Installation Errors – They Happen

A few years ago, we did a post on creative uses of our products. Most of the uses shown were artistic, or functional do-it-yourself projects, with one odd car spoiler modification. This week, I was reviewing some slides in a presentation that I give a few times a year regarding product installation errors. I call them misinstallations, but I’m not sure that’s a word. I thought I’d share a few of the more instructional ones. Most of the photos were curated by our northwestern region training manager, Olga Psomostithis – thanks Olga!

Double Shear Hangers


Double shear hangers require joist fasteners that are long enough to penetrate through the hanger, through the joist and into the header. The joist nails help transfer load from the joist into the header, resulting in higher allowable loads.


The installation shown has had the double shear tabs bent back, and nails installed straight into the joist. Since the joist nails do not penetrate the header, this would result in a reduced capacity.


I’m including the trailer hitch installation because it makes me laugh no matter how many times I see it.


A very common question we get about holdowns is related to posts being offset too far from the anchor bolt (or is the anchor too far from the post?). In the installation shown below, the holdown is not flush with the post as the anchor bolt is offset about 1 inch. For small offsets up to about 1½”, a common solution is to raise the holdown off the sill plate and extend the anchor bolt with a coupler and bend it so there is a small (1:12) slope to it.


The holdown test standard, ICC-ES AC155, which is discussed in this post, requires that holdowns are tested raised off the test bed, which you can see in the photo below. Holdowns may be raised up to 18” above the top of concrete without a reduction in load provided that the additional elongation of the anchor rod is accounted for.



I like this photo because the installer put on the nail stops to protect the pipes. It is good to remember that plumbing happens when laying out a structural system.

Oh boy, does it happen.

Oh boy, does it happen.

install9STHD Holdowns



The photo above is not a misinstallation, but something that can happen. Embedded strap-style holdowns are cost-effective solutions for shearwall overturning or wind uplift. It is permitted to bend the straps to horizontal and back to vertical one cycle. If spalls form, they should be evaluated for reduced loads. Any portion of the strap left exposed should be protected against corrosion.

Hanger Gaps


Gaps can occur between trusses and supporting girders for a variety of reasons. For standard hanger tests, a 1/8″ gap is required between the joist and header per ASTM D7147. A resource for evaluating conditions with larger gaps is our technical bulletin Allowable Loads for Joist Hangers with Gaps. The technical bulletin has load data for a variety of hangers with gaps up to 3/8″, as well as recommended repairs for larger gaps. Our HTU product series comprises truss hangers specifically engineered to allow gaps up to ½”.



After going through a design project and carefully selecting the members and details of construction, it can be frustrating as an engineer to get that phone call from the general contractor or building inspector informing you that something is not right with the construction. Understanding some of the resources available to address installation errors can help solve these problems more quickly, and get you back to designing the next project.

California Has Funding for $3,000 Grants for Home Retrofits

Are you an engineer working with California clients whose homes were built before 1979 on a raised foundation?

Evident earthquake damage

Earthquake damage sustained by a two-story building over a cripple wall system after the Mexicali Earthquake (M7.2).

If you are, these clients may be among the 1.2 million California homeowners eligible for a seismic home retrofit. The state of California has approved the continuation of an initiative known as Earthquake Bolt + Brace (EBB). In its second year, this program plans to make as many as 1,600 grants to selected homeowners, nearly three times the number given the previous year. The EBB grant program provides up to $3,000 to homeowners residing in more than 150 California zip codes. Check to see whether your clients live within one of these communities here.

Simpson Strong-Tie has several different resources to assist you in helping your clients understand how to mitigate seismic risks to houses with raised foundations. The Seismic Retrofit Details sheet provides various ways to retrofit the cripple wall system using prescriptive methodologies, which can be adapted for engineered solutions. The picture below highlights the use of the Simpson Strong-Tie universal foundation plate (UFP) to attach the boltless sill plate of the cripple wall to the concrete stemwall. This simple step can help prevent the house from sliding off its foundation. The picture also reveals plywood sheathing used to reinforce the weak cripple wall system. Additional resources for retrofit can be found here.


