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Construction Industry/Ceiling load calculation


I recently had a 60' x 40' pole shed built. I am currently constructing an apartment inside of it, roughly 800 sq ft. I have erected all of the interior and exterior walls using 10' 22 guage metal framing studs. I was originally going to install the drywall ceiling on the trusses used to frame the roof of the pole building was told that they would rise and fall significantly with season changes and would deteriorate my ceiling over time. I have therefore opted to build a ceiling on the metal framing that I have erected. My main concern is the living area. It measures roughly 19' x 21'with no interior wall to break up the span. I have a 2 x 6 wall that separates the garage from the apartment and then all of the other exterior walls are framed within the existing framing of the pole barn exterior walls with 10' 2 x 4's.  I am considering using a 3" x 11" laminate beam to span the 19' and support it on 3 wood 2 x 4's. My question is about the ceiling joists that will span from the outside walls to the beam. If they are 16" on center resting above the wall studs do you think the metal studs will carry the weight of this framing along with the drywall. Also should I use wood for the joists or can I use more metal framing, and if I use the metal framing what gauge would you recommend? I hope all that made sense.

Hello John,

Please excuse my delay in responding.  The holidays are time consuming.

As to your building:  I have used all kinds of materials for partitions, walls, ceilings, etc. and I prefer wood.  It is the easiest to modify or shape  and has sufficient strength to support most conditions.  Metal, although lighter, requires self-tapping screw attachments or the members must be pre-drilled in order to assemble framing.  

Assuming the laminate beam is of sufficient strength to span 19' I would recommend using two beams which will reduce the 21' span to approximately 10' which can be spanned with a 2"x 8" wood joist.  Check on the Internet for the recommended size of steel stud for a ceiling joist.  The shape and gauge will determine the proper steel stud for this application.

If you had an Architect or Engineer prepare your working drawings, they would specify the proper member to be used and the method of attachment. I suggest you have your drawings reviewed by a Structural Engineer to ensure the safety of your framing.  The cost would be nominal compared to the cost if you were to have a joist failure.

I hope this has been helpful.


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Roger Zona


I am experienced in all types of construction: residential, industrial and commercial; single family, multi-family, mid-rise and high rise buildings (16 story office building) as well as remodeling, additions and tenant improvements. I can field most any question that relates to general construction. I have consulted with infrastructure (utility) contractors also and have a good general knowledge of underground utility construction for subdivisions and commercial projects.


After college, I began my career in the construction industry. I chose to become an apprentice Architect and 4 yrs later I opened my own architectural design firm. Six years later I moved to Florida to buy & develop land and build. I became a State of Florida Certified General Contractor and operated my business for 45 years. I built all types of residential and commercial buildings including warehouses, shopping centers, high rise apartments and office buildings and developed sites for other contractors. I retired and became a consultant to the construction industry. I maintain my license and continuing education requirements, operate a small construction company and write a weekly newspaper column for the Palm Beach Post (a Cox publication) with the byline "Ask The Contractor". I am the "technical editor" for a publisher of books that relate to home maintenance.

Previously - NAHA Currently - FLCA (Florida Licensed Contractors Assoc.)

Palm Beach Post newspaper - weekly Q & A column Happy Herald monthly real estate publication - monthly column

Michigan State University University of Detroit BS in Engineering

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I built a home in Palm Beach for a member of the Pulitzer Family. I was responsible for the completion of a twin hi-rise condominium project for G.E. Credit. I was a partner in the successful development of a P.U.D. (Planned Urban Development) subdivision. I represented the largest home builder from France (Bati Service, S.A.) in the development of a subdivision and the design and construction of the homes.

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