Title:
Brace system for vertical beams
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides an apparatus and method to selectively adjust and temporarily retain a vertical beam in a desired position quickly and with a high accuracy, while not damaging an outer surface of the beam.



Inventors:
Leslie, William M. (Lynnwood, WA, US)
Application Number:
10/918696
Publication Date:
04/07/2005
Filing Date:
08/13/2004
Assignee:
LESLIE WILLIAM M.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H12/20; E04C3/02; (IPC1-7): E04C3/02; E04H12/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LAUX, JESSICA L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SEED INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW GROUP LLP (SEATTLE, WA, US)
Claims:
1. A brace assembly to selectively adjust and temporarily retain the position of a vertical beam, the brace assembly comprising: a first head bracket and a second head bracket, each of the first and the second head bracket having an opening; a first and a second fastening rod, each of the first and the second fastening rods extending through the respective opening of each of the first and the second head brackets; an adjustable locking system connectable to each of the first and second fastening rods for fastening the first and second head brackets to each other; and a bracing rod having a first end coupled to the first head bracket.

2. The brace assembly according to claim 1 wherein the first head bracket is positionable on a first side of the beam and the second head fastening rod is positionable on a second side of the beam; and wherein the first and the second fastening rods are capable of retaining each of the first and the second head bracket in a state of compression when the beam is positioned between the first and the second head bracket and the adjustable locking system is engaged.

3. The brace assembly according to claim 1 wherein the adjustable locking system comprises a retaining nut.

4. The brace assembly according to claim 1 wherein the adjustable locking system comprises a cam lock.

5. The brace assembly according to claim 1 wherein the first end of the bracing rod is welded to the first head bracket.

6. The brace assembly according to claim 1 further including: a turnbuckle coupled to the first bracing rod.

7. The brace assembly according to claim 1 further including: a floor coupled to the second end of the bracing rod.

8. The brace assembly according to claim 7 further including: a first hole extending through the second end of the bracing rod; and a coupling member of the floor bracing assembly being configured to receive and couple to the second end of the bracing rod.

9. The brace assembly according to claim 8 wherein the coupling member of the adjustable floor bracing system includes: a first flange with a second hole; a second flange with a third hole, the first and second flange being spaced a distance from each other for the second end of the bracing rod to be positioned between the first and the second flange; and a retainer pin for inserting through the second hole of the first flange, the third hole of the second flange, and the first hole of the bracing rod to pivotally couple the second end of the bracing rod to the floor bracing assembly.

10. The brace assembly according to claim 7 further including: a retractable pin positioned at the second end of the bracing rod, the retractable pin having a retracted position and an extended position and being connectable to a receiving member of the adjustable floor bracing system.

11. The brace assembly according to claim 10 wherein the receiving member of the adjustable floor bracing system has a first flange with a first hole spaced apart from a second flange with a second hole, the bottom portion of the bracing rod being positionable between the first and the second flange when the retractable pin is in the inward position; and wherein the bracing rod is pivotally movable across a horizontal axis of the retractable pin when the retractable pin is in the outward position.

12. A brace assembly to selectively adjust and temporarily retain the position of a vertical beam, the brace assembly comprising: a means for retaining a top portion of the beam between a first head bracket and a second head bracket; and a means for adjustably connecting the first head bracket to a rigid structure.

13. A method of using a brace system to adjust and temporarily retain the position of a vertical beam, the method comprising: positioning a first head bracket and a second head bracket on opposing sides of the vertical beam; coupling the first head bracket to the second head bracket; and coupling the first head bracket to a rigid structure with an adjustable bracing rod.

14. The method according to claim 13, further comprising: positioning a protective material between each of the first and the second head bracket and the beam to protect an outer surface of the beam from marring.

15. The method according to claim 13, further comprising: adjusting the angle of a second end of the first bracing rod connected to the rigid structure.

16. The method according to claim 15, further comprising: adjusting the length of the first bracing rod with a turnbuckle.

17. The method according to claim 13, further comprising: positioning a third head bracket and a forth head bracket on opposing sides of the vertical beam; coupling the third head bracket to the fourth head bracket; and coupling the third head bracket to a rigid structure with an adjustable second bracing rod.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to bracing of vertical beams in the construction industry.

