What is a glulam beam?
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.”