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Bowstring Joists

Bowstring joists consist of a cold rolled arched top chord and straight bottom chord with a “modified Warren” web configuration


Since the chords are hot rolled angles, cold formed to a specified radius, Vulcraft reduces the allowable stress in the top chord dependent on the radius of the top chord.


These joists have top chords fabricated from hot rolled angles cold formed to geometric specifications, which is the only variation from Vulcraft’s standard joist fabrication procedures.


Indicating the following required information on the structural drawings will expedite the pricing and detailing of the project, resulting in fewer questions on the joist approval drawings.

1. All dimensions indicated on the above diagram. Joist depth shall be indicated at the deepest point.

2. If the joist profile is not symmetrical, in addition to the radius, either the origin of the radius or the elevations at the center line of the support must be noted.

3. Joist designation shall be provided in a format similar to: “36LH200/100 SP” where: “36” is the depth at the deepest part of the joist in inches, and “200” is the total uniform design load, of which “100” is live load. Loads are in plf.

4. If design loading includes non-uniform loading, a load diagram shall be provided. This diagram should include any unbalanced loads resulting from the joist profile

5. Showing web layouts on structural drawings is not required unless there is a specific requirement. Unless instructed otherwise by a note on the structural drawings, Vulcraft will configure the web layout for the best economical and structural solution.


1. As with all joists, self-weight shall be included in the design dead load. Alternatively, it is acceptable to specify on the structural drawings that joist self-weight is to be added to the design dead load by the joist manufacturer.

2. Bridging will be determined in accordance with the provincial safety regulations and the latest edition of CAN/CSA S-16. Rather than indicate the joist bridging on the structural drawings, it is acceptable to note on the plans that bridging is to be detailed by the joist supplier. In cases where the geometry of the joist results in the center of gravity being above the bearing point, additional rows of bridging will be required. Contact Vulcraft for recommendations.

3. In the fabrication of joists, a sufficient end depth must be provided. The appropriate end depth varies with the size, shape, and loading of the joist. The end depth is the distance between the top chord and the bottom chord or the projection of the bottom chord near the center line of the support. End depth requirements increase for bottom-chord-bearing joists and sloped joists. A minimum end depth of 12” must be provided in all cases, with 18” minimum end depth in most cases and for large joists it will increase. Contact Vulcraft for end depth requirements.

4. If joist is bottom chord bearing on either end, supply end dept

5. For a radius smaller than 30’-0”, individual Vulcraft plants must be contacted for production restrictions.

6. For any questions regarding the above notes and checklist, contacting the Vulcraft engineering department is encouraged.

Below is an example of how to effectively specify a bowstring joist profile and loading diagram. Diagrams such as these should appear on the structural drawings to expedite the detailing and approval processes.