2. Description of the Related Art

In the construction industry, vertical beams are used to support structural elements of a building such as walls, floors and trusses. Prior to permanently connecting the surrounding structural elements that a vertical beam is intended to support, it must be plumbed. Obtaining a true vertical orientation is important to the structural integrity of the overall final building or structure.

FIG. 1 shows a prior art brace system 10 commonly used to plumb a beam 12. The brace 10 has a top rod 11 and a bottom rod 13. Fastener plates 14 and 16 are coupled to the respective top and bottom rods 11, 13, usually at a predetermined angle, typically 45°. In use, construction workers typically fasten the plate 14 to the beam 12 and the plate 16 to a floor 18 of the construction project, or into a wooden block (not shown) which is mounted to the floor 18. Turnbuckles 20 are used to either shorten or extend the length of the brace 10 and thereby plumb the beam 12, namely, straighten the beam, so it is exactly vertical in all directions.

The brace 10 is fastened using any acceptable technique to the worker that is compatible with the beam 12 and the floor 18. For example, if the beam 12 is made of wood, the plate 14 is usually nailed or set with screws into the beam 12. If the beam is made of metal, the plate 14 is welded to the beam 12. If it is made of other materials, then other techniques are used, under the selection of the worker who has the task of plumbing the beams 12.

Once the brace 10 is affixed to the beam 12 and to the floor 18 as described above, and the length of the brace 10 can be adjusted, via the turnbuckles 20, to position the beam 12 in a desired vertical position. The brace 10 remains in place to retain the beam 12 until construction workers have had an opportunity to permanently connect the structural elements supported by the vertical beam 12. Often times, however, due to weather or construction project scheduling needs, it may be a number of days or even weeks after the brace 10 has been installed before workers permanently attach the remaining structural elements supported by the beam 12 to hold it fixed in the correct position so that the temporary braces may be removed. During this time, other work taking place near the construction site may disturb the vertical orientation of the beam 12. Thus, it may be necessary to further adjust the vertical orientation of the beam 12 by turning the turnbuckles 20 and/or by changing the location at which the bottom portion 13 of the brace 10 is adhered to the floor 18. After the structural elements attaching to the beam are securely fastened, the brace 10 used to plumb the beam 12 is removed.

The prior art brace 10 has several disadvantages. First, it is time consuming and costly to install. For example, when the beam 12 is made of steel, welders are often subcontracted and summoned to the construction site to weld or bond the plate 14 to the top portion of the beam 12. Hiring additional skilled laborers costs money, takes time to schedule and perform the work, and often causes project timeline delays.

Second, welding, nailing, or otherwise fastening the brace 10 to the top portion of the beam 12 leaves holes and weld marks in the outer surface of the beam 12. Often times, very expensive and aesthetically beautiful pieces of wood or steel columns are used in construction projects, and the architectural design of the overall project is such that the top portion of the beam 12 is intended to remain visually exposed throughout the life of the finished project. Thus, holes and weld marks on the outer surface of the beam 12 are undesirable as they detract from the overall beauty of the beam.

Third, due to the rigid top and bottom portions 11, 13 of the brace 10, a miscalculation during a first installation attempt can result in a situation where the top portion 11 of the brace is welded or nailed too high on the beam 12 such that the bottom portion 13 of the brace 10 cannot be securely fastened to floor 18 without the use of a shim, or without requiring that the top portion 11 of the brace be repositioned.

Yet another shortcoming is that the brace 10 is fastened according to the skill and care of the individual worker assigned to the task. Some workers may not take proper care in the task or may mar a high quality beam. Other workers must then repair the beam or replumb the beam because the first worker did not have sufficient skill or training for the task, or did not take sufficient care.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides an apparatus and method to selectively adjust and temporarily retain a vertical beam in a desired position quickly and with a high accuracy, while not damaging an outer surface of the beam.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a prior art brace system commonly used to plumb a beam;

FIG. 2 is an isometric view of one embodiment of a system to plumb and temporarily retain the position of a vertical beam according to the present invention;

FIG. 3 is an enlarged isometric view of the portion indicated with a 3 from FIG. 2;

FIGS. 4 and 5 are enlarged isometric views of the region indicated with a 4, 5 from FIG. 2.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 2 shows one embodiment of a bracing system 50 to plumb and temporarily retain the position of a vertical beam 52. A first brace assembly 54 is used to adjust and retain the vertical orientation of the beam 52 in the “x” direction and thereby plumb the beam 52 in that direction, and a second brace assembly 56 is used to adjust and retain the vertical orientation of the beam of the beam in the “z” direction and thereby plumb the beam 52 in that direction.

