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Thread: Top plate over header?

  1. #1
    DIY Member Zenman's Avatar
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    Question Top plate over header?

    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.

    Book link

    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!

  2. #2
    Remodel Contractor GabeS's Avatar
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    since you had an engineer in there already, they should be able to answer your questions.

    Your question is usually asked before an engineer is involved. And some of the answer you would get would be to hire an engineer.

    Only the engineer could tell you what's necessary or not since they are doing the plans.
    Gabe

    Don't follow my advice, I only know a thing or two about a thing or two.

  3. #3
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default header

    IF the header needed the top plate, or double top plate, he should have specified a beam that much thicker. I have never put top plates directly on a beam. They are used when there is a gap between the beam and the joists above and then jack studs are used to fill the gap between them. I might even support the ceiling, then cut the joists back so the beam could fit up inside the gap, and then attach the joists to it with joist hangers to make an even less obtrusive look. And if I were going to do it that way, I would go back to him and have him calculate a new sized beam that is the same depth as the joists so the entire ceiling is level.
    Last edited by hj; 08-03-2009 at 05:03 PM.

  4. #4

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    See if he can spec a flush beam where the current joists will terminate against the beam in joist hangars. This will raise your ceiling height to match the existing.

    Also, don't think a top plate is required. You will probably have to use the "hurricane straps" for your joist connection since nailing into the top of an LVL is about useless.
    http://www.inspectpa.com/forum/forum.php
    My answers are based mostly on the ICC codes. Advice given is my personal opinion and every person performing work should acquire a permit from his/her jurisdiction and get the work inspected. My opinions are not directions to follow for DIYs or professionals

  5. #5
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default beam

    The same beam that he speced for under the joists will fit flush between them if it is the same depth as the joists, if they are 2x10 or larger. And if they are not TJI's.

  6. #6
    DIY Member Zenman's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the replies...

    I am on a fact finding mission, just like going to a doctor, it's always good to get a second or third opinion.

    As for the flush header. This is an option -I did this on the other side of the house. The joists are 2x10, so the header is the same depth. It's just a lot more work and there are heating ducts to relocate (can of worms.)

    Ultimately I will go back to the engineer, but this time I will have some more info and ideas to share with him and we can discuss what would or would not work in my situation.

    Thanks again!

  7. #7

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    Would cost a bit more, but what about a flitch beam? Should buy you some heigth.

  8. #8
    DIY Member Zenman's Avatar
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    Thanks PEW, someone else just mentioned that to me... (see below)

    More possible solutions (in case anyone else is interested);

    As far as different types of headers, LiteSteelBeam and betterheader were some other tips I got.

    Another suggestion I received; if the top plates are to be omitted, metal straps like these from Simpson could be used (with approval from an engineer) to tie in from the header to the top plates of the walls on either side.
    Last edited by Zenman; 08-04-2009 at 12:28 PM. Reason: fix typos

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