazardous uses, or lots of people.
A paint shop for boats might be a hazardous/flammable use.
A house isn't. It's assumed that the occupants are familiar with the way
out, and can get out in a few minutes, so if the structure burns through in
half an hour, there isn't a loss of life.
That being said, I understand that fire departments are not crazy about
truss joist or open web floor trusses because they collapse sooner than
A solid, laminated beam shouldn't burn (or fail) any faster than a solid
wood beam of the same size.
If you have more questions, pick up the phone and call the local inspector.
They'd much rather answer questions ahead of time than tag the house because
of later problems.
While I doubt that the owners knew all aspects of the building code, a
commercial paint shop must meet certain requirements. Involved will be
explosion proof electrical system, exhaust and makeup air fans, and
fireproof structure. I doubt that wood would be allowed unless well
protected from flames.
A common misconception is that structural laminated beams will fail
sooner than steel trusses.
Tain't necessarily so.
Wooden beams will char on the outside but but are basically self
extinguishing and maintain the bulk of their strength.
OTOH, steel beams lose strength as they get heated, which starts
somewhere around 700F-800F.
Remember the fire at McCormick Place Exhibit Hall in Chicago.
Don't remember what started the fire, but the steel trusses got too
hot, then gave way, and the whole place came down.
Can't remember, but don't think they rebuilt with steel trusses, at
least not without some serious modifications.
Lew Hodgett wrote:
> RE: Subject
> A common misconception is that structural laminated beams will fail
> sooner than steel trusses.
This applies to laminated beams.
Don't have any idea how wood chips and glue construction would behave
under those conditions.
Yeah, well, they'd be wrong. Structural steel becomes spaghetti wayyyy
below melting point. This is the reason that structural steel members have
fireproofing installed. Unfortunately, spray-on fireproofing doesn't work
as well after it's been impacted with a 767.
Are you talking about BCI joists? They're great -- very
strong, and you can run wires and pipes through them easily
without sacrificing the structural integrity.
I doubt they're as good as glue lam beams in a fire.
Local codes would decide everything. It would pretty wierd
to "not" use glu-lams but I have seen strange building codes
There would be damn few building in the USA that are built
today not using a truss of some sort. Glu-lams are almost
universal at buidling sites.
"Commercial" building codes could be MUCH different in your
area. Maybe they want all steel for commercial building or
maybe just for building that are doing "paint" ???
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