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Aluminum Joists & Beams

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[#1] Posted: 11/05/2010 - 2:06:02 PM
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It must be pretty rare. In 24 years of full-time inspectin' I've only seen it twice. I remember reading about it in the early-mid '70s but it doesn't seem to have caught on. I haven't seen it addressed in any codes either.

Anyone else have experience with aluminum framing (in a building, not a truck trailer)?

Bill Kibbel, Historic & Commercial Building Inspections - Old House Resources
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[#2] Posted: 11/05/2010 - 3:46:24 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Bill Kibbel

It must be pretty rare. In 24 years of full-time inspectin' I've only seen it twice. I remember reading about it in the early-mid '70s but it doesn't seem to have caught on. I haven't seen it addressed in any codes either.

Anyone else have experience with aluminum framing (in a building, not a truck trailer)?


Never seen it. What's the point?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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[#3] Posted: 11/05/2010 - 4:02:36 PM
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In the late 60's, Ryan Homes had a fairly large tract build-out in the Rochester, NY suburbs. Three of the homes were framed with all aluminum and steel--touted as the "future" for residential construction, never heard much about them after the fact. Homes are still there, and except to HI's poking around them, are pretty much indistinguishable from their neighbors.
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[#4] Posted: 11/05/2010 - 5:12:32 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Jim Katen



Never seen it. What's the point?

- Jim Katen, Oregon
The point is I have very, very little experience with aluminum I-joists and beams and I have found no published standards. I was hoping some folks here could share any knowledge or experience.

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[#5] Posted: 11/06/2010 - 12:14:43 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by Bill Kibbel

Quote: Originally posted by Jim Katen



Never seen it. What's the point?

- Jim Katen, Oregon
The point is I have very, very little experience with aluminum I-joists and beams and I have found no published standards. I was hoping some folks here could share any knowledge or experience.


No, no, I mean what's the point of framing a house with aluminum?

I can see some logic in framing with steel. But aluminum is much more expensive than steel, performs much more poorly in fire, and size-for-size, is considerably weaker. The only advantage is that it's light. That's good for, say, an airplane, but who cares about the weight of a house?

There must be some upside if someone spent the time & effort on it. What is it?

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[#6] Posted: 11/06/2010 - 05:04:32 AM
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There were a lot of steel and aluminum manufacturers and fabricators that were still looking for places to put their products after WWII.

Lustron homes and Grumman canoes are an example.

Maybe it was someone looking to expand market....(?).


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[#7] Posted: 11/06/2010 - 10:22:21 AM
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I'd be scared of the fatigue life of aluminum.

Matt

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[#8] Posted: 11/06/2010 - 11:09:35 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by kurt

There were a lot of steel and aluminum manufacturers and fabricators that were still looking for places to put their products after WWII.

Lustron homes and Grumman canoes are an example.

Maybe it was someone looking to expand market....(?).


Lustron homes made some sense -- not much, but some. Steel is a good product for home construction, just not for every part of the home.

Aluminum canoes make sense. The light weight and resistance to corrosion are important in a canoe.

I just don't see any advantage to using aluminum beams or joists in a house. It seems like a really bad material choice.

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[#9] Posted: 11/06/2010 - 4:20:34 PM
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I wasn't saying it was smart; it's goofy. It was just an idea for why someone may have used it. There's more than a few products that have come and gone simply because someone thought it was a good idea but didn't think through much beyond that.

As far as canoes, yes, it forms a canoe shaped thing that goes through the water, albeit with loud booming and banging sounds that warn fish and game some human is coming. It's also interesting to watch one get swamped in a rapids and see it get wrapped around a snag or rock.

Then, aluminum canoes don't seem like such a good idea either.


Kurt in Chicago

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[#10] Posted: 11/06/2010 - 5:27:02 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by kurt


I wasn't saying it was smart; it's goofy. It was just an idea for why someone may have used it. There's more than a few products that have come and gone simply because someone thought it was a good idea but didn't think through much beyond that.

As far as canoes, yes, it forms a canoe shaped thing that goes through the water, albeit with loud booming and banging sounds that warn fish and game some human is coming. It's also interesting to watch one get swamped in a rapids and see it get wrapped around a snag or rock.

Then, aluminum canoes don't seem like such a good idea either.




And I can tell you from experience that they get really cold in winter.

Well, I guess they don't get any colder than wood. But they *feel* colder.

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[#11] Posted: 11/06/2010 - 5:43:31 PM
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The conductive heat transfer coefficient of Aluminum is ~120 BTU/hr-ft-F while wood has a coefficent of around 0.2 That is a factor of 600. Your flesh against that 32F Aluminum canoe is sucking the BTUs out of you like right now compared to wood.
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[#12] Posted: 11/06/2010 - 5:52:48 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by rjbrown2

The conductive heat transfer coefficient of Aluminum is ~120 BTU/hr-ft-F while wood has a coefficent of around 0.2 That is a factor of 600. Your flesh against that 32F Aluminum canoe is sucking the BTUs out of you like right now compared to wood.


Well that explains it, then.

And it explains another reason why aluminum would make for a poor house-framing material, at least in my climate.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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[#13] Posted: 11/06/2010 - 8:22:10 PM
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I never thought about that part, but Lordy yes....the thing would be like a multi-finned radiator.


Kurt in Chicago

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[#14] Posted: 11/13/2010 - 9:17:50 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by kurt

There were a lot of steel and aluminum manufacturers and fabricators that were still looking for places to put their products after WWII.

Lustron homes and Grumman canoes are an example.

Maybe it was someone looking to expand market....(?).


Interesting follow up:

Turner Classic Movies is doing a Teresa Wright retrospective and I just caught The Best Years of Our Lives.

There's a very moving scene near the end where Dana Andrews wanders into an enormous aircraft boneyard, climbs into the nose of a B-17, and relives his combat experiences. The foreman of the salvage crew interrupts his reverie and explains that the planes are being broken up to be turned into prefab housing.

You can see the scene here: http://www.youtube.com/v/tU0d3DVcKoY

If you haven't seen the movie in a few years, it's worth watching again, if only for the the photography, which was really very good. Teresa Wright & Myrna Loy are always worth watching as well.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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[#15] Posted: 11/14/2010 - 3:10:08 PM
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Maybe some of that "stuff" was going to build a Dymaxion House, http://www.tslr.net/2007/12/bu...ion.html .



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