How to Connect Steel Beams

Written by cassandra tribe
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How to Connect Steel Beams
Each steel beam connection is designed to withstand a specific stress. (large steel girders image by Yali Shi from Fotolia.com)

Connecting steel beams requires a degree of physical fitness and expertise that can make it a difficult job for the average homeowner to undertake. The weight of the beams and the specifics of the connection are integral to the structural integrity of the building and must follow the design requirements exactly. Beams are attached either with bolts and nuts or with welded plates. Either connecting method must be done perfectly to ensure the beams and joints can withstand the stresses of the building load and shears.

Skill level:
Challenging

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Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Lifting straps
  • Lifting machine
  • Ladder
  • Safety strap and harness (if needed)
  • Bolts and nuts
  • Welder (if needed)
  • Connecting plate (if needed)
  • Spud wrench (if needed)
  • Torque gun (if needed)
  • Slag hammer (if needed)
  • Tailor's chalk (if needed)
  • Permanent marker (if needed)

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Find the centre of the beam to be lifted into place with a measuring tape and loop the lifting sling around it at that point. Pass one end of the sling through the other and pull it tight. Connect the other end of the sling to the lifting hook on the lifting machine.

  2. 2

    Get in position at the place where the beam being lifted will be connected to the other beam. Use a ladder if feasible. If the connecting point cannot be reached with a ladder, climb up to the point and use a safety belt with a strap to tie off to a main support to prevent a fall.

  3. 3

    Lift the beam up to the connecting point and tack it into place. If the connecting plate uses blots, pass one bolt through a top hole and hand thread the nut on the backside. Push the tapered end of the spud wrench through the bolt holes as a temporary means of steadying the beam while placing a bolt. Do the same on the other end of the beam. If the beam is to be welded in place, tack weld a connecting plate between the two surfaces.

  4. 4

    Connect the steel beam by either welding the vertical edges of the plate or inserting bolts through all of the available bolt holes and tightening the nuts in place with the crescent end of the spud wrench.

  5. 5

    Release the sling from the centre of the beam by crab-walking out to the centre of the beam and disconnecting it from the lifting machine.

  6. 6

    Finish the connection by torquing the nuts on the bolts with a torque gun. Use caution because the bolts will be designed to snap off flush to the face of the nut when adequately torqued, and the pieces will fly. Complete any required welds so there is no gap between the beads. Knock the slag off with a slag hammer to prepare the welds for inspection. Slag is the residue left behind by the welding process and forms a dark crust over the weld. Hitting it with chipping edge of the hammer will cause it to break free, and it can be removed easily.

Tips and warnings

  • Speed up the installation process by measuring and marking the centres of each beam to be installed while it is on the ground at one time. Use tailor's chalk to mark the beams if they will be exposed or a permanent marker if they will be hidden from sight.
  • Welds can easily fail, causing damage to the structural integrity of the building. Always have a certified inspector approve the welds before continuing onto the next phase of construction.

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