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Lally columns in an unfinished basement

What Is a Lally Column? (2024 Guide)

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Default Author Icon Written by Angela Bunt Updated 04/10/2024

A Lally column is a steel column used in construction and building to support beams or girders. It is typically filled with concrete to improve its load-bearing capacity. Since their invention in the late 1800s, these columns have been used to construct multi-story buildings. Today, they are widely used to construct large buildings and residential structures due to their high strength and durability. Our guide breaks down the purpose of Lally columns, how to install them, and more.

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Purpose of a Lally Column

Lally columns can be used for home improvement projects. For example, if you want an open-concept design, you can use Lally columns to remove load-bearing walls. Lally columns can also be a solution to repair a damaged carrying beam in your home’s structure. They are frequently used in large-scale building projects such as malls, warehouses, and multi-story buildings to support existing structures.


History of the Lally Column

John Lally was an American inventor and businessman living in Waltham, Massachusetts, who owned a construction company that began producing the Lally column. Lally recognized the need for a robust and fireproof column for mill construction. 

In 1898, Lally patented his design for a “fireproof column,” a structural column made of steel and filled with concrete. This invention, which came to be known as the Lally column, was a significant innovation in the construction field. It offered superior load-bearing capabilities, fire resistance, and durability compared to the common wooden columns of the day.

John Lally’s invention revolutionized the construction industry, and his name continues to be synonymous with these columns today. The Lally column replaced the classic column in many construction projects.


Temporary vs. Permanent Lally Columns

Permanent and temporary Lally columns play pivotal roles in construction projects. While permanent columns secure enduring strength for years ahead, temporary columns facilitate structural alterations and renovations, providing adjustable, short-term support until permanent structural changes are complete.

Permanent Lally columns ensure buildings’ long-term stability and structural integrity. These robust support columns require expert engineering to provide support throughout the lifespan of a structure. Constructed from durable steel and reinforced with concrete, permanent Lally columns must be installed during the initial construction phase.
By incorporating permanent Lally columns into a building’s design, architects and engineers can effectively distribute weight loads and prevent excessive strain on other load-bearing elements. This helps maintain the overall strength and durability of the structure.
Temporary Lally columns, also called jack posts, are ideal for construction or renovation projects. When load-bearing walls need to be modified or removed temporarily for projects such as remodeling or expanding interior spaces, these adjustable steel columns provide support.
Temporary Lally columns offer versatility through their adjustability feature, allowing contractors to fine-tune their height according to project requirements. Builders or contractors will securely position jack posts beneath areas where they plan to alter the load-bearing walls permanently or temporarily eliminate them for a project. These temporary supports help mitigate potential hazards that may arise due to compromised structural integrity.
Once all necessary modifications are complete and a new permanent support system is established—often through alternative means such as beams or additional foundational reinforcement—contractors can remove temporary Lally columns, or jack posts, without compromising the newly transformed space’s stability.

Lally Column vs. Jack Post

A Lally column is a rigid, long steel tube typically filled with concrete that provides permanent structural support to a building. It is used in construction to support heavy loads. Professionals install them during the initial construction phase.

A jack post, also known as a telescopic or adjustable steel column, is designed for temporary use. It is flexible in height and is often used to temporarily support a structure during construction or renovation, such as when modifying load-bearing walls or support beams.


Adjustable vs. Nonadjustable

Adjustable Lally columns, called jack posts or telescopic columns, offer a versatile solution for supporting structures with varying floor-to-ceiling heights. These columns can be adjusted in length for a perfect fit. This is an advantage for construction or renovation projects that require temporary support.

One of the benefits of adjustable Lally columns is their ability to adapt to changing structural demands. These columns are ideal for extension projects that involve adding additional floors or for adjusting the height of existing spaces. They provide stability while accommodating any height alterations made throughout the construction process.

Contractors and builders typically use nonadjustable Lally columns in permanent installations where there is no demand for height adjustments over time.

When considering the weight capacity of Lally columns, it’s important to note that shorter ones generally have a higher weight rating than longer ones due to decreased risk of buckling under heavier loads.

Consider each column’s unique design and material composition for accurate weight ratings. A qualified professional, such as a structural engineer or architect, can help you determine the appropriate weight capacity for the columns.


