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10/17/2018 Deflection Limit State

A Beginner's Guide to the Steel Construction Manual, 13th ed. (old)

Chapter 8 - Bending Members

© 2006, 2007, 2008 T. Bartlett Quimby
Section 8.4.2
Deflection Limit State
Flexural Limit
State Behavior Last Revised: 11/04/2014
Applicable Limit In the absence of more specific criteria, criteria for structures with brittle finishes (as
States found in code documents for years) is frequently used. This simplistic criteria puts a
Flexural Yielding limit of the span divided by 360 on the incremental deflection due to live (or transient)
Limit State load only and a limit of the span divided by 240 on deflection under total load. These
Lateral Torsional limit states are mathematic expressed as:
Buckling Limit
DLL < L/360
Flange Local
Buckling Limit DTL < L/240
These limits were originally developed for members with "brittle" finishes, such as
plaster. Plaster is not commonly used as a finishing material anymore. The goal of the
Shear limits was to minimize the possibility of damage to the finish and provide reasonable
comfort for the building occupants. The criteria has persisted in practice.
Shear Behavior
Shear Strength Other criteria has been used that more explicitly addresses the use of the beam under
Limit State consideration. For example, the Timber Construction Manual [ref. 12], page 66
suggests the values given in Table and Other references give different,
but similar, criteria.
AITC Recommended Deflection Limits
Used with Permission
Deflection Limit
State Applied Load Applied Load +
Use Classification
Only Dead Load
Misc. Limit States Roof Beams
- Industrial L/180 L/120
Web Local
Yielding - Commercial and institutional
Web Crippling - Without plaster ceiling L/240 L/180
- With plaster ceiling L/360 L/240
Beam Design Floor Beams
- Ordinary usage a L/360 L/240
Selecting Sections
Cover Plates Highway bridge stringers L/200 to L/300
Transverse Railway bridge stringers L/300 to L/400
Stiffeners for
aOrdinary usage classification for floors is intended for construction in which walking
comfort and minimized plaster cracking are the main considerations. These
Bearing Plates
recommended deflection limits may not eliminate all objections to vibrations such as
Transverse in long spans approaching the maximum limits or for some office and institutional
Stiffeners for applications where increased floor stiffness is desired. For these usages, the
deflections limits of table have been found to provide additional stiffness.

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10/17/2018 Deflection Limit State

Concentrated Table

Loads AITC Deflection Limits for Uses Where
Continuous Increased Floor Stiffness is Desired
Used with Permission

Applied Load Applied Load +

Chapter Summary
Use Classification
Only Dead Load a
Floor Beams
- Commercial, Office & Institutional
Example Problems
- Floor Joists, spans to 26 ft b
- LL < 60 psf L/480 L/360
- 60 psf < LL < 80 psf L/480 L/360
- LL > 80 psf L/420 L/300
- Girders, spans to 36 ftb

- LL < 60 psf L/480 L/360

- 60 psf < LL < 80 psf L/420 L/300
Report Errors or
Make Suggestions - LL > 80 psf L/360 L/240
aThe AITC includes a modifier on DL depending on whether or not the timber is
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bFor girder spans greater than 36 ft and joist spans greater than 26 ft, special
design considerations may be required such as more restrictive deflection limits and
Make Donation vibration considerations that include the total mass of the floor.

The span length, L, in the limit equations above is taken as the distance between
center of supports. For cantilever beams, a value equal to twice the actual cantilever
length is generally used for the L in determining the deflection limits.


In roof systems that are essentially flat, Figure

provisions must be made to support Frozen Scupper
ponding water. Ponding is a progressive
event. The more water on the roof, the
more deflection you get, which means that
even more water can be retained, which
leads to more deflection, etc... If the beam
is stiff enough, then ponding can be

The best solution to the ponding problem is

architectural. It is strongly recommended
that sufficient slope be given to roof
systems (a minimum of 1/4" per foot) to
prevent ponding. Appropriate drainage
must also be provided.

Roofs in cold regions that use scuppers to

drain a roof located behind a parapet may
become plugged with ice, resulting in
unintentional ponding, leading to disastrous
results. Figure shows such a frozen
scupper. Scuppers must also be made large

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10/17/2018 Deflection Limit State

enough to allow water to escape during a deluge and to minimize blockage by debris.

Tolerances of Attached Elements or Non-Structural Elements Below

Often times, non-structural elements have specific deflection tolerances that are more
restrictive than the general criteria given above. These tolerances generally are
expressed in terms as a maximum deflection value and must be considered in design.

For example, a floor girder spanning 36 ft may deflect up to 1.2 inches under a live load
only deflection limit of L/360. Any non-structural partition under the beam must be
able to accommodate this deflection. However, if it cannot, then the amount of live
load deflection that can be accommodated becomes the new deflection criteria for this


Certain vibrations have been found to be objectionable in most occupancy

classifications. Vibrations are often lumped together with deflection since both are
stiffness related. Vibrations are a function of stiffness and mass. The frequency of the
vibrations is of more concern than the amplitude. The treatment of vibrations is
beyond the current scope of this text.

Selection of Criteria

The choice of deflection criteria is a project dependent. Other criteria may be

encountered that have been developed for special structures and/or situations. These
may be considered as needed.

For the problems in this text, the equations listed at the start of this section will be
used unless otherwise specified.

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