Code Update: Revisions Finalized for the 2018 IRC

This blog post continues our series on the final results of the 2016 ICC Group B Code Change Hearings. This post will focus on approved changes to the International Residential Code (IRC) that are of a structural nature. The changes outlined here will be contained in the 2018 IRC, which is expected to be published in the fall of this year.

In Chapter 3, the seismic design category / short-period design spectral response acceleration maps will be updated to match the new USGS/NEHRP Seismic Maps. These new maps are based on the worst case assumption for Site Class. Significantly, a new set of maps will be provided in Figure 301.2(3) “Alternate Seismic Design Categories”. These are permitted to be used when the “soil conditions are determined by the building official to be Site Class A, B or D.” See page 29 of the linked document for the new maps and a good explanation of the changes that will be occurring in various parts of the country. In addition, the ICC Building Code Action Committee authored a reorganization of the seismic provisions of Chapter 3 to try to reduce confusion.

Another change in Chapter 3 will clarify that guards are only required on those portions of walking surfaces that are located more than 30 inches above grade, not along the entire surface. To bring consistency with the IBC, another change will require that staples in treated wood be made of stainless steel.

A broad group of parties interested in deck safety, known as the Deck Code Coalition, submitted 17 different code changes with revisions to Section R507 on decks. Of those, 12 were approved, making significant changes to that section. The various approved changes included the following: a complete re-write of that section; new/clarified requirements for deck materials, including wood, fasteners and connectors; clarified requirements for vertical and lateral connections of the deck to the supporting structure; new requirements for sizes of deck footings and specification that deck footings must extend below the frost line, with certain exceptions; clarification for deck board material, including an allowance for alternative decking materials and fastening methods; adding new columns to the deck joist span table that show the maximum cantilever for joists; adding the allowance for 8×8 deck posts, to allow notching for the support of a three-ply beam; and clarification of the deck-post-to-footing connection.

In Chapter 6, a new table permitting 11ʹ- and 12ʹ- long studs was added. In the 2015 IRC, load-bearing studs were limited to 10 feet in length. A new high-capacity nail, the RSRS (Roof Sheathing Ring Shank) nail was added as an option for fastening roof sheathing. This nail will become more widely used once the higher roof component and cladding forces from ASCE 7-16 are adopted. The rim board header detail that was added for the 2015 IRC was corrected to show that hangers are required in all cases when the joists occur over the wall opening.

There were several changes made to the Wall Bracing Section, R602.10. The use of the 2.0 increase factor was clarified for use when the horizontal joints in braced wall panel sheathing are not blocked. Narrow methods were added to the column headings for the wind and seismic bracing amount tables, to make them consistent, and the methods for adding different bracing were clarified. When using bracing method PFH, the builder can omit the nailing of the sheathing to the framing behind the strap-type holdown. Finally, offering some relief for high-seismic areas where brick veneer is used, an allowance was added to permit a limited amount of brick veneer to be present on the second floor without triggering the use of the BV-WSP bracing method.

In Chapter 8, the requirements for a “stick-framed” roof system were completely re-written to make such systems easier to use.

A couple of significant changes were made to the prescriptive requirements for cold-formed steel framing. The requirements for the anchorage of cold-formed steel walls were revised, and the wind requirements for cold-formed steel framing were changed to match the new AISI S230 prescriptive standard.

Finally, it may be helpful to mention some of the proposed changes that were not adopted. While the new ASCE 7-16 was adopted as the IRC reference standard for loads as part of the Administrative changes, several changes to the IRC to make it consistent with ASCE 7-16 were not approved. A change to update the IRC wind speed maps, roof component and cladding pressures, component and cladding roof zones, and revise the remainder of wind-based requirements to match ASCE 7-16 was not approved. Similarly, a proposal to increase the live load on decks, from 1.0 to 1.5 times the occupancy served, was denied.

Once the IRC is published, it will be time to start a new code change cycle once again, with Group A code changes due January 8, 2018. The schedule for the next cycle is already posted here.

What changes would you like to see for the 2021 codes?

Building Code Update: 2018 IBC to Reference ASCE 7-16

In early December, ICC posted the preliminary results of the Group B Online Governmental Consensus Vote, which included structural changes to the IBC, IEBC and IRC. ICC reports that there were more than 162,000 votes cast by eligible Voting Members during the three-week online voting period.

One subject of interest to building Designers, builders and some building-material suppliers was the disposition of a group of code changes that adopted ASCE 7-16 as the reference standard on loads for the IBC and IRC, and changed other parts of the IBC and IRC to reflect that.

The most controversial part of adopting the new ASCE 7-16 standard was its increase in roof component and cladding loads. The higher pressure coefficients in some cases raised the concern that the cost of roofing, roofing materials and roof repairs would be increased. Other items that raised some opposition were the new chapter on tsunami loads and the increase in deck and balcony live loads from 40 psf to 60 psf.

Despite these concerns, ICC members voted to approve the code change that adopted ASCE 7-16 as the reference for loads in the 2018 IBC, IRC and IEBC.

