It’s possible that your garage ceiling is a lot more valuable and a lot more useful to you than you ever realized. For the most part, it just hangs there above your vehicles and work space, and you may never have given it a second thought, but the fact is you could be using that empty space for all sorts of storage.
Exactly how much weight can you suspend below your garage ceiling? In this article, we help you understand how to determine just how much weight your garage ceiling can hold. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
How Much Weight Can I Hang From My Garage Ceiling?
Adding overhead storage to our garage is an excellent way to get more space. Before you do this, you must carefully determine exactly how much weight you can safely hang from your garage ceiling. To do this, you’ll have to take into account the way in which your home was constructed.
You should also consult the International Residential Code (IRC), which states that the lower level ceilings found in homes consisting of several stories must not be required to support a constant load in excess of twenty pounds per square foot.
This includes the weight of any flooring in place above the ceiling. Additionally, this sort of ceiling may support a live load of thirty pounds per square foot.
The weight rating in a single story structure is different. It is typically designed to carry a constant load of no more than five pounds per square foot and a live load of no more than ten pounds per square foot.
Additionally, the span, size and grade of the joists, along with the type of lumber used to construct them must be taken into account when determining maximum weight load of a ceiling.
For example, in a home that has an attached garage with a living space above it, you would have floor joists that support that living space instead of ceiling joists. This is a good thing because floor joists are stronger than ceiling joists.
How to Strengthen Garage Ceiling for Storage – Home Remodeling
The Type Of Garage Ceiling You Have Makes A Big Difference
In standard construction a roof is typically designed in a pyramid or triangle shape. In old style construction, this shape was typically supported by rafters, but now trusses are used instead of rafters.
The difference is that trusses (aka: truss webs) consist of multiple triangles interconnected. This method imparts structural strength with a thrifty use of building materials.
If you have a combination of floor joists and ceiling trusses, you’ll find that the drywall that is typically used for ceilings is attached to the bottom beams, and the plywood that is typically used for sub floor is attached to the top beams. This results in an even distribution of the weight of the flooring.
The difference between trusses and floor joists is that floor joists are typically large beams that run parallel to one another at a distance of sixteen inches apart.
These joists have the support of load bearing walls and wall studs, so they can support the weight of a second story on a home, and they can support the weight of furnishings and inhabitants of the home.
Even so, a joist does not have the consistent support you find in trusses. This is why load bearing walls are put in place to help support joists.
If you are working with joists, you have to remember that they can bear more weight around the perimeters of the structure than in the center. This is why older homes often have sagging ceilings in the middle. Long expanses of joists must work against the forces of gravity and time.
This sort of construction supports a maximum of forty pounds per square foot (not taking into account any weight resting upon the flooring).
You would need to count the weight of any furnishings in the room above when determining just how much weight you can suspend from your garage ceiling below.
The differences between detached, attached, old construction, new construction, multi-story and single story construction are significant.
If you have old construction rafters or ceiling joists in your garage, you are best off adding storage around the perimeter and leaving the center open. Before you do this, though, you should check to be sure that the rafters/joists are supported by the wall studs.
In a single story, modern home you are likely to find ceiling trusses in the garage and diagonal beams that are spread far apart. This means that the ceiling construction is not quite as strong as you would find in an old fashioned garage with rafter or joists or in an attached garage with floor joists above.
Trusses only need to hold the roof up above the structure. They are not intended to support weight above or below. For this reason, if you just have trusses above your garage, you should not try to suspend any weight from your garage ceiling.
The lower support beam (aka: chords) are not meant to bear any more weight than that of the lighting fixtures, the drywall and the roof itself. Adding anything at all to that could result in damage.
How Do You Safely Install Overhead Storage In A Garage With Sturdy Rafters Or Overhead Floor Joists?
- Create a system or network of storage. If you have determined that you can install some overhead storage in your garage, you should be sure to spread the weight evenly. If you have a big, heavy object to suspend, use a network of pulleys and cables or install a shelf that spans several rafters or joists to support the item.
- Understand and utilize the structure of your garage. Never rely on a single rafter or joist to support a great deal of weight, and make use of the support of the wall studs whenever you can. If you are buying pre-made overhead storage racks, look for the sort that mounts to the wall studs and to the joist so that your valuable stored items are not just dangling loosely above your valuable vehicle.
- Less weight is always safer. Never push the limits when storing items overhead. Any pre-made overhead storage rack you purchase will come with weight limit information. Take it seriously. This information tells you the amount of weight the product can carry up to the breaking point. Keep the load you apply well below that breaking point.
- Weigh everything. When determining how much weight you can add to your garage ceiling, remember to take everything into account. You must weigh the lights, drywall, garage door track, any hoists you plan to install, storage racks and the items you plan to store.
- Consult professionals. Remember to also keep in mind the amount of load your ceiling may be able to handle according to the IRC. Take your individual circumstances into consideration, and always load lightly. If in doubt, consult a structural engineer.
Although these professionals charge as much as $500 an hour, it’s an investment well worth it if you are in doubt regarding the amount of weight you can safely suspend from your garage ceiling.
A structural engineer can examine the construction of your garage and let you know precisely how much weight its ceiling can support.
This could save you a great deal of money in damages and repairs in the future, and it may mean the difference between having an insurance claim accepted or denied.