As a company that specializes in custom cabinets and kitchens, Lewis & Weldon Custom Builders in Hyannis, Mass., sometimes finds itself taking a detour to installation. On a sales call last fall, project manager Jason Cox commented on a structural beam running the length of the great-room ceiling. The clients agreed that it was visually distracting and would detract from the look of their new kitchen. The LVL beam had been installed in an earlier remodel to replace structural partitions supporting the second floor. Since Cox knew that a flush steel beam could do the job just as well — but invisibly — he offered to include the swap-out in the contract. It clinched the sale. For the building permit, he furnished load calculations for a 22-foot-long W8x21 I-beam, referencing prescriptive charts from the American Institute of Steel Construction.

The crew built temporary support walls on both sides of the existing beam and then cut it free of the joists. They snapped lines to the width of the new beam, allowing a 1/8-inch tolerance to ease its installation, then used a recip saw to cut the joists and hangers free. They tore out the supporting posts at each end, and the ceiling was ready...

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