I am widening an opening between two rooms. Since this is a load bearing wall, I had an engineer spec out the beam above the opening. This is a fairly large beam (3.5 x 9.5 LVL) and it will come down quite a bit from the ceiling. The problem is that I have low ceilings to begin with (just under 7 1/2 feet.) I have two concerns; head room and aesthetics. The head room with a double top plate, beam and trim would be about 6 feet 5 inches. As far as the look, I wanted the finished trim above the new header to match the nearby door openings and be at the same height.
I went back to the engineer with this and he said since height is an issue, he recommended a single top plate above the new header – not the standard double top plate. So with this option I get 1.5 inches more head room, but I'd really like to get an additional 1.5 inches (3 inches total) for reasons stated above. I did some research and found a book that says I don't need a top plate with a header. Actually it says "lintel (header)" and I'm not sure if I'm interpreting it correctly. Here is a link to the book and the section that talks about it. It's in the "top plates" section, second paragraph, half way down.
This section of the book follows my (NJ) state code (IRC). However, there is a lot of (mis)information (and misinterpretation) out there and I want to do the right thing. Does anyone have any insight into this?
So long story short, Do I need a top plate over the header?
Side note - I did think of putting the beam in flush then cutting and hanging the joists off of that, but there are mechanicals in the way and that's another can of worms I didn't want to open.
Thanks for your time!