Retrofit with UFP foundation plate in Napa, California

To help your clients better understand the impact these simple steps can have in preventing structural damage in an earthquake, click here to watch the story of a Napa business women who had purchased a structure with a raised foundation for her business and retrofitted it just prior to the 2014 M6.0 Napa earthquake, which caused considerable damage to many similar structures.

Let your clients know that the time to apply is very limited if they think they qualify for a retrofit grant. Registration for the 2016 EBB program ends on February 20. To register or learn more about the program, visit

When you finish a retrofit for one of your clients, we want to hear how it went. Let us know in the comments below.

Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) Design Example

The following FRP Design example walks the reader through the typical process for designing an FRP strengthening solution for a concrete T-beam per ACI 440.2R Guide for the Design and Construction of Externally Bonded FRP Systems for Strengthening Concrete Structures.

One of the most important initial checks for an Engineer of Record is to confirm that the unstrengthened structure can support the load combination shown in Equation 5.5.1 in ACI 562 Code Requirements for Evaluation, Repair, and Rehabilitation of Concrete Buildings:

Eq. 5.5.1: (φRn)existing ≥ (1.2SDL + 0.5SLL)new

This check is to prevent a structural failure in case that the strengthening is damaged in an extraordinary event. If the structural element cannot pass this check, then external reinforcement is not recommended.

We have a Design Questionnaire where we ask Engineers of Record for more specific information related to the element to be strengthened:


For this particular example, the following information was provided for the concrete T-beam.

1.  Structure Type (e.g., building, bridge, pier, garage):

  • 5-story commercial concrete building

2. Element(s) to be Strengthened/Repaired (e.g., beam, column, slab, wall):

  • Reinforced concrete beams

3. Type of Deficiency (e.g., shear, flexural, axial):

  • Flexural

4. Existing Factored Capacity of Section (e.g., kips, kip-ft):

  • 265 kip-ft

5. Ultimate Demand to be Supported (e.g., kips, kip-ft):

  • 320 kip-ft

6. Existing Concrete Compressive Strength:

  • 4,000 psi

7. Existing Rebar Yield Strength:

  • 60 ksi

8. Existing Reinforcement Layout:

  • 3 #7s 2.6875 inches from bottom of web to centroid of steel

9. Existing Dimensions:

  • 36 inches total beam height, 8 inches slab, 24 inches web width, 120 inches effective slab width

10. Relevant Existing Drawing Sheets and/or Pictures:

  • See attached

11. Finish Coating Requirements/Preferences:

  • None

12. For Flexural Strengthening:

  1. Dead Load Moment Applied at Time of Installation
    1. 60 kip-ft
  2. Service Dead Load Moment After Installation
    1. 80 kip-ft
  3. Service Live Load Moment After Installation
    1. 140 kip-ft

We then plug this information into our design program to come up with an FRP solution that meets the needs of the member:


For a beam that was at 83% of the capacity required for the new loading, we specified a simple, low-impact FRP solution to maintain clearances under the beams. If a traditional fix of adding cross-section to the beam had been specified instead, then additional concrete and rebar would need to be added to the beam, which would impact clearances under the beam and also increase the seismic weight of the building. The additional weight could also translate all the way through the building and even impact footing designs.

FRP can be used to increase the flexural strength up to 40% per ACI 440.

For your next retrofit project, please contact Simpson Strong-Tie to see if FRP would be an economical choice for strengthening your concrete or masonry element.

