Q&A

What is a glu­lam beam?

Timber Home Living - - Contents -

GLUED LAM­I­NATED TIM­BERS (OR GLULAMS) are cre­ated from in­di­vid­ual lay­ers of wood that are at­tached through fin­ger joint­ing be­fore be­ing glued to­gether. The re­sult: One su­per-strong, over­sized beam that’s de­signed and used to achieve ex­treme spans of space or bear very heavy loads.

“If there’s a sit­u­a­tion that would re­quire sta­bil­ity in cross sec­tions longer than you’d typ­i­cally be able to get with a stan­dard tim­ber, that’s when we’d bring up the pos­si­bil­ity of us­ing glulams,” says Eric Fraser, gen­eral man­ager of the tim­ber frame di­vi­sion at New En­ergy Works Tim­ber-framers in Farm­ing­ton, New York. “We’re talk­ing about ex­treme spans of space that kind of max out the ca­pa­bil­ity of tim­bers. You can get glulams in re­ally long lengths since it’s a man­u­fac­tured prod­uct, whereas tra­di­tional tim­bers are maxed out by the size of the tree.”

An­other rea­son you might opt to in­cor­po­rate glu­lam beams is if you’re look­ing to cre­ate some kind of struc­tural curve or unique for­ma­tion in your house. “You can lay them up in curves or dou­ble curves, and you can cre­ate some in­ter­est­ing ge­om­e­try with glulams,” says Fraser. “This is why you of­ten see them in churches and re­ally con­tem­po­rary, sleek struc­tures.”

To make a glu­lam look like one nat­u­ral beam, they’re of­ten grain matched, mean­ing a solid tim­ber is sliced and pieced back to­gether per­fectly so it still looks like a real beam. Also, be­cause each in­di­vid­ual layer is kiln-dried, you can cre­ate an ex­tra long beam that’s re­ally dry from the start and in­cred­i­bly sta­ble and strong.

Glulams are of­ten used in com­mer­cial struc­tures, but they do have their place in res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion, says Fraser. “We’ve built en­tire houses with them, but they also can be used in spe­cific ap­pli­ca­tions to achieve a de­sired look in your tim­ber home.”

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