Along with that specific change, several other related changes were approved to correlate the IBC with adoption of ASCE 7-16. These included changes to Section 1604, General Design Requirements; adding in a new Section 1615 on Tsunami Design Requirements; modifications to Section 1613 so that seismic design requirements match ASCE 7-16; and deletion of Section 1609.6, Alternate All-Heights Method for wind design. On this last item, the argument was that since ASCE 7 now includes a simplified wind load design method, a competing method is not needed in the IBC.

Interestingly, a change to remove Strength Design and Allowable Stress Design load combinations from the IBC, which was approved by the IBC Structural Committee, was overturned and denied by the ICC Member voters. So those will remain in the IBC.

For the IRC, even though ASCE 7-16 will be shown as the referenced load standard, most changes to the actual code language relating to the new standard were denied. Items that were specifically denied included adoption of ASCE 7-16 wind speed maps, adoption of ASCE 7-16 roof pressure loading, and adoption of the new higher deck and balcony live loads. So the result is that the IBC and IRC will again be inconsistent with each other regarding wind design. On the other hand, the new USGS/NEHRP Seismic Design Maps were approved.

Future Code Corner articles will address other changes approved for the 2018 IBC and IRC.

 

Designing Overhangs on Gable Ends

It seems that each major hurricane tends to teach those of us in the construction industry some lesson. With Hurricane Andrew, the lessons were the importance of protection from windborne debris, and the importance of proper construction of gable ends.

There are two main areas where gable ends can fail. One is a failure of the hinge at the connection between the top plate of the wall and the gable end framing, if the gable end is not balloon-framed with continuous studs. This is now addressed in the International Residential Code. Since 2009, Section R602.3 has required that “Studs shall be continuous from support at the sole plate to a support at the top plate to resist loads perpendicular to the wall. The support shall be a foundation or floor, ceiling or roof diaphragm or shall be designed in accordance with accepted engineering practice.”

For existing construction, the International Existing Building Code specifies a method for retrofitting gable ends in Appendix C.  For new construction, Simpson Strong-Tie shows a couple of solutions for bracing top plates of gable ends in our High Wind–Resistant Construction Application Guide on Page 48.

Figure 1, Gable Wall Bracing Methods

Figure 1, Gable Wall Bracing Methods

The other common wind-related failure at gable ends is uplift of the roof decking at the overhang. This can be from two causes: inadequate nailing of the sheathing to supporting framing, or inadequate connections of the framing at the rake edge that supports the roof. As far as this author can tell, this area of light construction is not covered in the International Residential Code for wood framing, but it is covered for cold-formed steel framing, where Section R804.3.2.1.2 contains requirements for “Rake overhangs.” The two methods shown are the cantilever outlooker (Option 1) and the ladder outlooker (Option 2).

Figure 2, IRC Gable Overhand Details

Figure 2, IRC Gable Overhand Details

Figure 3, Gable End Wind Damage

Figure 3, Gable End Wind Damage

In the photo above, it appears that the cantilevered outlooker method was used, and that there was a failure of the outlooker connections at the gable end and the first full truss. If you look closely, the end nails from the full-height truss that were in the end of the outlookers can be seen in a couple of places.

If a truss roof is used with this method, the gable truss is manufactured 3½” shorter than the others. Then a 2×4 outlooker is placed over the dropped gable, and butted into the side of the adjacent full-height truss. Then the barge or fly rafter is attached to the end of the cantilevered outlooker. At the overhang, wind can cause uplift on both the bottom and top surface. The uplift at the end of the outlooker imparts an uplift force at the gable truss, which must be resisted by a tension connection such as a hurricane tie, and a downward force at the connection to the full-height truss.

Figure 4, Cantilevered Outlooker Method

Figure 4, Cantilevered Outlooker Method

The other method commonly used to support the sheathing and the barge rafter is the ladder method. With this technique, lookout blocks are used to connect the barge or fly rafter back to the gable framing. One way this can be constructed is as a full ladder, with parallel fly rafter and ledger with block framing in between. Either this assembly can be constructed on the ground and then raised and fastened in place, or it can be built in place at the overhang. Or there are also examples where a ledger is not used, and the block framing is just connected directly to the top chord of the gable truss or gable rafter. This method is less wind-resistant, and in literature is limited to a 12″ overhang.

Figure 5, Ladder Outlooker Block Method

Figure 5, Ladder Outlooker Block Method

If the gable overhang is to resist wind loads properly, it must either be designed, or constructed in accordance with some pre-engineered prescriptive detail. Figure 4 shown above was originally published in a Simpson Strong-Tie Technical Bulletin, the High Wind Framing Connection Guide. But this Guide is no longer published. As shown earlier in Figure 2, there are some prescriptive details in the IRC for cold-formed steel construction. These are limited to an overhang length of 12″ and apply for up to 139 miles-per-hour ultimate wind speed. For wood-framed construction, comparable details are contained in the American Wood Council Wood Frame Construction Manual. For the cantilevered outlooker method, connection design loads are published for various wind speeds. Cantilevered outlookers are permitted to extend out up to 24 inches, while the ladder outlookers are only permitted to extend out 12 inches. See below for excerpted figures and tables from the Wood Frame Construction Manual, courtesy of the American Wood Council.