The brace assembly 54 includes a bracing rod 58 and a clamp assembly 65. The clamp assembly 65 includes head brackets 66, 68 and fastening rods 70, 72.

The brace assembly 54 also includes a floor plate 16 coupled to the bracing rod for connecting the bracing rod to the floor 59.

In operation, the beam 52 can be plumbed in the “x” direction by making adjustments to the bracing rod 58 of the first brace assembly 54, and plumbed in the “z” direction by making adjustments to the bracing rod 60 of the second brace assembly 56. Adjustments can be made to the respective bracing rod 58, 60 of each of the first and the second brace assembly 54, 56 by (1) changing the length of the bracing rod 58, 60 (2) pivoting a bottom portion 58a, 60a of the bracing rod to change the angle α between the each bracing rod 58, 60 and a floor 59, or (3) by changing both the length of the bracing rod 58, 60 and pivoting the bracing rod 58, 60.

Turnbuckles allow a user to increase the length of a rod by turning the turnbuckle 62 in a first direction, and to shorten the length of a rod by turning the turnbuckle 62 in a second direction. In the present invention, turnbuckles 62 can be used to selectively increase the length of the bracing rod 58, 60 and thereby push the top of the beam 52 further away from the point where each bracing rod 58, 60 is anchored to the floor 59, and to selectively decrease the length of the bracing rod 58, 60 and thereby pull the top of the beam 52 further toward the point where each bracing rod 58, 60 is anchored to the floor 59.

In a first embodiment, the plate 16 for coupling to the floor 59 includes an angled portion at a 45° angle and the rod 60 has a bottom portion 60a coupled to the floor plate 16 with a rigid 45° connection. This may be done by welding, clamping, or any other technique currently used in and acceptable in the prior art. Since the base plate angle is set at 45°, the location for clamping the clamp assembly 61 and the length of the rod 60 are selected in order to assure a vertically oriented beam 52 that is plumb in the desired direction. In FIG. 2, the base plate 16 is shown only for one of the bracing assemblies, however, it will be understood that commonly the same style of base plate would be used for both assemblies, whether a preset 45° angle or a variable angle α as will now be explained.

In an alternative embodiment the angle of the bracing rod 58 can be also adjusted by pivoting the bottom portion 58a of the bracing rod to change the angle α between the bottom portion 58a of each bracing rod 58 and the floor 59. For example, when it is desired to move the top of the beam 52 closer to the point where the bracing rod 58 is anchored to the floor 59, this is done by increasing the angle α of the bracing rod 58. When it is desired to move the top of the beam 52 further away from the point where bracing rod 58 is anchored to the floor 59, this is done by decreasing the angle α of bracing rod 58. An adjustable floor bracing system 64 is used to increase or decrease the angle α of bracing rod 58, and various embodiments for such a design are discussed further below with respect to FIGS. 4 and 5. Both the angle and the length can be changed at the same time, indeed, changing the length will often cause a slight change in the angle. With the rigid base plate 16 preset at 45°, there will be no change in angle or only a very slight change as force is placed on the rigid connection.

As shown in FIG. 3, the clamp assembly 65 includes head brackets 66, 68 and fastening rods 70, 72. The first brace assembly 54 is positioned with respect to the beam 52. The first clamp assembly 65 has a first head bracket 66 positioned adjacent to a first side 52a of the beam 52, and a second head bracket 68 positioned opposite the first head bracket 66 and adjacent to a second side 52b of the beam opposite the first side of the beam 52a. First and second fastening rods 70, 72 couple the first head bracket 66 to the second head bracket 68. Tightening the fastening rods 70, 72 puts the clamp assembly 65 in a state of compression, and thereby keeps each of the first and the second head brackets 66, 68 firmly positioned against the first and second side 52a, 52b of the beam 52.

In one embodiment, first and the second fastening rods 70, 72 may be positioned to firmly retain a respective third and fourth side 52c, 52d of the beam within the first brace assembly 54. For this embodiment, the first fastening rod 70 is adjacent to and in contact with the third side 52c of the beam 52 and, the second fastening rod 72 is adjacent to and in firm contact with the fourth side 52d of the beam 52. To advantageously accommodate differently sized beams 52, each of the first and the second fastening rods 70, 72 are slidably mounted within a first opening 74 in the first head bracket 66 and a second opening 76 in the second head bracket 68, such that the distance between the first and the second fastening rods 70, 72 can vary.

