Shop Chronicles
Step 3 - New Supports (Removing 2 support beams from the center and adding new spanning cross beam.)
Shop Ceiling Support Beams Before - October 12, 2004

And now the story of the current support beams in my shop. The old man who spent the latter years of his life in this house (before we bought it) was, as we understand, quite 'thrifty'. Some might call it just plain poor craftsmanship, but I think it was just that he didn't want to spend money. As such, most of the afterwork in our house was done in what you might call the 'MacGuyver Way'. Part of my job as a homeowner is now simply undoing alot of this kind of thing. Don't get me wrong, I've been known to use a few popsicle sticks and duck tape in my day, but I'm changing my ways.

The floor of my office (which is the ceiling of my shop), was built on joists which were really too long. As a result, a center beam and 2 support 4x4s were added in the center of the shop to compensate. Well, that's just a big pain in the rear now that I own the house and this is my shop. These center posts have *got* to go. They make handling any medium to large sized sheets of plywood inpossible in my small 17x17' shop. So, my best friend Josh and I built a new support system which will allow me to remove the existing obstructions.

The new support system consists of an upside-down-U shaped frame around the doorway of the shop, a single rear support beam at the rear of the shop and a huge 2"x8"x17' beam (made 3-thick) spanning between them. This large spanning beam is built with large deck screws and 6" carriage bolts. Its a monster and it was all Josh and I could do to get this thing in and up onto the supports. One bad move and I'm certain one of us would have either walked away with one less limb or not walked away at all. (This should both tell you how good a friend he is and how scared I was that he'd get killed working on *my* project. Ack. Imagine the explaining I would have to do to his wife and two kids!)

The two 2x4 scraps you see above are simply to help keep that end of the beam in place while the other end is raised. This thing fell from the top of the door frame once while we were raising the other end and it wasn't pretty. After these temporary boards were in place, we had no more trouble with the end slipping off. That beam must weigh around 300 pounds or more.

Now, the back end was alot trickier. The beam ended up about 4 inches too long, but we managed to get it up far enough to go into the former-window hole near the top of the wall. See picture above. As a result, though, the beam doesn't go all the way to the ceiling and doesn't touch the floor joists. That won't work, so I'll have to lower it back down with a jack, cut the beam off by about 4 inches and then raise it back into place with a new 4x6 to support it. After that, I'll put some L-brackets in key places to tie the vertical supports and the span beam together and keep it from shifting or leaning or other unlikely-but-still-dangerous movement.

I'll post additional pictures here soon showing the whole room with the beam in its final position and the center supports removed. I can't wait!

Shop Ceiling Support Beams After - (November 21, 2004

Update: Here are the final pictures. The shot below shows the beam now cut off to proper length, raised into position and the new 4x6 post hammered into place with a sledge and an L-bracket added to tie them together with 4 2" lag bolts.

The other end now finished with the same L-bracket and lag bolts.

Once I managed to finish the beam installation, I discovered something. The beam only touches the floor joists in two places: the front and the back. Most joists in the middle don't make contact with the new beam. Arrg. Until I decide on something else, I've shimmed the open spaces. After doing so, I knocked out the two existing 4x4 posts and the floor didn't fall on me, so I think we did something right. The best solution would be to add a center support post, but that would defeat the entire purpose of this new beam in the first place: no center abstructions in the shop where I'll often want to move things around and maneuver 4x8' sheets of plywood.