In the construction business, one of the main requirements is the installation of beams and columns, and while it is quite possible to do so on your own, there is no substitute for the expertise and the proper tools that professionals possess. The most basic requirements for beam and column protection are actually quite straight forward and involve the use of a variety of tools that all have a common factor – their requirements are about the same as any other type of beam or column protection. What you may need to look at is the way that these beams and columns are being placed, and the reasons that each one needs protection in the first place.
In layman’s terms, the space surrounding the structure is often referred to as the plinth protection. Often, this space is used to protect the foundation or the floor of the floor joists from moisture absorption, and many times the beam that is being bolted into these beams will be placed on top of this ‘plinth’. A typical plinth protection is accomplished by laying an approximately 100mm thick layer of dry cement on the exposed edge of the beam. When dry, the concrete will form a rigid frame around the beam that will provide the rigidity needed to hold the beam in position.
A major problem with these systems is that many people try to install them without realising the amount of force that is required to keep them in place, especially if they are being bolted to concrete walls. If the walls are wet, even if they are only slightly damp, then the combined weight of the beams can easily exceed the structural concrete strength, leading to the beam becoming loose and falling. This is why it is important to ensure that the beams and columns are fixed into the ground level with the help of a good concrete wall brace system. This is an important consideration because, even if the concrete walls are reinforced with steel beams, it still isn’t exactly a secure solution if the beams are not fixed to the earth.
These beams also tend to have a single edge along their length, which means that they are more susceptible to ‘flinging’ from adjacent beams. The typical design is to angle the beams away from the structure, but if you want a safer design, you need to ensure that the front edge of each beam is supported by concrete that is at least the same thickness as the floor slab. The problem is that the floor slab may also be subject to moisture absorption, so you also need to take this into account. A better design would involve beams that have offset centres.
If you are using masonry for the fixing of your floor level beams, then there are a number of considerations that you should make when installing masonry beams that have offset centres. First of all, the masonry that you use should have been prepared at least six months before you start to use it. This includes the setting of any slabs, as well as any raised work like recesses and niche piers that will be required once the masonry has been laid. The set time is critical because it tells you the minimum depth that the beams can be installed before your masonry is ready to collapse. The reason is that if the ground level of the floor slab moves during the installation of masonry, then you will risk damaging the masonry by exposing it to moving soil pressure.
In addition to the minimum depth of the beam, you also need to consider the minimum distance that the plinths will be from the surface of the floor. Remember that masonry always uses a space that is between the floor slab and the surface of the concrete when the slab is bolted to the concrete. The height of the plinths will depend on the height of your building, so make sure that you calculate this in the design of your chosen masonry construction. A good rule of thumb is that the distance between the masonry beams should be no more than half the height of the beam – for example, the beam four inches deep should not be more than six inches away from the concrete surface.