We all know what happens when you put an addition on a home and
what once was an exterior bearing wall ends up in the middle of
the room: You either drop a beam below the ceiling or, if you
have the space (and the budget), you retrofit a flush beam up
into the ceiling (below).
Here's another simple solution that you might consider when it
fits: Use a special-order girder truss designed (often for
free, by the truss company) to carry the loads.
In the project shown above, the existing drywall ceiling stops
where the exterior wall used to be. The old joists and rafters,
visible just beyond the edge of the drywall, originally landed
on the wall. But instead of a beam, which would have dropped
below the ceiling, the remodeler installed the girder truss.
Note that because it tapers at the end — like any roof
truss — it can fit in the short space at the eaves where
a beam might not fit. It's lighter than a solid beam would have
been, too, making the lifting a little easier. —
Outdoor Detourby David
Recently, some clients called to ask about having a home
theater installed in the unfinished attic of their beautifully
furnished home. I immediately pictured my crew tromping through
the house and up the stairs, hauling tools and materials up and
down for several weeks, and knew if I weren't careful I'd have
a public relations disaster on my hands.
The idea I came up with to avoid this scenario was a temporary
three-story staircase  built on top of the exterior deck and
leading up through a new window opening retrofitted in the
attic's shed dormer wall. I sketched it out and calculated the
materials and labor it would require — about $3,000
— and included it as a line item in my estimate. My
clients were impressed and quickly accepted the concept and the
cost, and my crew went to work.
We used LVL for the stringers and 2x12s for the treads, which
rested on nailed-on cleats. Two-by-four handrails provided
security on both sides. The upper stair rested against a level
work platform built on the roof in front of the new opening;
the platform was protected by a plywood guard rail .
A shorter flight of stairs led down from the window sill into
the attic space . The stairs took a two-man crew two days to
build, but I know I saved more than that in time that otherwise
would have been spent protecting surfaces and negotiating bulky
materials through the interior of the house.
On the downside, we had to haul all our materials, tools, and
cabinets to the back of the house and up the stairs. To keep my
regular crew productive, I hired day laborers to do the heavy
hauling, and brought them back again to load the blue board
once it was time for plaster.
At the end of the job, we installed the window in the opening
we'd been using for access, then dismantled the stair. We ended
on schedule, with my clients very appreciative that no worker
ever had to set foot in the main part of the house.owns Meadowview Construction in