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Glulam vs Parallam Beam

Glulam vs Parallam Beam

I'm looking at both products and would like to determine whether I specify proprietary product or go to a performance spec. and give sizes and grades.  My end result will be the same it’s just that I don't want an RFI form the contractor during construction asking me to switch out one for another.  Does anyone have any thoughts or experiences with this issue?


RE: Glulam vs Parallam Beam

I have always done performance spec (size, Fb, Fv, E, and grade).  No problems from the Contractors standpoint.  My terminology on the drawings for the Parallams is "SCL" for Structural Composite Lumber.

RE: Glulam vs Parallam Beam

Spec Parralam for work with short spans and where you need the beams quickly. You can get them at a local builders yard. If you have more time and larger spans, spec glulam as they tend to be less expensive and can accomadate a greater range of loads and spans, however they are ordered from the plant and take longer to get.

RE: Glulam vs Parallam Beam

Have you considered warranty information per manufacturer regarding the "creek" effect?  

RE: Glulam vs Parallam Beam

Do you mean "creep"?

RE: Glulam vs Parallam Beam

I work for a glulam supplier and would reccomend specifying LVL or glulam. Parallam is a proprietary product produced by one manufacturer, I believe when you specify it, you increase the project costs.

My design philosophy is to specify the best product for the design application.  Parallam has high design values which work well for applications that require small highly loaded sections. So I recommend using it where you need it and not specifying it for all beam and column applications on a project.

It appears that a lot of engineers if they have a need for Parallam on part of the project they will specify it every where.  As a structural engineer I can understand why that approach is appealing.  You only have to deal with one set of design values and will be able to minimize the depth and width of your sections.

Also it may reduce your time later.  If some one submits a substitution request, you just mark it rejected and instruct the contractor to provide what was specified on the drawing.

If you are going to take the above approach however you should know what the limitation of Parallam are.  I work in Minnesota and would question the statement that Parrallam is more readly available than glulam.  I am not aware of any local lumber yards in this area who stock Parallam.  Like glulam they are order from wholesalers. Common glulam sizes are ordered from wholesalers not from the plant.   

Also one must keep in mind that Parallam is not produced in curved shapes or with camber.  While treated Parallam is available it is a specialty product.  Treated glulam is available in a wide range of sizes from any stocking glulam wholesaler,

RE: Glulam vs Parallam Beam

One thing to keep in mind with parallam is that the material swells in wet or humid conditions.  Without special manufacturing procedures to minimize it, the swelling can be as much as 8%.  If your application is highly restrained, you need to watch this.

RE: Glulam vs Parallam Beam


A Parallam, manufacturered by a well known company, is what the NDS call parallel strand lumber (PSL).  Right?  Who else makes PSL members?  I cannot find any when I search the internet.  Looks like the mfr is keeping up with anual donations to the American Wood Council.

RE: Glulam vs Parallam Beam

STRO4 is corect.  The generic name for parallam is PSL.  Properties for PSL are also listed in AASHTO.

RE: Glulam vs Parallam Beam

For "Parallam" type applications, I am willing to accept LVL's (laminated veneer lumber such as Microllam), LSL's (laminated strand lumber, such as Timber Strand), or PSL's, as long as they meet my performance spec.  All three categories fall under the broader generic category of Structural Composite Lumber, which is why on the drawings I typically show "SCL" followed by the member size.

RE: Glulam vs Parallam Beam

SCL's almost always have better stress and deflection ratings than GLB, so if you spec GLB, a equal size SCL swap is easy.  Truss Joist makes products called PSL, LVL, and LSL. When I spec them on plans, it's in reference to that specific manufacturer, with a not that any substitution requires approval by me, as they are not all created equal.

As far as avoiding RFI's go, Your best bet would be to figure out what the contractor wants and spec it. Past that, you can make them EASIER by spec'ing GLB's, and then most all SCL will have superior values (providing the camber and moisture differences are a non issue as pointed out above), or use minimum values of SCL so most anything will work.  

You can put the design values used in the plans and leave the product selection up to the contractor, but I wouldn't recommend it, since they may not know/understand all the implications of what they're looking at.

RE: Glulam vs Parallam Beam

I spec whatever my soft calc gives me (usually TrusJoist).
More often than not, GC gives plans to their lumber yard/supplier, who cross ref.s members to whatever they carry (GP, Boise, whomever)

RE: Glulam vs Parallam Beam

looking for specs on 5 1/4 x5 1/4 psl posts

RE: Glulam vs Parallam Beam

I've been in your situation often and without knowing the specifics of your project, if possible, I first recommend talking to the contractor because wood is one of those materials that can be used several different ways.  I suspect you already know this, but the contractor will almost always want to do it some other way than what you show!  If you cant talk to him, then I would do a performance type callout, and list the various general engineered pieces you'll allow...such as LVL, PSL, or gluelam.  Never ever call out a specific gluelam unless you're working directly with the manufacturer...there are many grades/combos.

RE: Glulam vs Parallam Beam

I specify LVL beams more often than glulam.  Weyerhauser's iLevel (Trusjoist) Microllam LVL or Louisiana Pacific Solidstart LVL.  Both are readily available at most lumber yards, especially Lowe's and Home Depot.  the LVL's come in 1 3/4 thickness and depths from 9 1/2 to 18" deep.  If you want a wide beam, nail or screw two or three 1 3/4" members together to get a 3 1/2" or 5 1/4" thick beam.  

I have not used or specified Parallam or LSL materials as they are not as readily available, according to the contractor's and suppliers I've worked with.  If the beam is to be exposed, I will specify a glulam.  If an LVL will not work, I use steel.

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