Figure 6, WFCM Gable Overhang Design (courtesy, American Wood Council, Leesburg, VA)

Figure 6, WFCM Gable Overhang Design (courtesy, American Wood Council, Leesburg, VA)

In addition to the framing design, the connection of the roof decking at this location is critical. If you’re building to traditional construction methods, with 6″ nail spacing at panel edges and 12″ nail spacing at interior supports, the close nail spacing ends up at the nonstructural outer member, while the nailing at the actual roof edge over the gable is only 12″ on center. As shown in the details above, newer documents do indicate the importance of spacing the nails over the gable end at the closest spacing, both because these are subject to the highest withdrawal loads and because this is the edge of the diaphragm for transfer of lateral loads.

The Journal of Light Construction has a discussion of the unbraced gable end overhang on one of their Forums.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management provides some information on wind resistance of gable overhangs and some possible means of retrofitting them here.

Have you seen or designed with different methods for framing gable overhangs?

How to Pick a Connector Series: Selecting a Joist Hanger

A quick glance through the Simpson Strong-Tie® Wood Construction Connectors catalog shows that we manufacture at least 29 different models of face-mount wood-to-wood joist hangers, three separate models of face-mount wood-to-masonry hangers, 42 different models of top-flange wood-to-wood joist hangers, four different models of top-flange wood-to-masonry hangers and 15 models of specialty joist hangers. And that’s not even counting heavy truss girder hangers or multiple- member hangers. So it’s no wonder that sometimes it’s difficult to pick exactly the right hanger for your particular application.

There are many things to consider when picking a joist hanger. The first may be what your load requirements are, including their direction. That will sometimes determine the second consideration. Do you want to use a top-flange or a face-mount joist hanger? Top-flange hangers typically have higher down loads with fewer fasteners, but must be installed when there is access to the top of the supporting member and often before the joist is in place. On the other hand, face-mount hangers can be installed after the joist is in place, and can have higher uplift loads, but will use more fasteners.

Speaking of fasteners, any fastener preference can determine your selection of a hanger. Joist hangers can be installed with common nails, screws (SD for lighter hangers and SDS for heavier hangers), or even bolts, for heavy glulam hangers. See here for information on the various fasteners that can be used with our connectors. The Simpson Strong-Tie Wood Construction Connectors catalog does not list allowable loads for joist hangers installed with SD screws, but you can find them here; just click on the link of the product to find its allowable load. Also, if the joist hanger will be installed with pneumatic fasteners, we have a Technical Bulletin on the possible load reductions that will result.

Another thing to consider at the beginning is what types and sizes of members are being connected together. Is your connection all solid-sawn dimension lumber, engineered wood or structural composite lumber, glulam beams, or trusses? All these types of wood products require different hangers.

Furthermore, joist hangers will have different capacities based on the species of wood to which they are being attached. For example, the truss hangers in the table below have allowable loads listed for Douglas Fir-Larch, Southern Pine and Spruce-Pine-Fir/Hem Fir. Most standard solid-sawn joist hangers, on the other hand, will only have two load ratings, DF/SP and SPF.

Top-flange hangers are sensitive both to the species of wood and to the type of engineered wood to which they are attached. Because of that sensitivity, they have to be tested to each different type of engineered wood that could be used as a header and may have different published allowable loads for each type as shown here.

Is the joist framing into the side or top of a concrete/masonry wall? Then a special joist hanger is required. Is the joist connecting to a nailer on top of a steel beam or concrete/masonry wall? Nailers require top-flange hangers and can result in loss of allowable load if you have to use shorter nails, so you need to check that carefully. There are special tables published for nailer loads for top-flange hangers.

Another consideration is the orientation of the members. In a perfect world, all connections will be between perfectly perpendicular members. But in the real world, joists may be rotated side to side (skewed), or up or down (sloped), or some combination of the two. There are a couple of options in those cases. Hangers such as the SUR/SUL series are available pre-skewed at 45 degrees. Adjustable hangers such as the LSU/LSSU series can be adjusted within limits to certain slopes, skews and slope/skew combinations. Simpson Strong-Tie also has the capability to custom-manufacture quite a few types of hangers to any slope or skew within certain limits, based on the hanger. All of these options, including any load reductions required, are listed in the Hanger Options section of the catalog or website. The table there gives the various options available for each product and clicking on an individual hanger in the website table will send you to a page with the specific reductions for each option.

Another important consideration is the installed cost of the joist hanger. Simpson Strong-Tie publishes what we call an Installed Cost Index, where the total installed cost of a hanger, including fasteners and labor, can be compared for related hangers. For example, there are six joist hangers listed in the Solid Sawn section for a 2×6 joist. They are listed in order of increasing Installed Cost Index. To choose one, simply find the one with the lowest installed cost that meets your load requirements.

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Obviously, this is a lot to think about when trying to choose a simple joist hanger. In order to make choosing a connector as easy as possible for our customers, Simpson Strong-Tie offers two different software tools to help. The first is our old standby, the downloadable Connector Selector. This is a versatile program that will help the user pick a joist hanger, truss hanger, multi-truss hanger, column base, column cap, holdown, mudsill anchor, hurricane tie, multi-ply lumber fastener, embedded anchor bolt or hinge connector. It can be downloaded from here. You can see from this example that the Connector Selector gives several options for nailing of joist hangers that may not be directly listed in the catalog.