Concrete Anchor Design for the International Building Code: Part 3

Specification of Concrete Anchors
The 2012 IBC and its Referenced Standard, ACI 318-11, is the first to mandate that contract documents specifically address installation, inspections and design parameters of concrete anchorage. For this reason, the specification of anchors in drawing details alone is impractical. To fully and effectively address these code mandates, concrete anchorage is more practically specified in both drawing detail(s) and the General
Structural Notes or specifications of the contract documents. The drawing detail(s) would typically call out the anchor type, material specification, diameter, and embedment depth. The General Structural Notes or specifications would include the name of the qualified anchor(s) and address the installation, inspections and design parameter requirements of ACI 318-11.

The following sections of ACI 318-11 discuss the contract document requirements for concrete anchorage:


The commentary in ACI 318-11, RD.9.1 discusses the sensitivity of anchor performance to proper installation. It emphasizes the importance of qualified installers for all anchors, and compliance with the Manufacturer’s Printed Installation Instructions (MPII) for post-installed anchors. Training is required for adhesive anchor installers per ACI 318-11 D.9.1. Simpson Strong-Tie Co. Inc. provides free installer training by experienced Technical Sales Representatives for our adhesive, mechanical and specialty anchors. Contact us at 1-800-999-5099. Special inspection and proof loading are addressed in ACI 318-11 D.9.2
and D.9.2.1.


Per the section above, anchor installation requires inspection per Section D.9.2. In addition, the design parameters for adhesive anchors are required to be specified in the contract documents. An explanation of the design parameters listed in ACI 318-11 D.9.2.1 is provided below:

  1. Proof loading where required in accordance with ACI 355.4. Proof loading is only required for adhesive anchors loaded in tension in which the inspection level chosen for the adhesive anchor design is “Continuous” (Ref. ACI 355.4 Section 10.4.6). Selecting “Continuous Inspection” can result in a higher “Anchor Category,” which in turn results in a higher strength reduction factor, φ. Reference Section 13.3.4 of ACI 355.4 for the minimum requirements of the proof loading program, where required. The Design Professional is responsible for performing the quantity, the duration of
    the applied load, and the proof load to which the anchors will be tested. These parameters will be specific to the anchor design conditions.
  2. Minimum age of concrete at time of anchor installation. Per ACI 318 D.2.2, adhesive anchors must be installed in concrete having a minimum age of 21 days at time of anchor installation. Simpson Strong-Tie® has performed in-house testing of SET-XP®, AT-XP®, and ET-HP® adhesive anchors installed in 7-day- and 14-day-old concrete. The results of testing are published in an engineering letter (L-A-ADHGRNCON15.pdf), which can be viewed and downloaded at
  3. Concrete temperature range. This is the in-service temperature of the concrete into which the adhesive anchor is installed. Temperature Ranges are categorized as 1, 2 or 3. Some manufacturers use A, B, or C as the category designations. Each Temperature Range category has a maximum short-term concrete temperature and a maximum long-term concrete temperature. Short-term concrete temperatures are those that occur over short intervals (diurnal cycling). Long-term concrete temperatures are constant temperatures over a significant time period.
  4. Moisture condition of concrete at time of installation. Moisture conditions, as designated by ACI 355.4, are “dry,” or “water-saturated.” Moisture condition impacts the characteristic bond stress of an adhesive.
  5. Type of lightweight concrete, if applicable.
  6. Requirements for hole drilling and preparation. These requirements are specific to the adhesive, and are described in the Manufacturer’s Printed Installation Instructions (MPII). Reference to the MPII in the contract documents is sufficient.


Adhesive anchors installed in a horizontal or upwardly inclined orientation that resist sustained tension loads require a “certified” installer.



A certification program has been established by ACI/CRSI. Installers can obtain certification by successful completion of this program. Contact your local ACI or CRSI chapter for more information. Other means of certification are permitted, and are the responsibility of the licensed design professional.

The installation of adhesive anchors in a horizontal or upwardly inclined orientation presents unique challenges to the installer. Simply put, the effects of gravity for these applications make it difficult to prevent air bubbles and voids, which can limit full adhesive coverage of the insert (threaded rod or reinforcing bar). Due to the increased installation difficulty of these anchors, they are required to be continuously inspected by a certified special inspector.


