Beams are used for many purposes in construction, including creating large open areas within buildings. LVL beams are made of wood but have been engineered to span further than dimensional lumber. If you’re wondering what the maximum distance an LVL beam span is, we’re here to help!
LVL beams are manufactured in 1-3/4”, 3-1/2”, 5-1/4”, and 7” widths and depths of 7-1/4” to 24”. Most mills manufacture beams up to 48 feet long and cut them into shorter more commonly used lengths. Due to manufacturing and transportation issues, only a few mills manufacture LVL beams in lengths of 60 to 80 feet.
In this guide, we’ll discuss how far an LVL beam can span without support, its maximum possible span, and minimum bearing length. We’ll identify the LVL dimensions required to span 16 feet and how to calculate a laminated beam’s size. We also provide a handy span chart and calculator. Our aim is to provide you with helpful information in your beam selection.
How Far Can an LVL Beam Span Without Support?
LVL beams are made of laminated veneer lumber similar to plywood, except the grain of all layers is oriented longitudinally to mimic solid wood. As a result, they are more than twice as strong as regular lumber of similar size, more uniform in dimensions, straighter, and resistant to twisting, bowing, and shrinking.
They are engineered to support greater loads over longer distances than other wooden beams. Additionally, the use of waterproof adhesives makes the beams acceptable for both interior and exterior applications.
The span of laminated beams depends upon their width, depth, and potential loads. Common widths are 1-3/4” or single, 3-1/2” or double, 5-1/4” or triple, and 7” for quadruple.
The depth or thickness of the beams ranges from 5-1/2” like a dimensional 2×6 to 24”, with other common dimensional lumber thicknesses included. Common lengths usually range in 4-foot increments from 4 to 48 feet, with special orders reaching 60 to 80 feet in length depending on mill capabilities.
LVL beam span varies by dimensions, stress grade, and loads. A 1-3/4” by 7-1/4” (2×8) 2.1E 2800 LVL beam can span to 16 feet with a load duration of 100%, while a 9-1/2” deep one can span 20 feet, and an 11-7/8” up to 26 feet. Increasing the depth of the 1-3/4” wide beam to 14” or more and to span 30 feet or more. However, to support typical loads, it is usually doubled or tripled for those distances.
A 3-1/2” by 7-1/4” 2.1E 3100 LVL beam can span to 20 feet, while a 3-1/2 by 9-1/2” will do 26 feet and greater thicknesses 30 feet or more. Increasing to a 7” by 24” 2.1E 3100 and the span can be 60 to 80 feet depending on all variables.
The span is also limited to the mode of transportation from the mill to the job site. LVL wood beams are used in both hidden and visible applications for floor and ridge beams, joists and rafters, and headers and lintels.
The manufacturer’s name or logo is stamped every 4 feet on their LVL wood beams along with the beam’s stress grade and product number to meet ASTM D5456 or CSA 086 requirements.
LVL Beam Span Calculator
The distance a beam needs to span may be easy to identify, but its width and depth depend on the number of piles or supports, as well as other factors. The clear span depends on the dead load of wall, floor, and roof loads, the location of the beam, live loads, snow load, and the width of the load area. Due to all those factors, determining the dimensions of an LVL beam, or any beam for that matter, for a specific span is usually left to a qualified Engineer.
However, if you’re trying to do planning around materials, clearances, and budget before seeking the services of a professional, check out this wood beam calculator. It allows you to identify factors like location, loads, and type of beam (select Lam for LVL).
You also input load area width, overall beam span, custom loads, and the number of piles or supports. It calculates the maximum LVL span in inches based on the information provided. This makes placement of support piles easier so room sizes can be determined. This calculator doesn’t provide the width and depth of the beam.
LVL Beam Chart
There are numerous factors that affect LVL beam span or that of any other type of beam. The Table below identifies different widths and depths of LVL beams and potential spans measured center to center of supports based on the total allowable load per linear foot for a 2.1E 3100 LVL wood beam.
All values are based on shear, deflection, or moment equal to L/240. However, always have a certified professional review your plans for errors and accuracy.
|Spans by Total Allowable Load in Pounds per Linear Foot
For 2.1E 3100 LVL Beam
Maximum Span for LVL Beam
The maximum span for any beam, including an LVL beam, depends on numerous load and stress factors, as well as location, purpose, and cross-sectional dimensions. A 2.1E 2800 LVL beam 1-3/4” wide by 7-1/4” deep can span up to 16 feet, one 9-1/2” deep to 20 feet, and 11-7/8” deep to 26 feet.
