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Cutting a notch into rafters to push LVLs into the ceiling?

8 years ago

We have a load-bearing wall we'd like to remove. We were told by a (seemingly highly experienced) contractor that the LVLs for that span need to be 16" wide. (He called the lumber yard from our house to confirm.) That width is unacceptable to us, because are ceilings are already relatively low (7.5 ft). When I asked whether a steel beam was an option, he said it would be extremely heavy and nearly impossible to maneuver into place. The only realistic option to covering that span with a less-visible beam would be to cut a 7.5 inch notch or "pocket" into the rafters, and then slide the LVLs up into the notch, so that only 8.5 inches of them is visible. That would look fine, to us. But ...

The only problem for us is that his estimate came significantly higher than the other quotes. He said because of the complexity of this "notching out" solution ... definitely true to an extent, but probably also higher because he just plain charges more. Two other contractors we spoke to before him never even mentioned this solution; they only said there could be LVL or steel options, depending on what the lumber yard could spec out; and they never hinted the steel option would be unworkable. How do I make sense of this?

The expensive guy seems to really know his stuff (or possibly just good at acting like he does?). I'm afraid that if I went with one of the other two cheaper estimates, that they those contractors would eventually come to the same conclusion, but then might not be comfortable/competent at the job of pushing the LVLs partially into the ceiling.

Am I justified in my concern about going with one of the less expensive estimates? Given a structural engineer's plan, could just any contractor competently execute on this notching out solution? Or is this a job that really requires paying a premium for someone who really knows what they're doing?

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