Joist Hangers vs Resting on Beam: 7 Main Differences

There are many scenarios in home construction where you will need to attach a joist end to something. This might be for a floor, a ceiling, a deck, or anywhere in the building where joists are being used and need to be attached to something like a ledger board or rim joist.

Now there are several ways to fasten a joist. The most popular methods are using joist hangers on the connecting element, which the post will then sit on, just resting the joist directly on a beam, toe nail, or end-nailing.

Today we’re going to focus on two of the most popular joist types: using joist hangers or resting the joist on the beam. It can be hard to know which one is going to provide a more secure connection and be able to bear a more significant load. 

So in this article, we’ve put together an in-depth comparison between the two, so you can find out which one is better for a given scenario.

The main difference between joist hangers and resting on beam is that a joist hanger requires the end of the joist to but up against the rim joist (the rim joist being the joist that lines the edge of the floor/ceiling) 

Whereas resting on beam is a method where the joist will rest on a beam attached to the rim joist without any additional attachment.

Joist hangers wrap around the joist, providing that additional stability to prevent warping. But resting on beam can often present a higher degree of structural integrity as the joist hanger may show a failure point by being a more complicated system.

Regardless of the differences in their construction methods, these join types will far exceed the safety and load-bearing requirements that most average buildings demand. Which one is better for you will mostly come down to the differences we will cover in this article.

What are joist hangers?

Joist hangers are an extra piece of hardware attached to a rim board that lines the edge of a floor/ceiling. It presents a surface that the horizontal floor joists can hang. 

They are usually U-shaped metal frames that will wrap around three sides of the horizontal floor joist. The floor joist will be nailed into the hanger, and then that hanger is then fastened to the framing (rim board). It’s most commonly used for wood beams, but it can also be used in metal construction where the metal joist is welded instead of nailed.

Joist hangers can come in many sizes to accommodate various joist sizes and are usually pre-cut with holes to attach the joist to the hanger and then the hanger to the supporting frame.

The main benefits of joist hangers are that the sides that wrap around the edges of the joist, when affixed and secured on both sides counter warping and twisting. They can also support tremendously high loads – far more than the average user would ever need.

But the additional security and stability come at a price, as these are quite a bit more expensive than hanger nails. But this extra cost is often worth it for that extended lifespan.

What is resting on beam?

Resting on a support beam is a far more natural way of supporting a floor or ceiling with joists, as it doesn’t require any additional hardware.

A beam is run across the length of the surrounding floor/ceiling frame on which the joist rests. 

This provides many of the same benefits as joist hangers, and providing its installed correctly should be every bit as structurally sound and be able to bear similar loads with ease.

However, without the extra support of the joist hanger, they can be slightly more prone to warping. So if you use this method, you need to be sure you are using good-quality joists and that they have been correctly installed onto the beams.

What are the differences between joist hangers and resting on beam?

Fundamentally these both serve the same purpose, and the consensus is that provided they are installed correctly, they will be equally as strong as each other.

So what would make you pick one method over the other if they are similar?

Well, some differences need to be considered and depending on your situation, you may find one more applicable to your particular needs. Here’s a rundown of the main differences between joist hangers and just resting the joists on the support beam.

1. Less hardware, less chance of failure

While joist hangers are known for being exceptionally sturdy and reliable, some people have said they have more hardware and, thus, more complexity.

So if you prefer to use more of a natural method without buying lots of additional hardware, you may wish to consider the resting on beam method for a slightly less complicated setup.

2. Higher bearing weight

While joist hangers are considered to be able to have a slightly higher total bearing weight, it’s essential to establish that for both the joist hanger and resting on beam method the total bearing weight is far more than what you or I as a regular person could ever possibly exert on a floor or ceiling.

So if the peace of mind helps you, then you may wish to opt for joist hangers, but realistically you’re never coming close to the resting on beam method total weight so you can go with your gut here.

3. Twisting and warping

Because joist hangers wrap around three sides of the joist, when they are attached on both sides, they help with preventing the joist from being able to twist or warp by locking it in place. 

Whereas resting on the beam is a little less secure in this regard, you need to be aware of your surroundings in case anything might encourage the joists to warp, such as proximity to large bodies of water and high humidity.

This shouldn’t stop you from considering the resting-on-beam method, as many people use it successfully.

4. Total height

When using a joist hanger, the butt of the joist is essentially lined up flush with the top and bottom of the rim, meaning there’s no additional height that’s introduced.

On the other hand, resting on beam has to sit on top of a beam, essentially increasing the total height of the floor and potentially reducing the available space in the room above.

While this is quite a minor effect, it is essential to be aware of this in case you have any height requirements in your building.

5. Butt-to-beam connections

Sometimes you have enough material to let joists “lap” each other. That is to say, they extend over the supporting frame with a bit of extra material resulting in way less cutting.

But when your joists are attached to a rim joist, you don’t have that extra real estate to extend over any further because it’s the edge of the room. This means you might have to attach the support ceiling joist to the rim with the “butt to beam” connection, which means that only the end of the supposed joist can attach to the edge.

In this scenario, you can only use joist hangers as there’s not enough room to attach an extra beam to use the resting-on-beam technique.

6. Metal construction

We’ve talked a lot about using wood joist beams. But of course, plenty of modern constructions will use a steel beam instead. The resting on beam approach works fine as the beam will also be made from metal and welded to the rim, giving it more than enough strength for almost all intended use cases.

But what about joists? You can’t exactly screw or nail into a steel beam. Here you can weld the joist hanger onto the rim joist, mount the hanger, and weld that in too. The result is exceptionally stable and is a perfectly acceptable alternative to resting on a beam.

Although some say the weld joints present a point of failure for the ceiling mount hanger – it’s not a common occurrence for a welded joint to fail and shouldn’t really be a point of consideration.

7. Ease of use

We’ve established that both construction methods are perfectly acceptable in terms of stability and security. But which one is easier to use?

The installation process of joist hangers is quite a bit easier than needing to mount the beam and cut the join in the joist. It usually has pre-drilled holes to mount the joist and affix it to the rim ready for you.

But some people don’t like the extra complexity that it adds. The ability to remove a component and affix it directly is more appealing to them, making the resting on beam technique preferable.

Joist hangers vs resting on beam: Are they the same?

These joining methods are more than adequate for almost every conceivable construction scenario. Whether ends up being primarily preferable comes down to personal choice, with the benefits of a particular method being minor.

  • Resting on beam uses fewer components and materials, and some people like that method’s simplicity over a mounting hanger.
  • Both joist hangers and resting on beam have a total bearing weight that’s well more than what the average building would require, so they are both adequate.
  • Joists hangers do a better job preventing twisting, so if you use resting on beam, you should know the potential for warping/twisting on the joists.
  • Resting on beam requires additional height, whereas joist hangers make a flush finish, which is better when height is a problem.
  • If your joist has to meet the rim by “butt to beam” then you must use joist hangers as there’s not enough length to accommodate resting on beam.
  • Both methods work well for metal construction, but resting on the beam is considered a little more secure as there is no load resting on the weld joint.
  • Joists are easier to install thanks to the pre-drilled slots.
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