Glue-laminated timber is all the rage these days. Considered as the future of the construction industry, builders are flocking to build and style with glulam beams. Widely used in both commercial and residential projects like hospitality, education, and religious sectors, the growing popularity of timber architecture is undeniable.
Now that concrete and steel are slowly going on the back burner, architects are looking for ways to include more of this innovative and versatile material. Simply put, glulam beams are made from solid wood lumber glued together with a strong adhesive to form a sturdy structural block.
Glulam beams have also found a soft corner with eco-friendly residents. A cheap and far more sustainable option than its counterpart, the future of timber is nothing short of exciting. However, dealing with a non-residential wood can be a little tricky, especially if the prospect is new to most builders.
Here’s a run-through to help you invest, store, and install the perfect glulam hardwood beams for your next construction project.
Customize Your Glulam Product
Before investing in glulam beams, make sure you have all the measures in front of you. The span and load of the construction project will determine the weight and quantity of timber you need. It would be foolish to squander thousands on high-structural glulam beams when the requirements of the project are short spans and light loads.
This is also a great way to minimize the initial costs of timber. Many construction companies do offer these benefits. They can customize the shape, size, and appearance of the wood for architectural, industrial, and residential purposes.
Hence, while you’re at it, make sure to assign an appearance grade to the glulam members as well. The four grades are premium, architectural, industrial, and framing. Although the grade doesn’t affect the structural qualities, assigning one helps you choose the most appropriate level of finish for your project.
Always Do a Quick Inspection Before Notching and Drilling
A very important step before you install glulam beams is to check them before drilling or notching any holes. Since glulam is especially designed to maximize the performance and strength of structural members, drilling in the wrong place can severely affect its ability to carry the load.
The entire design of the project can fall on itself if the notches, tapered cuts, or holes are drilled without proper guidance. For this reason, you should always consult a reliable engineer to locate the least stressful places for notching and drilling. This way, any modifications made will have minimal impact on the structural capacity of the beams.
Identify the Camber Factor
Camber is a curvature that is initially built in the glulam member. For long-span construction projects, the camber factor helps improve the flexibility of the wood structure. It also prevents any deflections, dents, or creeps in the long term.
However, stock beams for residential projects don’t necessarily have camber. Depending on the nature of your project, determine whether a negative, zero, or positive camber will suit the construction.
Always Use the Right Connection Details
Connection details are necessary to improve the structural performance and lifespan of structures that are made of cross-laminated timber. They allow easy transfer of loads from structural members of the timber. Another great benefit of following the connecting details is that they minimize any stressful concentrations on the structure.
The connection details will also help you in determining what kind of layup will suit your construction project. For most, an unbalanced layup has stronger laminations that are positioned over the lower side of the timber beams. They are perfect for single-span beams ideally meant for residential framing.
A balanced timber beam, however, has equal laminations both on the top and bottom of the structure. They are ideal for continuous span projects and cantilever construction like bridges.
Use Glulam for Column Applications
Construction projects that include long, composite, spiral, or square columns can greatly benefit from glulam beams. This is because they are incredibly sturdy and retain their straight shape. As opposed to green timbers, glulam has a greater capacity to stay intact with timber fasteners and is less vulnerable to splitting.
Protection from Exposure
When it comes to wood, you should always plan for exposure. Always choose the best Australian hardwood that is exceptionally resistant to weather, moisture, insect and marine borer attack, and decay. For this reason, you should look for a preservative-treated glulam product like Alaska yellow cedar.
For utility structures, bridges, highways, and marine projects, the glulam beams will require protection from high humidity, moisture, and decay. How you store and handle the beams prior to the construction will determine how well they fit into the structure.
Always handle the glulam beams with care. Each beam should be sealed and stored in an elevated place to avoid any moisture absorption. Protect it from direct exposure to rain and sunlight, especially during hot and dry climes. In all cases, consult with a professional engineer before cutting or splitting the beams.
Precautions During Installation
Avoid temporary heating units to dry up the glulam members, and use a permanent outlet instead. This will help avoid any rapid changes in temperature that could negatively affect the strength of the beams. Always ensure that the protective poly remains intact on the glulam until the roof is completely installed. The rate of drying during the first heating cycle should be stable and uniform.
Glulam is extremely susceptible to external elements even after construction. The members that will be exposed to view once the building is complete should be coated with fabric or nylon slings in addition to “protective corners”.
A Final Word
Following these tips will ensure that the glulam beams remain in their top-quality through the years. In addition to this, always be mindful of delivery schedules to avoid prolonged job site storage. And most importantly, guard the glulam against the weather by covering it with a plastic sheet until it’s ready to be installed.
Simon is an entrepreneur and self-proclaimed jack of all trades. Simon has experience in the building and home renovation industry and he knows what it takes to knock out a successful project whether it be commercial or residential. Currently, Simon works as a marketing consultant with ASH- a prominent name in Australia when it comes to providing timber cladding solutions for residential as well as commercial builds. Another niche for Simon is travel and outdoors leisure, including sporting equipment and bikes. A big kid at heart if it goes fast, bounces, slides or you can climb it Simon has put it to the test.