Using a 14” deep 1-3/4” wide beam, the span can be more than 30 feet. Switch to a 3-1/2” wide 2.1E 3100 LVL beam, and a 7-1/4” deep one can span to 20 feet, the 9-1/2 to 26 feet, while greater widths and thickness can span more than 30 feet.
A 30 foot 7” wide by 24” deep 2.1E 3100 LVL wood beam has a total allowable load of 1241 pounds per linear foot if used to support a single floor or 1594 pounds if used for a roof that experiences snow loads.
Depending on the mill, LVL beams 24” deep and 7” wide can be manufactured to 60 or 80 feet. The only reason to offer those lengths would be if the beam can span to that length and still provide functional support.
What Size LVL Laminated Beam to Span 16 Feet?
The size of an LVL beam required to span 16 feet depends on the total load requirements and rating of the beam. Using a single 2.1E 3100 beam that is 1-3/4” wide by 7-1/4” deep, the total allowable load if spanning 16 feet, is 58 pounds per linear foot (plf). Going to a 9-1/2” deep the total allowable load is 132pfl, 11-7/8” is 257plf, and 14” is 414plf.
Doubling, tripling, or quadrupling the ply for wider engineered beams and the allowable load per linear foot increases significantly for the same thicknesses. In most building situations, a double or triple ply 9-1/2” deep LVL beam is used to span 16 feet in residential construction. For heavier loads, increasing the depth to 11-7/8” and the allowable total load almost doubles over that of the 9-1/2” LVL.
What Is the Minimum Bearing Length for an LVL Beam?
The minimum bearing length or the amount of an LVL beam that rests on supports varies with beam depth and span. The minimum bearing length at the ends also differs on intermediate supports. So, always check the manufacturer’s specs or those on the structural drawings.
The minimum bearing length of a 7-1/4” deep 1-3/4” wide LVL wood beam spanning 7 feet or less is 2” at the ends and 5” on intermediate supports. If spanning 8 feet, it’s 1.8” and 4.6” respectively, and for 9-foot spans or greater it’s 1.5” at the ends. However, the intermediate minimum bearing length is 3.8” at 9 feet, 3.1” at 10 feet, and 3” for all spans 11 feet or longer.
Using wider or thicker LVL-engineered beams and the minimum bearing length also increases. A 1-3/4” by 9-1/2” deep beam spanning 6 feet requires 2.8” at the ends and 7” on intermediate supports, the 11-17/8” should be 3.8” and 9.4”, and the 14” needs 4.7” and 11.8”.
A 7” wide LVL by 16” to 24” deep requires 5.5” at the ends and 13.8” on intermediate posts. As the span increases for each width and depth, the minimum bearing length also changes.
How to Calculate LVL Beam Size
To determine the length of the LVL beam required, measure from the end of one bearing position to the end or middle of the next one. If the beam is only supported at the ends, then that length plus the bearing length helps determine the beam size.
If there are equally spaced intermediate supports that allow the beam to span shorter lengths, then that can affect the beam size too. The depth and span of the beam also affect the minimum bearing length, so accuracy is important.
Manufacturers often provide span charts based on different construction criteria including one or two stories, beam span and carrying span, beam use and placement, plus live, dead, and/or total loads. Based on the criteria, select the suitable beam width and depth necessary for the span. It should be noted that a single-ply 14” deep LVL beam may suffice, but a 9-1/2” deep 2 or 3-ply would be significantly stronger and provide more clearance.
A general rule of thumb for determining the depth of an LVL beam is ‘the depth should be equal to the span in inches divided by 20’. So, if the span is 16 feet, that’s 192”, divided by 20”, and the depth should be 9.6” or 9-1/2”. The width should be 1/3 or 1/4 of the LVL beam’s depth, so 1/3 of 9.6 is 3.2” while 1/4 is 2.4”. Since 2.4” isn’t an option, and 3.3” is closer to 3-1/2”, then the LVL dimensions for spanning 16 feet would be 3-1/2” wide by 9-1/2” deep.
Increasing the width of the beam and keeping the same depth will support greater weight, so depending on load parameters a wider beam may be more suitable. The rule of thumb calculations and those provided by other methods should always be reviewed by a certified professional before proceeding beyond the planning stage.
Longest LVL Beam
Due to milling and transportation restrictions, the longest LVL beam is 80 feet. Many mills manufacture beams in 48-foot lengths and cut them into shorter lengths divisible by four, so 4-, 8-, 12-, 16-, 20-, 24-, and so on foot lengths.
Some mills have the capability to manufacture 60-to-80-foot lengths as well, but only upon request. The cost of transportation and placement of the longer beams makes shorter ones more feasible.