For a quick aid in choosing a connector, Simpson Strong-Tie recently developed our Joist Hanger Selector Web App. This is found directly on the strongtie.com website. While not necessarily as versatile as the Connector Selector, it has a much easier-to-use graphic interface where the user can choose any option they wish. Just simply choose the desired hanger type, the header member, the joist member, the fastener type, any hanger options and input any design load requirements, then hit calculate, and your choices show up immediately.

Here is the output shown for the same inputs as the Connector Selector above. The app will initially show only the most common models that provide a solution, but the user can click SHOW ALL MODELS for a more complete list of solutions. The user can also click on the “+” next to the model name to get additional fastener options.

A final consideration in choosing a joist hanger is the finish desired. Simpson Strong-Tie manufactures joist hangers in several different finishes: Standard G90 zinc coating, ZMax® G185 zinc coating, HDG hot-dipped galvanization after fabrication, Type 316L stainless steel and powder-coat painted. The environment where the joist hanger will be installed and the material it will be in contact with (treated wood or other corrosive materials) will both influence which finish should be chosen. Guidance for selecting finishes is found in our literature and on our website. Also remember that the finish of the fastener used needs to match the finish of the connector.

We hope you find these tools helpful the next time you need to choose a joist hanger. Are there any other tools you need to help you specify Simpson Strong-Tie connectors or anchors? Tell us below.

Hurricane Strong

This week will see the ultimate combination of events intended to raise public awareness of the necessity for disaster-resistant construction: It is week three of ICC’s Building Safety Month; National Hurricane Preparedness Week, as proclaimed by the U.S. president; the  NOAA Hurricane Awareness Tour of the Gulf Coast; and the kickoff of the new HurricaneStrong program.

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The ICC says that “Building Safety Month is a public awareness campaign to help individuals, families and businesses understand what it takes to create safe and sustainable structures. The campaign reinforces the need for adoption of modern, model building codes, a strong and efficient system of code enforcement and a well-trained, professional workforce to maintain the system.” Building Safety Month has a different focus each week for four weeks.  Week One is “Building Solutions for All Ages.”  Week Two is “The Science Behind the Codes.”  Week Three is “Learn from the Past, Build for Tomorrow.” Finally, Week Four is “Building Codes, A Smart Investment.” Simpson Strong-Tie is proud to be a major sponsor of Week Three of Building Safety Month.

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National Hurricane Preparedness Week is recognized each year to raise awareness of the threat posed to Americans by hurricanes. A Presidential Proclamation urged Americans to visit www.Ready.gov and www.Hurricanes.gov/prepare to learn ways to prepare for dangerous hurricanes before they strike. Each day of the week has a different theme. The themes are:
⦁ Determine your risk; develop an evacuation plan
⦁ Secure an insurance check-up; assemble disaster supplies
⦁ Strengthen your home
⦁ Identify your trusted sources of information for a hurricane event
⦁ Complete your written hurricane plan.

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This week also marks the NOAA Hurricane Awareness Tour, where NOAA hurricane experts will fly with two of their hurricane research aircraft to five Gulf Coast Cities. Members of the public are invited to come tour the planes and meet the Hurricane Center staff along with representatives of partner agencies. The goal of the tour is to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for the upcoming hurricane season. The aircraft on the tour are an Air Force WC-130J and a NOAA G-IV. These “hurricane hunters” are flown in and around hurricanes to gather data that aids in forecasting the future of the storm. As with Hurricane Preparedness Week, each day of the tour features a different theme.  Simpson Strong-Tie is pleased to be a sponsor for Thursday, when the theme is Strengthen Your Home.  Representatives from Simpson Strong-Tie will be attending the event on Thursday to help educate homeowners on ways to make their homes safer.

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Finally, this week is the official kickoff of a new hurricane resilience initiative, HurricaneStrong. Organized by FLASH, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes and in partnership with FEMA, NOAA and other partners, the program aims to increase safety and reduce economic losses through collaboration with the most recognized public and private organizations in the disaster safety movement. HurricaneStrong is intended to become an annual effort, with activities starting prior to hurricane season and continuing through the end of the hurricane season on November 30. To learn more, visit www.hurricanestrong.org.


Experts consider these public education efforts to be more important every year, as it becomes longer since landfall of a major hurricane and as more and more people move to coastal areas. The public complacency bred from a lull in major storms has even been given a name: Hurricane Amnesia.


All these efforts may be coming at a good time, assuming one of the hurricane season forecasts is correct. A forecast from North Carolina State predicts an above-average Atlantic Basin hurricane season. On the other hand, forecasters at the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University are predicting an approximately average year.


Are you prepared for the natural hazards to which your geographic area is vulnerable? If not, do you know where to get the information you need?

 

Habitat for Humanity Introduces Habitat Strong Program

You’re probably already familiar with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit builder of simple, decent and affordable homes for low-income families around the world. According to builderonline.com, they were the 15th-largest builder in the country in 2015 when ranked by number of closings. Simpson Strong-Tie has been an official national partner with Habitat for Humanity since 2007, making contributions of cash and products exceeding $2.5 million in that time, and Simpson Strong-Tie employees have spent hundreds of hours building homes and training local Habitat affiliates.

