Download PDF version (148.2k) Log In or Register to view the full article as a PDF document.
Q.When I need a 6x6 deck post, I usually assemble a built-up column from three 2x6s. Is this kind of post equal in strength to a 6x6?

A.Frank Woeste, P.E., professor of wood construction and engineering at Virginia Tech, responds: The built-up post you describe may be as strong as the 6x6, depending upon the grade and species of the lumber, and how the 2x6s are nailed together. Assuming the post and 2x6s are No. 2 Southern Pine, the nailing used to laminate the three 2x6s is the main issue in determining if three pieces of 2x6 will replace the 6x6 post.

When the deck column is loaded, the nails or screws slip or give slightly, allowing the column to start bowing. If the nailing is inadequate, the bowing will continue and the capacity of the deck column is reduced. Even when such a column is assembled in accordance with rigorous National Design Specification for Wood Construction (NDS) provisions (using 30d common nails 8 inches on center and staggered 2 1/2 inches), its bearing capacity is reduced 40% from a solid-sawn column of the same size (4 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches) having identical lumber properties.

In summary, substituting a post made of laminated 2-by material for a solid-sawn post in a free-standing application (such as a deck post) is not recommended without an in-depth analysis based on the NDS column provisions.