You might have heard us throw around the term “engineered beam.” It’s a fairly new type of beam, and it is no wonder that it is causing some confusion. Let us explain how these beams are different from solid beams, and how that is a really good thing.
What is an engineered beam?
An engineered beam has a lot in common with a solid beam. It is made out of wood – 100+-year-old Longleaf Pine, to be exact – and is a key element in rustic, farmhouse, and cottage styles. And it looks just like a wood beam.
The key difference with engineered beams, though, comes down to construction. Engineered beams are crafted to size; solid beams are cut. Engineered beams take a little longer to create and require the handiwork of a true craftsman to shape and hone it.
At The Olde Mill, we cut antique pine beams reclaimed from demolished churches, factories, and barns into ¼ inch veneers. We then adhere these veneers to plywood that has a miter finish. The veneers are locked together and sanded to a smooth finish.
The finished beams look the same, though – beautiful, with the natural elegance of the close-grained pine on full display.
What are the drawbacks of engineered beams?
The biggest drawback of an engineered beam is that it is not structural. It cannot be used to support the weight of posts, unlike solid beams. But, engineered beams do have a place in traditional pier-and-beam construction: since they are hollow, they can be used to wrap existing beams. This could be done well after construction of the home is finished, giving you versatility in your space’s look.
Also, engineered beams are not suitable for some outdoor applications. Extended exposure to rain, wind, and snow can cause the veneers to peel away from the plywood panels.
What are the perks of engineered beams?
No matter if you’re a homeowner, designer, architect, or builder looking to build, renovate, or remodel, there are many reasons engineered beams are a better choice than solid beams for your next project.
First, engineered beams are incredibly lightweight: less than 1/5th the weight of solid beams of the same size. This decreased weight can save you both time and money when it comes to installation. No lifts or joists are needed come trimming day. A trim carpenter or experienced DIY-er with a few hand tools can get the job done.
Second, they are really easy to install. Engineered 3-sided beams can be mounted to the wall with a 2×4 and trim screws. And, because engineered beams aren’t structural, they don’t need to be installed during framing – you can wait until the trim phrase of construction or well after the home is built.
Additionally, because engineered beams are hollow, they can be used for both beauty and function. Hide existing beams, ductwork from HVAC, and cables cords for lighting and sound. You can also hang ceiling fans, speakers, light fixtures, light switches, and other appliances from installed beams. This makes your beams even more a part of your space and your style.