Habitat for Humanity Home

We know from working on Habitat houses that they tend to be well built. There were newspaper articles about Habitat houses performing better than neighboring houses in Hurricane Andrew. In an effort to better benefit the homeowners they serve, Habitat has recently started a formal program to build even better, code-plus homes that could stand up to local hazards and document the methods used during construction. The name of this new program is Habitat Strong. Simpson Strong-Tie is proud to be a major sponsor of the program.

Habitat Strong actually began as a pilot project funded by Travelers Insurance that built 20 disaster-resistant homes in Alabama, Mississippi, New York and Connecticut. The success of that project convinced Habitat of the importance of building stronger, more resilient homes in all parts of the country. Starting from those regional hurricane-inspired efforts, the Habitat Strong program is now being used by more than 48 affiliates throughout the country, as shown on this map.

Habitat for Humanity Habitat Strong affiliate map.

According to Habitat for Humanity, “The Habitat Strong program is designed to promote the building of homes that are more durable, resilient, and physically stronger. The need for stronger homes has become increasingly apparent, and through Habitat Strong’s fortified codes-plus building practices, we are able to strengthen homes’ building envelopes, which enable[s] them to better withstand natural disasters in every region of the country. This program was developed specifically for the Habitat model to be affordable and volunteer-friendly, while offering benefits to partner families that will last for years to come. Based on these principles, we believe that building homes Habitat Strong is the right thing to do!”

Habitat for Humanity has established a set of construction standards for Habitat Strong that are based on the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety® (IBHS) FORTIFIED Home™ program. The FORTIFIED program is a scientifically developed, systems-based incremental approach for creating stronger, safer homes. There are three levels of FORTIFIED Home™ designations: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Each level builds upon measures at the preceding level to increase the disaster resistance of the home. You can take a look at the FORTIFIED Home standards on the IBHS website at www.disastersafety.org.

There are now three separate sets of FORTIFIED Home™ standards: Hurricane, High Wind & Hail, and High Wind. In general, the three levels consist of the following:

Bronze:

  • Strengthen roof deck fastening by using 8d ring-shank nails in a closer-than-normal nailing pattern.
  • Apply a secondary water barrier to the roof deck so there will still be protection from water damage even if the roof covering is blown off.
  • Install a roof covering that is rated for high winds and, if appropriate, hail forces.
  • Prune nearby trees to prevent damage to the home during a wind event.

Silver:

  • Complete all requirements for Bronze.
  • Brace gable ends over 4′ tall and ensure they are sheathed with a minimum thickness of wood structural panel.
  • Anchor wood frame chimneys to the roof structure.
  • Anchor attached structures, such as porches and carports, from the roof to the foundation.

Gold:

  • Complete all requirements for Silver.
  • Provide a continuous load path for wind forces from the roof to the foundation. In a normal 115-mph wind zone, the load path is to be designed for at least 140 mph.
  • Provide a garage door that is rated for high winds.

Habitat for Humanity is recommending to their affiliates that homes built in coastal areas be built to the IBHS Gold standard for hurricanes, and those built in inland areas be built at a minimum to the Bronze or Silver standards for high winds. The Habitat homes that meet the Bronze or Silver standards will be certified as Habitat Strong. Habitat homes that are built to the Gold standard will be certified as Habitat Strong+.

Simpson Strong-Tie is proud to be assisting Habitat for Humanity with Habitat Strong. In January, we hosted a training for Texas affiliates that was offered by Habitat and IBHS staff at our Houston training facility. We also donated connectors for a demonstration home at Michigan State University that we helped design.

If you would like more information on Habitat Strong, contact HabitatStrong@habitat.org. To learn how you can help Habitat for Humanity, visit www.habitat.org/getinv/volunteer.

Are you aware of any other programs for strengthening affordable housing? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

 

Deck Guardrail Update

This post is an update to David Finkenbinder’s post on Guard Post Resources from August 13.

As David explained, the requirements in the IRC and IBC for guards are intended to prevent people from falling off of raised surfaces. The failure of this guard is a common source of injuries caused by failures of deck components.

Section R312.1.1 of the 2012 International Residential Code (IRC) states that “Guards shall be located along open-sided walking surfaces, including stairs, ramps and landings, that are located more than 30 inches measured vertically to the floor or grade below at any point within 36 inches horizontally to the edge of the open side.”

Table 301.5 of the 2012 IRC requires that guards and handrails be designed for “[a] single concentrated load” of 200 pounds “applied in any direction at any point along the top.”

David mentioned the article Tested Guardrail Post Connections for Residential Decks, which described a testing program at Virginia Tech that examined the ability of various assemblies to resist this concentrated load at the top of the guard post. But rather than test in any direction, the researchers decided to test in what they considered the most critical direction: outward away from the deck.

Deck guardrail deflection

Simpson Strong-Tie subsequently developed a new tension tie, the DTT2Z, to make an economical connection from the top bolt in a deck post back into the framing of the deck to resist the high tension forces that develop in the top bolt when the top of the post is pushed outward. Several details were developed to try to address the various orientations of the post and deck framing.