Cost To Install a Lally Column

The cost of installing a Lally column can vary based on factors such as the column’s size and material and the complexity of the installation process. On average, homeowners can expect to pay $2,500* per column, including the column and the labor costs for professional installation. The costs can be higher for more complex projects. Consult with a professional to get an accurate estimate for your project.

*Pricing data in this section was sourced from Angi.


Steps to follow

Below, we break down the steps to install a Lally column. We recommend tackling this project with a professional installer rather than going the DIY route due to its critical role in supporting a building’s structural integrity.  

Determine the location where the column is needed. This is typically where a load-bearing wall or beam needs additional support. Consult a structural engineer to ensure correct placement.

Measure the distance from the floor to the beam the Lally column will support. This will determine the length of the column. Account for any subfloor, flooring, or ceiling materials that may affect the measurement.

Prepare the Lally column by cutting it to the measured length if it’s not adjustable. If it’s filled with concrete, ensure it’s cured fully before installation. Before installation, research how to frame walls for a basement room to create a solid base to install the column. 

Place the column vertically in the determined location, ensuring it’s plumb (perfectly vertical). It should fit snugly between the floor and the beam. Framing out the crawlspace or basement will help ensure the columns are plumb. 

Use appropriate fasteners to secure the top and bottom of the column to the beam and floor. This usually involves drilling holes and using bolts or screws. Follow the fastener manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.

Once the column is secured, double-check that it’s upright, square, and adequately supporting the beam. If there are any issues, you may need to make adjustments.

You can finalize the installation once everything is confirmed to be correct. Finalizing may involve adding additional fasteners or applying a protective finish to the column. Check local building codes to ensure compliance.

Installing a Lally column involves significant structural changes. We recommend consulting with a professional to ensure you have done the job correctly and safely.


Safety Precautions

An improperly installed Lally column can lead to serious structural issues and potential safety hazards. If the column isn’t perfectly vertical (plumb) or secured correctly, it can fail to support the intended load. This could result in sagging floors and cracking walls or, in extreme cases, structural failure of the building.

Follow the correct installation process and maintain high safety standards to avoid the risks of improper installation. This involves meticulous measurement, correct positioning, and secure column fastening. Construction professionals recommend that you employ the services of a qualified professional contractor or the guidance of a structural engineer. Regular inspections are essential to identify and rectify potential issues early on.


Our Conclusion

A Lally column is a steel column, typically filled with concrete, that is used in construction and building to support beams or girders. We highly recommend the professional installation of Lally columns. Installation requires precise measurements, correct positioning, secure fastening, and technical knowledge and experience. An incorrectly installed column can lead to serious structural issues and safety hazards.

Entrusting this task to a professional ensures the work is performed accurately and complies with local building codes. Regular inspections by a professional can identify potential issues early to maintain the safety and longevity of your building structure.

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FAQ About Lally Columns

Are Lally columns permanent?

Lally columns can be permanent or temporary structural elements. Permanent Lally columns are designed to provide long-term support to a structure and are usually removed or replaced only if they show signs of damage or degradation that could compromise the building’s structural integrity. Always consult with a professional for any modifications involving Lally columns.

Do Lally columns need to be filled with concrete?

Not all Lally columns need to be filled with concrete. Traditionally, contractors filled Lally columns with concrete to enhance its strength, but some structural engineers have redesigned the Lally column as hollow steel tubes that provide the necessary structural support. Whether or not a Lally column needs to be filled with concrete depends on the structure’s specific design and load requirements. 

Why are Lally columns often preferred in residential construction?

Construction professionals often prefer Lally columns in residential construction due to their strength, durability, and versatility. They provide superior load-bearing capabilities, making them ideal for supporting heavy structural elements in homes, such as beams and floor joists.

What is the advantage of using a Lally column?

The advantages of using a Lally column include:

  • Cost effectiveness: While the up-front cost can be high, the long-term benefits of less maintenance and superior durability can make Lally columns a cost-effective choice.
  • Durability: Lally columns are resistant to rot and pests, ensuring long-term durability.
  • Ease of installation: Lally columns can be installed relatively quickly and easily, especially by professionals.
  • Flexibility: Their slim profile allows for design flexibility.
  • Strength and stability: Lally columns provide excellent load-bearing capabilities.

What is the most common type of Lally column?

The most common type of Lally column is a steel column filled with concrete. Builders and designers use this column type widely due to its superior load-bearing capabilities. A steel shell provides strength, while the concrete filling adds weight and rigidity.

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