Multi-Ply Beam Load Transfer

Larger beams are often built up out of smaller 2x or 1¾” members. This can be done for several different reasons: for the convenience of handling smaller members on the jobsite, or because solid 4x, 6x or glulam material is not readily available, or for reasons of cost. Engineered wood such as laminated veneer lumber (LVL) is often used for its high load capacity and multiple 1¾” plies are built up to get the required capacity for the application.

8-Ply LVL Beam in HHGU14 Test
8-Ply LVL Beam in HHGU14 Test

When a built-up beam is loaded concentrically as in the test setup shown, fastening the members is not critical since that giant steel plate will load each ply of the beam. In the field, built-up beams or girders commonly support joists or beams framing into their side. The built-up members must be connected to transfer load from the loaded ply into the other plies.

SDW - Uniform Allowable Loads
Allowable Uniform Loads and Spacing Requirements

SDW - Assembly Types and Spacing Requirements

Page 303 of our Fastening Systems catalog, C-F-14 provides allowable uniform load tables for side-loaded multi-ply assemblies using LVL, PSL or LSL material. The calculation for the allowable load applied to the outside ply of a multi-ply beam is:

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While uniform loads are very common, Designers often request additional information to design multi-ply beam connections to transfer concentrated loads. Simpson Strong-Tie has created a new engineering letter, L-F-SDWMLTPLY16, which complements the information in the Fastening Systems catalog by providing allowable loads in a single fastener format. Designers can use the information to calculate the number of fasteners required for a given point load.

Simpson Strong-Tie® Strong-Drive® SDW EWP-Ply Screw – Allowable Loads for Side-Loaded Multi-Ply Assemblies per Screw
Simpson Strong-Tie® Strong-Drive® SDW EWP-Ply Screw – Allowable Loads for Side-Loaded Multi-Ply Assemblies per Screw

In order to ensure load transfer, the SDW screws need to be located relatively close to the connection. At first glance, it may appear challenging to fit enough fasteners while meeting the non-staggered row-spacing requirements. However, we have found that most loads can be managed by taking advantage of the ⅝” stagger allowance.

SDW – Maximum Fastener Spacing from Point Load
SDW – Maximum Fastener Spacing from Point Load

If you are curious what happened in that HHGU14 test, the screws pulled out of the header with a load slightly exceeding 101,000 pounds. Failure photo 2 shows a close-up of the pullout failure. The tested load was very close to the maximum calculated capacity for the SDS screws in the connector, so it was a great test result. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.

HHGU14 Test Failure 1 HHGU14 Test Failure 2

Paul McEntee

Author: Paul McEntee

A couple of years back we hosted a “Take your daughter or son to work day,” which was a great opportunity for our children to find out what their parents did. We had different activities for the kids to learn about careers and the importance of education in opening up career opportunities. People often ask me what I do for Simpson Strong-Tie and I sometimes laugh about how my son Ryan responded to a questionnaire he filled out that day:

Q.   What is your mom/dad's job?
A.   Goes and gets coffee and sits at his desk

Q.   What does your mom/dad actually do at work?
A.   Walks in the test lab and checks things

When I am not checking things in the lab or sitting at my desk drinking coffee, I manage Engineering Research and Development for Simpson Strong-Tie, focusing on new product development for connectors and lateral systems.

I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and I am a licensed Civil and Structural Engineer in California. Prior to joining Simpson Strong-Tie, I worked for 10 years as a consulting structural engineer designing commercial, industrial, multi-family, mixed-use and retail projects. I was fortunate in those years to work at a great engineering firm that did a lot of everything. This allowed me to gain experience designing with wood, structural steel, concrete, concrete block and cold-formed steel as well as working on many seismic retrofits of historic unreinforced masonry buildings.