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To allow evaluation of assemblies used to resist this deck guardrail force, ICC-ES developed AC273, Acceptance Criteria for Handrails and Guards. AC273 is available for purchase through the ICC bookstore.

Even with the connectors being readily available, deck builders have asked for guard post connection details that do not involve the use of connection hardware. So Simpson Strong-Tie again tested several framing configurations according to the AC273 criteria, using our Strong-Drive® SDWS TIMBER screws and additional blocking to try to prevent the post from rotating. These details are shown in the engineering letter L-F-SDWSGRD15.

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That brings us to the update part.

A committee made up of building officials, manufacturers, deck builders, designers and other interested parties is currently developing a set of code proposals on deck construction for inclusion in the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC). Even though more and more deck information has been incorporated into the last few editions of the IRC, there is still insufficient information in the code to be able to completely build a deck prescriptively. One area of interest is this guard connection. There is a desire to develop prescriptive details for both connection of a 4×4 post to deck framing with blocking and fasteners and for connecting the deck band joist back to the deck framing so that pre-manufactured guard rails can simply be fastened to the deck band with the knowledge that the connection is secure.

The problem is that, with the current requirement, the guard must resist the 200-pound load in ANY direction. All current testing, including AC273, only uses testing in the outward direction away from the floor of the deck. If the post were really required to resist a 200 pound load in the inward direction as well, then two hardware connectors would be required, one on each bolt. However, the belief of the committee is that resistance of 200 pounds in the outward and downward direction is primarily what is needed to ensure the safety of the occupants of the deck.

So they are working on a code proposal to change Table R301.5 of the IRC to require that the guard only resist the 200 pounds in the outward and downward direction and reduce the load to 50 pounds in the inward and upward direction.

The committee recognizes that while this is not necessarily a departure from current practice, it is a departure from current loading requirements in the IRC, IBC, and ASCE 7. So representatives of Simpson Strong-Tie met on September 30 with the NCSEA Code Advisory Committee – General Requirements Subcommittee to get the opinions of this group of active structural engineers. They provided valuable input, including the consideration that at some locations near landings and other changes in elevation, resistance to 200 pounds in the inward direction could be important.

Prior to incorporation of NCSEA’s input, the committee thought the code change might look as shown below.

We are interested in getting additional comments on this code proposal. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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d) A single concentrated load applied in any direction at any point along the top, in pounds.

f) Guard in-fill components (all those except the handrail), balusters and panel fillers shall be designed to withstand a horizontally applied normal load of 50 pounds on an area equal to 1 square foot. This load need not be assumed to act concurrently with any other live load requirement.

h) Glazing used in handrail assemblies and guards shall be designed with a safety factor of 4. The safety factor shall be applied to each of the concentrated loads applied to the top of the rail, and to the load on the in-fill components. These loads shall be determined independent of one another, and loads are assumed not to occur with any other live load.

j) A single concentrated load applied at any point along the top, in pounds. The 200-pound load is required to be applied in either the outward or downward direction, and it is permitted to be reduced to 50 pounds in either the inward or upward direction. The guard is not required to resist these loads applied concurrently with each other.

Reminders from Hurricane Katrina

This week is the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and we have all seen articles on the lessons learned from the storm. Engineers learn something new from every storm. However, I think that Hurricane Katrina just gave us some very strong reminders of things we already knew.

Hurricane Katrina reminded us that hurricanes are flood events as well as high-wind events. And I don’t mean the flooding in New Orleans. No, I mean the flooding along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida.

I witnessed the complete devastation of the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Waveland to Biloxi. Structures within the first few (and often many) blocks from the beach were simply flattened by water. Fortunately, these areas are coming back, but the structures being built there now bear little resemblance to the homes that graced the beach 10 years ago.

I remember my father-in-law having his new house built on the coast in Waveland more than 20 years ago. As a young engineer, I gave it the once over and noted that the builder had connected the roof framing to the top plate, but little else. I made some recommendations, such as continuing the connections down throughout the rest of the house to the foundation. The builder followed my suggestions and then presented my father-in-law with the bill “for your son-in-law the inspector.” He was happy to pay it. Nevertheless, although the house was wind resistant, it could not stand up to the rushing waters from Hurricane Katrina.

Katrina reminds us that the only way to get away from floods, other than not building near the water, is to elevate structures above them. Due to flood regulations, new houses along the Gulf Coast are now elevated high in the air, in the hope of avoiding flooding from future storms. Simpson Strong-Tie is proud to have developed some products during the last few years that make it easier to build structures elevated on pilings.

One such product is our CCQM column cap that strengthens the connection of support beams to masonry piers. Another is the Strong-Drive® SDWH Timber-Hex HDG structural screw, which is meant to replace through-bolts to make the connection of a beam to a wood piling easier and more reliable.

CCTQM Installation

CCTQM Installation

Elevated house built with CCQM Column Caps

Elevated house built with CCQM Column Caps

 

SDWH TIMBER-HEX HDG Screw

SDWH TIMBER-HEX HDG Screw

Hurricane Katrina reminds us of the value of building codes. After the storm, the LSU Hurricane Center conducted a number of simulation studies on the effect of a direct, Katrina-like storm on the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The simulations were run on the existing stock of buildings, and then run again on the same stock of buildings, assuming that certain features that result from modern building codes were present. These features included shutters or impact-resistant windows, enhanced nailing of the roof deck to the roof framing, framing connected together with hurricane clips and straps to achieve a continuous load path. In addition, in the Louisiana study, a secondary water barrier over the joints in the roof sheathing was added.

