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zenman 08-03-2009 01:15 PM

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! :)

Termite 08-03-2009 10:30 PM

You do need a top plate over the header in many cases because the top plate acts in tension to bridge the opening and tie the headered opening in the wall into the shear plane. However, your engineer should be able to easily calculate the loads and see if using Simpson roll-strap in lieu of a top plate would work. I've seen it done numerous times, and the strap is ran across the header and at least a couple feet onto the top plates on either side of the header. That ties everything together in tension.

They sell it in rolls of varying longer lengths or you can get various shorter lengths (probably special order through your lumberyard, but not overly expensive).

Gary in WA 08-03-2009 11:35 PM

There are 6 different gauges of continuous strap from Simpson, he will state which. Ask if it's necessary to fill every hole or every other one, as that may/not reduce the allowable load for the application. Be safe, G

zenman 08-04-2009 09:23 AM

Thanks for the replies.

Now I can go back to the engineer and see what he says about the straps. I'm curious to hear his take on them. And he might have some insight in to the building inspector thoughts on them too. Either way now I have something to discuss with the engineer regarding this!

Side note, I'm not dead set against the flush header, but it is more work and time and also moving (redesigning) the HVAC ducts will be a project in itself. Of course my wife says just get it done the fastest way possible. :rolleyes:

I like to look at these types of projects from all angles and choose the best option for my situation. Thanks again for the input!

Termite 08-04-2009 09:48 AM


Originally Posted by zenman (Post 310361)
And he might have some insight in to the building inspector thoughts on them too.

Your inspector should be willing to accept an engineer's recommendations, assuming the engineer writes a stamped letter and includes a diagram depicting the recommended installation. As inspectors we very very very rarely call an engineer's written recommendations into question.

Clutchcargo 08-04-2009 11:02 AM

63 Attachment(s)
Ask the engineer if a different product work out better?

I'm thinking one of the LiteSteelBeam or betterheader products may be able to be spec'ed to something less than 9.5".

zenman 08-05-2009 12:04 PM

Thanks everyone, I will be having another discussion with the engineer.

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