What is a typical Florida bond beam and how is it built?
Florida masonry bond beams are usually 1 or two courses of bond beam block grouted solid. Bond beam block differs from regular block in that the center webs are cut down to receive horizontal steel. One course bond beams must be tied down at a closer spacing than 2 course bond beams because they don't have as much strength. The masonry industry recommends the two course bond beam for several reasons: Larger allowable spacing between vertical tie downs and a longer embedment length for vertical tie down bars are the main structural reasons.
Cost wise there is not much difference between the one and two course bond beams, especially when bars are only called for in the top course. The mason can lay his block all the way to the top of the wall without stopping. He simply puts in his grout stop under the second course then finishes laying his wall up and places his steel in the top. The second course can be built out of regular block so the only additional cost is about a cubic yard for grout for a typical 2000 sf home.
The steel is more effective in the top of the bond beam because of the uplift forces on the roof from wind.
To summarize, the most common bond beam used in Florida and the bond beam recommended by the masonry industry is a 2 course solid grouted bond beam with a single bar in the top course. The top course would be bond beam block and the second course would by regular block. Vertical wall steel should hook into the top of the bond beam. The spacing of vertical wall steel will vary depending on your height of wall, span of roof and wind speed.
ICC 600 gives specific instruction all of these issues and is accepted by the current 6th Ed, 2017 Florida Building Code, Residential.
Don Beers, PE, GC
Jerry Painter, FASTM