Size of ceiling beams

amberm145_gwJuly 8, 2014

Everyone who has exposed beams, how thick are they?

Our main floor has 9' ceilings, and is essentially 1 main open room. The only wall separates the kitchen from the mudroom (and the powder room is in the mudroom). One of my design insistences (which gets a raised eyebrow from my GC and architect) is a beam or bulk head separating the living room from the kitchen. I want open concept, but I also want clear definition of my "rooms".

We have our joist design, and they're putting in a beam exactly where I wanted it. Yay! But then we asked them to raise the beam to be semi-flush in the basement because the ceilings down there are only 8', so a 12" beam would drop it to 7'. So making it semi-flush gives another 6" of headroom.

So, they went and made it semi-flush on the main floor, too. Given that I want a rustic/industrial exposed beam on the main floor, 6" seems too small. If I leave it semi-flush, I can always have it clad in something, and make it as thick as I want. But I'd rather leave it fully exposed, so it's actually part of the structure, nothing fake about it.

Is 12" too big on a 9' ceiling? Is 6" too small?

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A 12" beam supporting a 9ft ceiling seems ideal and no one should be raising their eyebrows.

Assuming the beam is in place and supports the ends of floor joists, the issue now is how to lower the beam if the joists are cut out for the top of the beam. The beam might need 6" added to the top of it.

This is not a conventional construction problem and should therefore be designed by an engineer.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 10:18PM
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The question isn't about how the house should be built, the engineers ARE designing that (and it's very conventional building). The question is, how much of the beam do I want to SEE when the ceiling is finished. How much of the 12" beam should be above/below the drywall?

The raised eyebrows are due to the fact that I want to see the beam, not that the beam needs to exist. They assume that a big open room with a flat ceiling is better. But to me, it's less character.

I have a choice, based on the engineer's options, to have a 12" beam with joists sitting on top of it, or a 12" beam with joists attached to the sides with joist hangers, or a 12" beam with the joists on joist hangers but they sit higher than the bottom of the beam. On the second floor, the beam is flush, and the joists come into the side. In the basement, the joists were on top, but when we asked about options to make the beam higher (dig the basement deeper? use a steel beam?) it was suggested that we go "semi flush", allowing for more head room, but still allowing for room above the beam for ducts/pipes/wiring, etc.

So, which way do we want it on the main floor?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 10:53PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

If it helps at all, we wanted a soffit between the kitchen and FR to help give a visual break without an actual break between the rooms. We have 9' ceilings and the soffit is about 12" deep. We matched the curve to the curve in the island and a curve in the flooring between the tile/wood.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 7:52AM
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Annie, that helps a lot. What you have is a more finished, polished version of what I'm looking for. It's just hard to visualize how tall/deep the soffit is from photos.

Thank-you so much!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 12:15PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Well, build a short "beam" out of cardboard that's about the size and shape you want and use painters tape and tape it up...see if you like it. I've done about a zillion mock ups of things all kinds of ways before investing in the final product.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 5:56PM
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I have also done mock ups in the past. Unfortunately, this room doesn't exist yet, and won't until we put the beams in. Our current house only has 8' ceilings.

But I also realized that the beam in question is actually 14", not 12. So we've decided to leave it semi flush, and clad it if we decide it's too puny.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 6:07PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Sounds like a plan!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 7:50PM
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