While using exterior LVL beams for decks is still quite unheard of, LVL itself is definitely not a new material as it is already commonly used for interior and covered building constructions—including columns, rim boards, and headers—for a while now. What makes it appealing is that it’s formed to engineered specs in the manufacturing plant. It provides consistent strength and widths, not to mention eliminating twisting and shrinkage usually found in more conventionally grown lumber.
Before 2019, steel frame is the only available option for deck construction that’s as flat as the interior floor. While it is not a bad option, considering that the material usually comes with 30-50 years warranties, the catch lies in the 30% higher cost and limited options of design.
Using LVL beams outside is gradually becoming more common today. It involves giving pressure treatment to the LVL so the professional deck constructer can get rid of prospective waviness that may occur in traditional, forest-grown lumber.
So, what is LVL actually? Laminated veneer lumber is amongst the most broadly utilized engineered wood products for construction purpose. It’s a composite material made of several thin veneer layers arranged in alignment with the finished lumber’s length.
As mentioned before, LVL has an advantageous characteristic of eliminating minor unruly waviness that may happen, even on thoroughly built decks. More significant benefits of using exterior LVL beams for decks are its excellent strength, shape, dimension, and affordability. LVL size is not restricted by lumber size because of its engineered manufacturing method.
LVL is amongst the most solid materials for construction based on woods in proportion to its density. As it’s build with consistent quality, the chance of defects can be predicted and minimized. Generally, LVL can be made into various shapes based on what it is going to be used for. Moreover, using engineered woods like LVL also means wood resources are used more efficiently.
Majority of modern PVS and composite deck boards are reaching the 50 years warranty, some even more. So, it only makes sense to also assemble a long-lasting frame to put them over that has similar lifetime expectancy.
While it’s hard to find better option for deck framing than LVL, it comes with a catch: it costs quite a lot. In average, it requires homeowners to put 10% more cost. However, considering the longevity and warranty that it provides to the present-day PVC and composite deck boards, the 10% increased cost required to get the exterior LVL beams for decks might be justified.