In the example shown in FIG. 3, the first and the second openings 74, 76 are elongated slots. The slots 74,76 allow a user to selectively position each of the first and the second fastening rods 70, 72 firmly adjacent to the beam 52 on opposite sides of the beam 52. However, this function can be achieved in a number of ways and the configuration of the first and the second openings 74, 76 is not limited to that of slot openings. For example, a series of holes along the side of each first and second fastening rod 70, 72 can also provide a means to selectively adjust the distance between the first and the second fastening rod 70,72, and thereby achieve the goal of positioning each of the fastening rods 70,72 against beams of varying dimensions.

It is not necessary for the fastening rods 70, 72 to be in contact with the beam 52. Generally, the compression force of the clamp 65 will hold the beam in position and the fastening rods 70, 72 will be adjacent to, but spaced some short distance away from, the beam 52. Thus, in a preferred embodiment, the fastening rods 70, 72 do not contact the beam 52.

An adjustable locking system 80 is used to easily maintain the desired position of each of the fastening rods 70, 72 firmly against the beams 52. The example provided in FIG. 3 shows the use of a retaining nut 81 in one instance, and a cam lock 83 in another instance. The fastening rod 70 can be a simple carriage bolt with the square head portion held in the slot 74 and the other end having threads to which an internally threaded nut 81 is attached to a desired tightness. Alternatively, a cam lock is advantageous as it can be threaded by hand onto the rod 70 to a snug position and then closed tight by a lever. The lever is preset to provide the user with a predefined small distance of movement or a certain level of torque upon closure. Thus, no tools need be used. Any number of adjustable and easily removable locking systems 80 can be used and are considered equivalent. The adjustable locking system 80 used in the present invention is not limited to that of retaining nuts and cam locks but includes any acceptable or interchangeable substitutes.

In operation, as the bracing rod 58 of the first brace assembly 54 is moved in the “x” direction, the top portion of the beam 52 also moves in the “x” direction and this movement enables a worker to plumb the beam 52. This is because the beam is clamped by clamp 65 and the connection between the bracing rod 58 and the first brace assembly 54 is rigid. Thus, as the bracing rod 58 is moved in the “x” direction, the clamp assembly 56 moves, as to the first and the second fastening rods 70, 72, causing the beam 52 positioned between them to also move in the “x” direction.

The second brace assembly 56 is composed of the same components as the first brace assembly 54, however, the orientation of the second brace assembly 56 on the beam 52 is such that the first head bracket 66 is positioned adjacent to the third side 52c of the beam 52, and the second head bracket 68 is positioned opposite the first head bracket 66 and adjacent to the fourth side 52d of the beam. Thus, the first and the second fastening rods 70, 72 are positioned adjacent to the first and the second side 52a, 52b of the beam 52, respectively. In this way, as the first and the second sides 52a, 52b of the beam 52 are clamped by the clamp assembly 65 and positioned between the first and the second fastening rods 70, 72 of the second brace assembly 56, when the bracing rod 60 of the second brace assembly 56 is moved in the “z” direction, the top portion of the beam 52 also moves in the “z” direction. Thus, by moving the bracing rod 60 of the second brace assembly 56 in the “z” direction, a worker can plumb the beam 52.

FIGS. 2 and 3 further shows that, if desired, a protective material 57 can be positioned between the beam 52 and each of the first and the second head brackets 66, 68, and between the beam 52 and each of the first and the second fastening rods 70, 72 to protect the outer surface of the beam 52 from scratches or gouges that could potentially result from each bracket assembly 54, 56. This may be desirable in cases where the beam 52 is made of a particularly expensive and/or beautiful piece of material and the architectural design of the overall project is such that the top outer surface of the beam will remain exposed, such as when used to support particularly high ceilings. The protective material 100 can be of any number of materials that will serve the purpose of providing a barrier between the beam 52 and the various components of each brace assembly 54, 56. For example, the protective material 86 can include, but is not limited to, cloth, paper, rubber, corrugated cardboard, and/or plastic.