Suggested General Structural Notes or specifications for post-installed anchors can be viewed and downloaded at here, or contact a Simpson Strong-Tie® representative for help with your post-installed General Structural Notes or specifications.

Simpson Strong-Tie Suggested General Note for Anchor Products

Post-Installed Anchors into Concrete, Masonry and
Steel and Cast-in-Place Anchors into Concrete

The below products are the design basis for this project. Substitution requests for products other than those listed below may be submitted by the contractor to the Engineer-of-Record (EOR) for review. Substitutions will only be considered for products having a code Report recognizing the product for the appropriate application and project building code. Substitution requests shall include calculations that demonstrate the substituted product is capable of achieving the equivalent performance values of the
design basis product. Contractor shall contact manufacturer’s representative (800-999-5099) for product installation training and a letter shall be submitted to the EOR indicating training has taken place. Refer to the building code and/or evaluation report for special inspections and proof load requirements.

  1. For anchoring into cracked and uncracked concrete

a) Mechanical anchors shall have been tested in accordance with ACI 355.2 and/or ICC-ES AC193 for cracked concrete and seismic applications. Pre-approved products include:
i. Simpson Strong-Tie® Strong-Bolt® 2 (ICC-ES ESR-3037)
ii. Simpson Strong-Tie® Titen HD® (ICC-ES ESR-2713)
iii. Simpson Strong-Tie® Torq-Cut® (ICC-ES ESR-2705)
iv. Simpson Strong-Tie® Titen HD® Rod Hanger (ICC-ES ESR-2713)
v. Simpson Strong-Tie® Blue Banger Hanger® (ICC-ES ESR-3707, except roof deck insert)

b) Adhesive anchors shall have been tested in accordance with ACI 355.4 and/or ICC-ES
AC308 for cracked concrete and seismic applications. Adhesive anchors shall be installed
by a certified adhesive anchor installer where designated on the contract documents.
Pre-approved products include:
i. Simpson Strong-Tie® AT-XP® (IAPMO-UES ER-263)
ii. Simpson Strong-Tie® SET-XP® (ICC-ES ESR-2508)
III. Simpson Strong-Tie® ET-HP® (ICC-ES ESR-3372)


Concrete Anchor Design for the International Building Code: Part 2

Designing “Alternative Materials”
Concrete anchor types whose designs are not addressed in the IBC or its Referenced Standards, or are specifically excluded from the scope of the Referenced Standard (ACI 318-11), may be recognized as Alternative Materials. Section 1909 of the 2012 IBC requires that “The strength design of anchors that are not within the scope of Appendix D of ACI 318, shall be in accordance with an approved procedure.” Section D.2.2 of ACI 318-11 lists some concrete anchor types that are considered “Alternative Materials” and specifically excludes these anchors from its scope. The list of “Alternative Material” anchors provided in this section is not, however, a comprehensive list.

Section 104.11 of the 2012 IBC describes how the design professional must approach the design of Alternative Materials.


Section 104.11 provides the design professional with two options for the substantiation of the acceptable performance of an Alternative Material:

Research Reports. As described in the previous section (Design of Code Anchors), Research Reports are referenced as the primary source for the design and qualification of Alternative Materials. Research Reports for anchors are published by IAPMO UES or ICC-ES, both ANSI ISO 17065 accredited agencies. Publicly developed, majority-approved acceptance criteria are used to establish the test program and minimum performance requirements for an anchor type. Some Alternative Material anchor types have established acceptance criteria to which a product can be evaluated:

  • Screw Anchors in Concrete (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Titen HD®): ICC-ES AC193
  • Headed Cast-in Specialty Inserts (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Blue Banger Hanger®): ICC-ES AC446
  • Powder- or Gas-Actuated Fasteners (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® PDPA and GDP): ICC-ES AC70

If Research Reports are used to substantiate an anchor’s performance, the design professional is bound by the design methodology and product limitations described in the Research Report.