The studies found that the decrease in wind damage from the simulated storms was astounding. In Louisiana, the study showed a 79% reduction in economic losses due to wind. In Alabama, the study revealed a 72% reduction in economic losses due to wind. The Gulf states seem to have received the message loud and clear. In the years following Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana adopted a statewide building code and Mississippi adopted a uniform building code for the four counties along the coast. Recently, Alabama has also adopted a statewide residential and energy code. But in general, building codes are still quite varied in coastal states. This report from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety evaluates the effectiveness of building codes in coastal states.

Finally, Hurricane Katrina reminds those of us who do damage surveys that you need to know what you are getting into before you go. As soon as the storm hit and we saw the scope of the damage, four members of the Simpson Strong-Tie Engineering Department in our McKinney, Texas, office decided we needed to go see the damage first-hand before any repairs were made. So two days after the storm struck, off we went to Jackson, Mississippi. There, we rented two vans stocked up with food, water and fuel. Unfortunately, the fuel and the food/water ended up in separate vans. Before long, we were separated in traffic and could not communicate due to loss of cell signal.

Our team spent two days viewing the damage first-hand along the Louisiana and Mississippi coast, but spent a lot of time our last day trying to find some fuel so we could make it back to Jackson. I remember spending the night in a hotel without power full of storm victims, and then months later receiving the bill and being charged for a movie!

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What do you remember from Hurricane Katrina? Let us know in the comments below.

Florida Product Approvals Made Simple

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This year, the new 5th Edition of the Florida Building Code was released and is now in effect statewide. First printed in 2002, the Florida Building Code was developed as part of Florida’s response to the destruction caused by Hurricane Andrew and other hurricanes in the state.

Another component, which I would like to take a closer look at in today’s post, is a separate Florida Product Approval system designed to be a single source for approval of construction products for manufacturers, Designers and code enforcers. This single system streamlines the previous approach of different procedures for product approval in different jurisdictions. While statewide approval is not required, many jurisdictions, manufacturers and specifiers prefer using the statewide system to the alternative, which is called local product approval. To ensure uniformity of the state system, Florida law compels local jurisdictions to accept state-approved products without requiring further testing and evaluation of other evidence, as long as the product is being used consistent with the conditions of its approval.

The rules of the Florida Product Approval system are in Florida Rule 61G20-3. Here is some basic information about Florida Product Approval.

The Florida Product Approval system is only available for “approval of products and systems, which comprise the building envelope and structural frame, for compliance with the structural requirements of the Florida Building Code.” So users will only find certain types of products approved there. However, if you work in areas where design for wind resistance is required, the Florida system can be a gold mine of information for tested, rated and evaluated products. Not only will you find products like Simpson Strong-Tie connectors with our ICC-ES and IAPMO UES evaluation reports, but thousands of other tested and rated windows, doors, shutters, roof covering materials and other products that don’t typically get evaluation reports from national entities. The specific categories of products covered under the Florida system are exterior doors, impact protective systems, panel walls, roofing, shutters, skylights, structural components and windows.

To protect consumers, a recent law passed in Florida states that a product may not be advertised, sold or marketed as offering protection from hurricanes, windstorms or wind-borne debris unless it has either State Product Approval or local product approval. Selling unapproved products in this way is considered a violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Once a manufacturer understands the process for achieving a statewide approval, it is not difficult to achieve, but it can be expensive. The manufacturer must apply on the State of Florida Building Code Information System (BCIS) website at www.floridabuilding.org. To prove compliance with the code, the manufacturer must upload either a test report, a product certification from an approved certification entity, an evaluation report from a Florida Professional Engineer or Architect, or an evaluation report from an approved evaluation entity (ICC-ES, IAPMU UES, or Miami-Dade County Product Control). Then, the manufacturer must hire an independent validator to review the application to ensure it complies with the Product Approval Rule and that there are no clerical errors. Finally, once the validation is complete, staff from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation reviews the application. Depending on the method used to indicate code compliance, the application may be approved at that time or it may have to go through additional review by the Florida Building Commission.

Here are several ways to find out if a product is approved.

  1. For Simpson Strong-Tie products, we maintain a page on www.strongtie.com that lists our Florida Product Approvals.
  2. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation maintains a page where users can search Product Approvals by categories such as manufacturer, category of product, product name, or other attributes such as impact resistance or design pressure.
  3. A third-party group we work with has created a website called www.ApprovalZoom.com that lists various product evaluations and product approvals. In addition to listing Florida Product Approvals, they also list ICC-ES evaluation reports, Miami-Dade County Notices of Acceptance, Texas Department of Insurance Approvals, Los Angeles Department of Building Safety Approvals, AAMA certifications and Keystone certifications among others.
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Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Product Approvals search

The process for searching for approved products on the Florida BCIS is fairly simple.