FIGS. 4 and 5 show two exemplary embodiments for an adjustable floor bracing system 64 that can be used to change the relative angle α of each bracing rod 58 and thereby cause the beam 52 to easily move in a desired “x” or “z” direction. However, as will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art, the angle α shown in FIG. 2 can be rigid at any angle or can also be changed in a number of other ways, and the three exemplary embodiments do not limit the scope of the invention.

FIGS. 4 and 5 show that the adjustable floor bracing system 64 includes a mountable bracket 82 having a first flange member 84 with a hole 86 in the first flange member 84, and a second flange member 88 with a hole 90 in the second flange member 88. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 5, the bottom portion 58a of the bracing rod 58 has an opening 92. The bottom portion 58a of each bracing rod 58 is placed between each of the first and the second flange members 84, 88 such that the opening 92 of the bracing rod 58 aligns with the hole 86 in the first flange member 84 and the hole 90 of the second flange member 88. In operation, a retainer pin 94 is inserted therethrough to allow each bracing rod 58, 60 to pivot about the retainer pin 94 and thereby change the angle α. By moving the location of the mounting bracket 82 and changing the angle α of each bracing rod 58, 60, a worker can easily move the top portion of the beam 52 in the “x” and “z” direction and fine tune the leveling and plumbing required to achieve a straight beam. When a preferred mounting bracket position 82 is determined, the mountable bracket 82 is fastened 95 or otherwise coupled to the floor 59.

The turnbuckles permit fine tune adjustment of the beam's vertical orientation. By turning the turnbuckles just a few turns, or a fraction of a turn, the vertical position can be set with high accuracy, while permitting the mounting bracket to be at a variety of possible angles and not placing stress on the rod connection. Namely, if the floor bracket angle is set to a rigid position as is the case for bracket 16 of FIG. 2, and the turnbuckle is rotated a large distance while the upper fastener 14 remains at the same position, additional stress will be placed on the joint between the bracket 16y and the rod 60. If the movement is too much, the clamp assembly 61 can be released and moved to a new position, after which a fine tune plumbing can be done. The present invention avoids the problems of the prior art since the clamp assembly can be easily loosened or removed and then attached again without damage to the beam.

Referring back to FIG. 2, when the mountable bracket 82 is rigidly secured to the floor 59, the bracing rod 58 is placed in a state of compression and the selected angle α is maintained. This is because, from the floor, to the top of the beam 52, the components of each brace assembly 54 now act as one rigid unit, and the static force carried by each respective brace assembly 54, 56 serves to brace the beam 52 in the selected “x” and “z” position.

The example shown in FIG. 5 is similar to the embodiment described above with respect to FIG. 4, but instead of using a hole 92 in each bracing rod 58, 60 and a removable retainer pin 94, the bottom portion of each bracing rod 58, 60 employs a retractable pin 96. In operation, a spring (not shown) maintains the retractable pin 96 in an outwardly biased position. To insert each bracing rod 58, 60 within the mountable bracket 82 the user manually compresses each side to retract the retractable pin 96 inwardly to cause the bottom portion 58a, 60a of each bracing rod to align between each of the first and the second flange members 84, 88. The user releases the compression on retractable pin 96 when the retractable pin 96 is aligned with the hole 86 in the first flange member 84 and the hole 90 of the second flange member 88. Once each side of the retractable pin 96 is positioned within the respective holes 86, 90 of the first and second flange members 84, 88, the bracing rods 58, 60 can selectively pivot, as described above with respect to the embodiment shown in FIG. 5, to easily level and plumb the beam 52. Once the beam 52 is moved to a desired position, the position is maintained by rigidly fastening or coupling the mountable bracket 82 to the floor 59.

Although the beam 52 shown in the above-mentioned figures is depicted with a square cross-section, the present invention is not limited to a particular type of beam and can be used on any number of beam types, such as round beams, I-beams, and tapered beams. In addition to a variety of beam shapes, the present invention may be used on beams made of any material, such as wooden beams, steel beams, composite beams, aluminum beams, and concrete beams.

The present invention is particularly helpful when the final orientation of the beam 52 is something other than vertical. For example, some architectural plans may call for a beam to be at a 45°, 30°, or some other angle. With the present invention, the beam can be temporarily held at any selected angle in a solid position until the building structure around the beam can be completed which holds it permanently in position.

From the foregoing it will be appreciated that, although specific embodiments of the invention have been described herein for purposes of illustration, various modifications may be made without deviating from the spirit and scope of the invention.