Tests. If a Research Report is not available, and no acceptance criteria exists for a given anchor type, IBC Section 104.11 permits the use of tests performed in accordance with “recognized and accepted test methods” by an “approved agency” to substantiate performance. One example of an anchor type for which no acceptance criteria exists is:

  • Helical Wall Ties (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Heli-Tie™)

Cracked Concrete Determination
One of the many design considerations that the design professional must determine when designing either “Code Anchors” or anchors qualified as “Alternative Materials” is whether to consider the state of the concrete “cracked” or “uncracked.” The concrete state can significantly influence the anchor’s capacity. Neither the IBC nor ACI 318, Appendix D explicitly defines which applications should be categorized as “cracked” or “uncracked” concrete. The design professional must determine by analysis whether cracking will occur in the region of the concrete member where the anchors are installed. Absent an analysis to determine whether cracking will occur, the design professional may conservatively assume that the concrete state is “cracked.” With that said, there are two circumstances that require the design professional to design for “cracked” concrete:

a) Anchors in structures assigned to Seismic Design Categories C, D, E, or F (per 2012 IBC, Chapter 16) are required to be designed for “cracked” concrete unless the design professional can demonstrate that cracking does not occur at the anchor locations. The prequalification requirements of ACI 355.2 for mechanical anchors and ACI 355.4 for adhesive anchors include a test program that evaluates the performance of anchors in cracked concrete. Only anchors that have been tested and have passed the cracked concrete test program qualify for use in “cracked” concrete. The Research Report for a post-installed anchor (mechanical or adhesive) will clearly indicate whether it qualifies for use in “cracked concrete.”
b) Anchors located in a region of the concrete element where analysis indicates cracking at service level loading must be designed for “cracked” concrete (e.g. fr ≥ 7.5λ√f’c, ACI 318-11 eq. 9-10).

The design professional must consider additional factors that have the potential to result in concrete cracking in the region of anchorage. These factors include restrained shrinkage, temperature changes, soil pressure, and differential settlement. If no cracking is assumed in the region of the anchorage, the design professional should be able to justify that assumption.

Design Calculations

The design methodology in ACI 318 Appendix D is cumbersome. Calculations can be performed by hand using the design equations in Appendix D, inserting the substantiated data from an anchor manufacturer’s data tables or Research Reports to design with post-installed anchors. Designing with cast-in-place “Code Anchors” does not require additional data beyond what is included in ACI 318, Appendix D since these are “standard” anchors with standard design characteristics.

Performing hand calculations can be time-consuming, and for most design professionals is impractical due to the complexity of the design equations associated with multiple failure modes required to be considered. Design software, such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Anchor Designer™ Software for ACI 318, ETAG and CSA provides a fast, reliable method of calculating anchor performance for both cast-in-place and post-installed anchors. This software designs both “Code Anchors” and “Alternative Materials” for which an acceptance criteria exists.

Simpson Strong-Tie® Anchor Designer™ Software for ACI 318, ETAG and CSA is free and can be downloaded here.


Concrete Anchor Design for the International Building Code: Part 1

The intent of this technical bulletin is to clarify code language and outline the correct path for the design of concrete anchors under the International Building Code (IBC). The reader will be able to clearly distinguish between “code anchors” and anchors that are considered “alternative materials,” as well as understand the logical sequence of code language for designing each type. The distinction between “cracked” concrete and “uncracked” concrete anchor design will be made. This technical bulletin will lend clarity to the qualification of post-installed anchors for use in concrete. Excerpts from the IBC and its Referenced Standards will be provided to facilitate the description of the design requirements.