  1. Go to www.floridabuilding.org
  2. On the menu on the left side of the page, click on Product Approval. Or, click this link to go directly to the search page.
  3. On the Product Approval Menu, click on Find a Product or Application. Note that at this location you can also search for approved organizations such as certification agencies, evaluation entities, quality assurance entities, testing laboratories and validation entities.
  4. Ensure the proper Code Version is shown. The current 2014 Florida Code is based on the 2012 International Codes.
  5. At this point, several options can be searched. You can search for all approvals by a specific product manufacturer or a certain type of building component by searching Category and Subcategory, or if searching for a specific product, by entering the manufacturer’s name and the product name.
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Select the option highlighted in red

I hope you find the information contained in the Florida Product Approval system useful. Do you have other needs to find approved products?

Which Tornado Saferoom is Right for You?

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Image courtesy of FLASH.

There certainly seems to be increased awareness of the potential for damage and injury from tornadoes these days. Recent information published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) help explain that. This increased awareness has led to a growing interest in tornado shelters for protection of life and property.

This FEMA graphic shows that most areas of the United States have been affected by a tornado at some point since 1996, and many have been affected by one or more strong tornadoes (EF3 or greater).

Figure 1 - Tornado activity by county: 1996-2013

Figure 1 – Tornado activity by county: 1996-2013

Living in North Texas near the Simpson Strong-Tie manufacturing plant in McKinney, Texas, I know all too well the sinking feeling of hearing the tornado sirens and turning on the TV to find you are under a tornado watch. FLASH recently published a graphic developed by the National Weather Service that shows the large number of U.S. counties that have been under a tornado watch between 2003-2014, and the high number of warnings that some counties experienced.

Figure 2 -  Annual average number of hours under NWS/SPC tornado watches (2003-2014)

Figure 2 – Annual average number of hours under NWS/SPC tornado watches (2003-2014)

Other than moving to an area that has fewer tornadoes, one of the best ways to protect your family and at least have more peace of mind during tornado season is to have a tornado shelter or safe room. These structures are designed and tested to resist the highest winds that meteorologists and engineers believe occur at ground level during a tornado and the debris that is contained in tornado winds.

Tornado shelters can be either pre-fabricated and installed by a specialty shelter manufacturer, or can be site-built from a designed plan or pre-engineered plan. A good source for information on pre-fabricated shelters is the National Storm Shelter Association, a self-policing organization that has strict requirements for the design, testing and installation of its members’ shelters.

FEMA publishes a document, P-320, Taking Shelter from the Storm, that provides good information on safe rooms in general, as well as several pre-engineered plans for tornado safe rooms.

To highlight the different types of safe rooms covered by FEMA P-320, FEMA, FLASH and the Portland Cement Association (PCA) sponsored an exhibit at January’s International Builder’s Show. The exhibit was called the “Home Safe Home Tornado Saferoom Showcase.” It featured six different types of saferooms that builders could incorporate into the homes they build. Simpson Strong-Tie and the American Wood Council collaborated to build a wood frame with steel sheathing safe room meeting the FEMA P-320 plans. Other safe rooms shown at the exhibit included pre-cast concrete and pre-manufactured steel shelters manufactured by NSSA members, and reinforced CMU, ICF cast-in-place concrete and aluminum formed cast-in-place concrete built to FEMA P-320 plans.

Figure 4 - Home Safe Home Tornado Saferoom Showcase

Figure 4 – Home Safe Home Tornado Saferoom Showcase

Simpson Strong-Tie staff in McKinney, Texas, constructed the wood frame/steel sheathing safe room in panels and shipped it to the show. It was built from locally sourced lumber, readily available fasteners and connectors and sheets of 16 ga. steel (which we happen to keep here at the factory). It had cut-away sheathing at the corners to show the three layers of sheathing needed. Our message to builders was that this type of shelter would be the easiest for their framers to build on their sites.

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Figure 5: Holdowns and plate anchorage

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Figure 6: Roof-to-wall connections

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Figure 7: A visitor examines our tested door, a vital component of any shelter. This one was furnished by CECO Doors.

The sponsors of the exhibit took advantage of the variety of safe rooms in one place to film a video series, “Which Tornado Safe Room is Right for You?The videos are posted at the FLASH StrongHomes channel on YouTube. The series provides comparative information on cast-in-place, concrete block masonry, insulated concrete forms, precast concrete and wood-frame safe rooms, with the goal of helping consumers to better understand their tornado safe room options.

“Today’s marketplace offers an unprecedented range of high-performing, affordable options to save lives and preserve peace of mind for the millions of families in the path of severe weather,” said FLASH President and CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson. “These videos will help families understand their options for a properly built safe room that will deliver life safety when it counts.”

FLASH released the videos earlier this month as part America’s PrepareAthon!, a grassroots campaign to increase community emergency preparedness and resilience through hazard-specific drills, group discussions and exercises. The overall goal of the program is to get individuals to understand which disasters could happen in their community, know what to do to be safe and mitigate damage from those disasters, take action to increase their preparedness, and go one step farther by participating in resilience planning for their community. Currently, the program focuses on preparing for the disasters of tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes and winter storms.

Do you know what the risk of disasters is in your community? If you are subject to tornado risk, would you like to build your own safe room, have one built to pre-engineered plans or buy one from a reputable manufacturer? Let us know in the comments below.