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Timberframe foundations, I-beams code

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By Matt in Wayne, PA on 9/27/2007

I had my foundation drawings drawn by a designer who more or less dropped the ball.

We are re-erecting a 40 ft. by 50 ft oak barn frame on a poured concrete foundation.  I had him design it as a walkout basement in back and garage doors on the side.  He didn't finish it as far as designing the lintels along the back and over the garage doors.  He did spec the I-beams to support the two bents interior to the foundation, and pockets in the front wall, and pads halfway across the width.  We sourced some really nice oversized I-beams  16"x7".  Where I am getting hung up is the details on how to integrate them into the structure, and more importantly knowing if it is to code.
Our township follows IRC 2006 but I don't see anything about supporting timberframes with I-Beams.  Am I stuck with hiring a structural engineer?  Or is using the steel industry's code (ASCI, etc.)  Where in the IRC do I find timberframe foundation rules?

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By Jon in Ellicott City, MD on 9/27/2007


  I'm building a timberframe in Maryland.  So far, the only question the county inspectors and licensing folks have asked me is "Did your engineer approve this?"  None of them know anything specific to timberframe construction.  I doubt that the IRC covers it in sufficient detail, if at all.  

  Building codes are just minimum standards, based on lessons learned from millions of stick-framed homes.   Those codes are not meant to be an all-inclusive assurance of acceptable design.  They are just an effort to keep you from repeating mistakes made in the past.  So, when you build something of a non-standard nature - like a timberframe or a straw-bale home - it's quite possible that the building codes do not contain details that are critical for those structures.

  For my own project, I decided that "up to code" was not good enough.  I wanted to be sure that the structure was sound.  So I had an engineer design the foundation.  Obviously, my advice to you would be to do the same. 

Best of luck!



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By Tom in Stroudsburg, PA on 10/4/2007

Matt, I guess there is no way to have the designer fix his work? I doubt the township will accept the plan without full structural details shown. The IRC does not show structural steel as a standard construction item, therefore all non-standard portions must be signed off by a registered engineer. Looks as though you will need one anyway.

Your I beam is technically a W beam and they are spec'd like this: w16x40, w16x45, w16x50, w16x57 the second number represents the weight per foot. All four of the beams I listed fit the spec you listed within 1/2 inch. The weight is very important. It determines shear weights, deflection and loading. The engineer will need it. If you have the data for the wood beam spec'd then the following link will allow you to see if it has something in a steel equivalent


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