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Community and Q&A

Faux Beams for Service Chases

Mark_Nagel | Posted in General Questions on

[Residential new build] Design is a ranch slab-on-grade, simple rectangular shape: “country ranch,” larger, open main rooms.  I am trying to minimize the running of services within/through the outer walls.  To-date I’ve been leaning toward utilizing a dropped ceiling (for branch distributions) and a main chase (as trunk, pretty much splitting the building lengthwise).

Services I plan to run:
– Electrical to outer walls (wiring to drop down where needed);
– PEX water lines for panel radiators (drop down walls where needed);
– ERV ducting (not yet decided on how I’ll bring them out into rooms);
– Overhead lighting (track/pendant lighting)

My wife had recently made a [yet another] comment about liking the look of exposed rafters/beams.  I am firm about sticking to the design of flat ceiling (not sloped): non-conditioned attic.  I’m seeing faux-beam-as-service-chase as a solution that could serve both our requirements, the physical and aesthetic requirements.

Has anyone else done this?  If so, how well did/does it work?  Details?

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  1. Expert Member


    That will work. Faux-beams are really just nicely dressed up bulkheads - which are a comm0n solution.

    The dance will be reconciling between the locations the make sense for the services, and what looks good architecturally.

  2. Mark_Nagel | | #2

    Malcolm, how does one go about transitioning services from these chases and into wall cavities?

    From my understanding, for fire block, chases cannot be open on the ends. I think that wiring and the PEX should be readily manageable, but unsure about ducts.

    I'd be coming through an interior (center) wall, into the faux beams and then (for wiring and pex runs going to outer walls) into the outer wall cavities (and then down). Sealing, for air (also fire code), would be done for the wiring using electrical boxes (pass through), perhaps similar for the pex. The ducting, though it will only come through the sheetrock on the inner wall side, I'm not so sure of: seems that if there's a fire that non-metalic ducting, such as i'm figuring on, is going to melt and thus create an opening to air; doesn't seem like this is a problem that is unique to this design, just a general issue that I see as not addressed anywhere (when there's plenty talking about sealing up chases and such).

  3. Expert Member
    AKOS TOTH | | #3

    Faux beam details are generally not big enough to cover standard ducts. It can be done with high velocity setup but those tend to get spendy quick.

    I would first at look at where you need to run services to before coming up with elaborate beam details. In 99% of the cases, the ducting can run inside floor joists (trusses and I-joist are great for this), through interior walls (sometimes built as double 2x4 on flat for extra space) or through a small bulkhead in the back of a closet.

    I like my stuff serviceable, but I've never found the need to have plumbing or electrical in a dedicated chase. In the past I've made provisions for these and never ended up using them down the road. That is coming from someone that has replumbed the hydronic setup 3 times so far "just for fun".

  4. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #4

    I have a faux beam that I ran a wire through for my dining room chandeliers. I didn't even realize it was "faux" until I went to screw into it and found out it's one of those foam beams. I had to make a much more complex mount for the two chandeliers after making that discovery.

    Anyway, you can run wiring and plumbing in such a beam, but you'll need a way to support things. And easy way to do this with electrical stuff would be to run EMT conduit if you have a lot of runs, but that will force some other electrical changes too. I've never run plumbing in such a beam, and I wouldn't try in a foam beam, but a faux beam made of several boards acting as a "box" would be OK.

    If you need to firestop the ends, do it the commerical way with intumescent caulk. Drill a hole, run your wire/pipe through the hole, then fill around the wire or pipe with the red firestop caulk. Easy, and not terribly expensive.

    I don't know how you'd do this with an air duct. Usuaully air ducts get hidden inside of soffits when they can't fit up between joists or other framing members. A typical faux beam is going to be far to small to conceal an air duct, even a small air duct.


  5. the74impala | | #5

    What about a service cavity in the wall? Bring services through the partition walls, into the cavity and distribute them as you need.

    Please ignore the ladder. But if you zoom in you can see what I mean.

    All the water lines would be inside the conditioned envelope.

  6. Mark_Nagel | | #6

    Some points of clarification on my part are in order...

    - I'm (will be) slab-on-grade. No floor joists.

    - Single story. No floor joists.

    - Unconditioned attic.

    - My center wall isn't quite a full-length wall. I've got a jog and several doors. Not enough headspace above doors to to facilitate running the ducts.

    - I want to keep from running utilities across outer wall stud bays. Wish to keep the radiant heating plumbing lines inside the core of the building: short drops down/up the walls. Tom, I'll keep your idea for reference.

    DUH! I overlooked the fact that I need a minimum of TWO ERV ducts/tubes per serviced room, fresh and exhaust. That's a minimum of 6" on their own. So...

    Going to nix the idea of running ducting in faux-beams. Most ducting runs can serve the required rooms coming right from the center/trunk chase (much of the length is down a hallway, so minimal concerns over aesthetics).

    Kitchen will require several ducts/tubes, perhaps up to four? I can stub these out a ways from the trunk chase. If I have to go out very far (max center of room) then running alongside a faux beam might help hide. No need to spend any energy discussing this right now as there's still too much in play to try and pin down right now (note that I have yet to land an architect, in which case things aren't in cement yet).

    My other run is for a bathroom that have another bathroom between it and the center wall and chase. Running a chase/soffit here is likely going to be OK.

    So... I will look to drop the notion of running ERV ducting in faux beams. I will, however, still look to run the pex lines and the electrical in faux beams: I've already got myself on the hook for a faux-beam look, in which case I figure why NOT use them for the electrical and pex lines.

    For whatever it's worth, here's a simple sketch of my floor plan (incomplete - I don't have hard lines drawn on the door sides in for two bedrooms as I'm not sure of the positioning of doors, yet).

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