When Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida in September 2022, it quickly became the worst storm to hit the region in 15 years. With maximum windspeeds of 150 mph, it battered every building in its path. Most of us probably don’t appreciate it, but the stability of those buildings may have had a lot to do with tie beams.
A tie beam is a crucial construction element that provides stability to houses. Whatever the hurricane season throws at them, it helps Florida homes stand tall. And if you’re building a new home, they’re a crucial piece that holds it together.
Let’s learn more about what a tie beam is and how it can give your home strength and stability.
Defining a Tie Beam
A tie beam is a non-load bearing, horizontal beam that connects columns or rafters in a home. Without them, the internal columns in the home would start to feel gravity’s pull. They’d slowly start to lean, and your home could collapse.
Types of Tie Beams
A cross tie beam acts as a strengthener and stiffener. They keep the other structural elements in their proper positions. However, they do not actually carry a load themselves.
In addition, they are length breakers – allowing very tall columns to function as shorter columns.
Floor or Plinth Beams
Plinth beams are tie beams that provide stability at the plinth, or floor, level. They can shore up the walls and also keep soil at bay.
Lintel beams are similar to tie beams, but they break the mold by also carrying some of the load. Lintel beams bridge the gap left by windows and doorways. They spread the load above, ensuring that walls don’t collapse above these openings.
In Florida, the building code only requires the use of lintel beams. They are 8″ x 8″ precast concrete beams with a single steel bar as reinforcement. While this meets Florida hurricane codes, they do not provide the same level of stability as poured tie beams.
Tie Beam Construction
Traditionally, tie beams were made of wood, and they are still commonly used in many homes. But now, they can also be made of steel or reinforced concrete.
Florida building code requires that builders carry out some calculations to ensure the beams are up to the task. For example, Building Code 2126.96.36.199 requires that tie beams that are subject to uplift and lateral wind forces must be sized and designed to resist those forces.
Look for a home builder who futureproofs your home by building to code or, even better, exceeding it. For example, concrete tie beam design can be given extra stability by including more steel reinforcement. Lintel beams may be all that is required, but they cannot provide the stability of tie beams.
Extra reinforcement will give you peace of mind that your Florida dream home will be able to ride out the most ferocious of hurricanes.
Connecting Tie Beams and Columns
While a plinth beam may be connected directly to the floor, tie beams at higher levels require beam tie plates to hold them in place. The beams plus the tie provide the strength needed to withstand the regular load of the building. Plus, they can handle additional forces during severe storms.
Even better than using tie plates is using poured concrete tie beams that connect to the floor with down rods.
Why Tie Beams Are Needed
Single-story homes with columns of less than 15 feet may not need tie beams. Builders typically put them in when the height of the column exceeds 12 feet.
Tie beams may not take any of the vertical load of the home. But they do take some of the axial compression load.
This means that they provide stiffness to the building. They prevent columns from buckling and keep rafters in position. They’re an essential component in taller homes in areas that suffer extreme climate events.
The Benefit of Tie Beams in Southwest Florida
Tie beams are useful in areas of seismic activity. Thankfully, Florida is not a state we associate with a high risk of earthquakes. However, it is at a high risk of hurricanes.
Stability During Hurricanes
As mentioned at the outset, Hurricane Ian brought winds of 150mph. These are enough to test any structure. However, tie beams can help in hurricanes by taking some of that axial compression load.
By stiffening the structure, they give the home the rigidity it needs to withstand the battering. Using a continuous pour method provides a level of stability that exceeds building standards. That’s why the best new build homes in Florida use this construction method.
Look for a home builder that uses hurricane straps. This additional reinforcement links the roof to the tie beam, giving it greater stability during hurricanes.
Open Up Design Possibilities
Tie beams allow you to create a larger home with a second story. It can also help you to include beautiful double-height or even vaulted ceilings. This can give your home a level of grandeur that would not be possible without tie beams.
Internally, tie beams can be used to create beautiful designs. Many homeowners love the appearance of exposed, painted beams crisscrossing their ceilings. You can work with your homebuilder to create a look that you love or cover them if that’s what you prefer.
Build a Home That Will Last
When you start the process of building a new home, whether it uses tie beam construction or not probably isn’t at the forefront of your mind. Yet, it’s vital to do a little digging into construction methods so that you get a home that not only looks great but lasts a lifetime.
At Coral Isle Builders, we pride ourselves on our use of concrete tie beam construction that exceeds Florida building codes. We want the home we build you to withstand anything that the elements can throw at it!
Reach out online to learn more about how we can make your dream home a reality.