Reinforcement provides crucial assistance in building projects. By reinforcing home building materials, you ensure the safety of your family and guests and the structural integrity of your home. Various means of providing support exist. Ledger strips and joist hangers, for instance, both provide reinforcement for joists. Joists constitute floor or ceiling support beams that extend between the main beams of the structure. Joists appear commonly in home construction and additions such as decks.

House under construction
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You can make ledger strips with wood and purchase joist hangers at hardware stores.

Ledger Strip

A ledger strip entails a piece of wood nailed or bolted to a primary support beam as a means of reinforcing the connection between the joist and the support beam. A basic ledger strip constitutes a small strip of wood fastened to the front face of a support beam. When a builder secures a joist perpendicular to this support beam, he nails the joist to the beam and secures it in a notch in the ledger strip with glue, sealant or nails. This extra connection adds strength to the joist.

Joist Hanger

A joist hanger is U-shaped piece of metal. This piece of metal fits around the material of a joist like a hammock or a cradle, and attaches to a support beam with nails or screws. The shape of a joist hanger provides structural reinforcement to a joist, while the way in which it attaches to the support beam increases the strength of the connection between the beam and the joist. Various types of joist hangers exist, many of them with serrated inside edges designed to dig into a joist for additional support and reinforcement.

Physical Differences

Obvious physical differences exist between joist hangers and ledger strips. The former constitutes a piece of metal your purchase and nail to a joist-and-beam system. The latter constitutes a piece of wood that you integrate into a system as a raw material. Joist hangers offer greater diversity because numerous types exist, while all ledger strips assume the same basic form. However, in some instances, such as the construction of furniture, ledger strips fit into the physical frame of a piece in a way that a joist hanger can't, given its rigid form.

Ledger Strips Versus Joist Hangers

Joist hangers provide greater structural support than ledger strips. Their shape and material support more weight. However, ledger strips provide greater aesthetic appeal. When building something like a deck, with a visible underside, ledger strips may provide the better option, so long as they can support the requisite weight. Building codes throughout the United States require support for joists -- always check with your local building codes before deciding upon ledger strips or joist hangers. When retrofitting an old joist-and-beam system, hangers provide a much simpler solution that installing ledger strips.