Can you alter an LVL like this?

Good evening everyone,

Can I get your opinion on whether you can alter an LVL beam to fit into a steel girder, like this?

It is not supporting many joists and the span is short. Never seen this configuration before.


Thank you

Natasha in Maryland

That is hard to say without more info. For example, we dont know if this was added after the blueprints, otherwise I’m sure the plans would have called for the steel beam to continue. Also, how do we know if there is a sufficient pad under the post at the other end if it was not in the plans?
The fact that it looks added, I would at least report it as recommending further evaluation.

It certainly looks like it could have been original, though, because something had to support those joists, so hard to say

It could be insufficiently sized, considering a third of it was cut out at the end, What is above this area? Single story? Or more?

Looks like a glulam not an LVL beam.


The beam has crush blocks beside the joists, there must be a bearing wall above?


Well, we know the “new” strength of the beam is what I have marked. However, we do not know its load. Nothing seams to terminate on top of the beam. It may have been added to reduce some bounce, to hang pipe or the thermal tank. Who knows? Was it split, cracked or sagging? We could say it was over notched, provided it is load bearing.

I would note it was over notched and may be load bearing and recommended further eval.



As well as a big a** steel beam :wink: (I agree, it probably is load bearing).

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If it is engineered lumber it should have a marking on it stating who the manufacturer is. It might also have an ICC ESR number. Either of those pieces of information will point you to the manufacturer’s usage requirements. That is who will decide if you can notch it in that manner.

…more weight added.

I would refer it out but it is probably not correctly installed…IMHO


Looks like a good ol fashion built-beam to me from here in Atlanta. Maybe I see horizontal lines (Glulam)? I am not sure.

I do see this line…


Good eye, Brian…hard to tell from N. MI through a picture.

They allso probably notched out the wood beam for the web in the steel beam weakening the wood beam even more?


Good catch. This installation is awful and there is no way to sugar coat it. Looks like LVLs to me. If you look at the generic LVL notching guideline from the APA, only 1/10th of the depth of the LVL is allowed to be notched at the end. If you look at either weyerhaeuser or boise cascade guidelines, two of the largest engineered wood products manufacturers, no notching is allowed at the ends on their LVLs. Engineered lumber tend to be fairly similar in what is allowed and what isn’t with regards to notching/holes, so notching 1/4 to 1/3 of the depth at the end is not likely going to fly no matter who is the actual manufacturer of this LVL.

From what is visible, this double LVL appears to be a center girder carrying I-joists running from the front and back of the picture. The squash blocks beside the I-joists can indicate there is a bearing wall above this double LVL girder. Also, notice that another double LVL beam is at the top right area of the picture running perpendicular to this center girder and stops on this central girder, which can indicate another bearing wall above or point load that is being transferred to this center girder.

How big of an issue this improper installation is will depend on what is actually being carried by this girder and the loads involved, but it sure doesn’t look good so far. This installation should be referred out to a structural engineer.

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It looks like two individual pieces from CO. Looking at the bottom anyway. If it was a single chunk of wood or glue lam/LVL or whatever, the carpenter that installed it spent a lot of time and energy to create a rediculously deep mortice to fit around the web of the steel I-beam. I bet that center web is 3/16" to 1/4" thick.

Also, looking at the right side of the picture, it looks like the end of the beam is resting on a single stud, but can’t really tell for sure. Looks like the wall on the right is to the staircase leading from basement to main level…

Natasha, can you provide other pictures of these areas?


Something else to consider, what’s with the dimensional lumber used for a sistered joist (red)? The rest of the joists are TGI (green)… A modification to an existing floor structure??? Or an attempted repair?

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Which is even more odd. What carpenter would expect this beam to carry much more than it’s own weight after all that whittling?

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That (red) is not a sistered joist. That is a LVL, your big arrow covered the knot hole on the outer lamination of that LVL.


If that beam is an LVL, as ugly as its installation is, it is supporting only three floor joists. The excessive notching probably is not a structural issue for that short span. Function, it probably is ok. Call it good (ugly) or refer it out to a licensed contractor, not an engineer.

To add, typically the I joist squash blocking above the beam is required to be installed at that location. The squash block has nothing to do with a wall above.

I’d say LVL. Typically, LVL’s are darker and glulams are lighter.



Technically only two. The third is sitting on the wall.

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I would use the total lvl beam depth minus the amount of the lower notch for a design check for bending and the depth of the lvl between the upper and lower flanges for a shear check. If the remaining design strength is twice as much as needed I would probably let it go, otherwise repair or replace.


You are wearing the home inspector hat. Not a contractor hat. The good thing about being the home inspector is your job is to alert the buyers of the modification and to defer it to a licensed professional to further evaluate. Dont sit around and act like youre a contractor. You can opine but dont dig a whole and move on. Not our job to tell them if it is done properly.

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