More than a decade after the introduction of the American Concrete Institute’s ACI 318, Appendix D design methodology for anchor design in 2002, many design professionals either do not fully understand or are unaware of the code requirements for the design of concrete anchors. Several factors contribute to the challenges associated with understanding the code mandates:
1. The incorrect notion that ACI 318, Appendix D is exclusively for anchors designed for “cracked concrete,” leading to regionally varying degrees of enforcement and implementation of the design requirements
2. Multiple Reference Standards for the design and qualification of different anchor types
3. The evolving scope of Reference Standards, which have reclassified some anchors as “Code Anchors” that were previously considered “Alternative Materials”
4. Confusing language in IBC sections that address concrete anchorage
5. Complexity of the anchor design methodology itself
6. Varying levels of special inspections enforcement

It is nevertheless incumbent upon the licensed design professional to design anchors in accordance with the minimum provisions of the code in order to protect public safety, reduce liability risk and fulfill professional responsibilities.

The International Building Code, beginning with the 2000 edition, describes the design methodology of concrete anchors by virtue of the language within the IBC itself, or through language in the Referenced Standard (ACI 318). In this technical bulletin, specific reference to the 2012 IBC and ACI 318-11 will be made, since this is currently the most widely adopted edition of the IBC.


“Code Anchors” and “Alternative Materials”
Anchors can be divided into two major categories: 1) “Code Anchors”, which are those that are specifically addressed in the IBC or its Referenced Standards, and 2) “Alternative Materials”, the design and qualification of which are not addressed in the IBC or its Referenced Standards.
The following “Code Anchors” recognized by the 2012 IBC:

  • Headed studs
  • Headed bolts
  • Hooked (J- or L-) bolts
  • Expansion anchors(such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Strong-Bolt® 2)
  • Undercut anchors (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Torq-Cut™)
  • Adhesive anchors (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® SET-XP®, AT-XP®, and ET-HP®)


Anchor types not listed above are considered “Alternative Materials.”
The following are anchors qualified as such:

  • Screw anchors (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Titen HD®)

Alternative materials also apply to anchor types specifically excluded from ACI 318-11 calculation and analysis requirements.

  • Specialty inserts (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Blue Banger Hanger®)
  • Through-bolts
  • Multiple anchors connected to a single steel plate at the embedded end
  • Grouted anchors
  • Powder- or gas-actuated fasteners (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® PDPA)


Designing “Code Anchors”
The starting point for the design of all anchors is Section 1908 of the 2012 IBC.


Section 1908.1 states that only cast-in-place headed bolts and headed studs are permitted to be designed using “Allowable Stress Design,” provided that they are not used to resist earthquake loads or effects. For these anchors, Section 1908.2 references Table 1908.2 for the determination of the allowable service load. Section 1908.1 makes explicit reference to post-installed anchors (anchors installed into hardened concrete), stating that the provisions of “Allowable Stress Design” is not permitted. For the design professional, this means that determining anchor by means of “Allowable Load Tables” based on previous test criteria that used a safety factor of 4.0 to determine allowable loads, as in the example below, is not permitted under the IBC.


Section 1909 of the 2012 IBC, “Anchorage to Concrete – Strength Design” makes explicit reference to Appendix D of ACI 318 as the required design standard for the anchors listed in this section.


Cast-in-place headed bolts and headed studs used to resist earthquake loads or effects must be designed using “Strength Design” in accordance with ACI 318 Appendix D. Additionally, Section 1909 does not make reference to adhesive anchors, despite their status as “code anchors.” ACI 318-11 was the first edition to include adhesive anchors in its scope; however, the 2012 IBC was approved prior to the approval of ACI 318-11. This resulted in the omission of adhesive anchors from the language in Section 1909 of the 2012 IBC. Section 1901.3 of the 2015 IBC, entitled “Anchoring to Concrete” includes language for adhesive anchors and their applicability to the ACI 318-14 design and qualification requirements. The omission of adhesive anchors from Section 1909 of the 2012 IBC, however, does not exclude them from the design and qualification requirements of ACI 318-11 by virtue of their inclusion in ACI 318-11 Section D.2.2. The design professional must then reference Section D.2 of ACI 318-11, Appendix D to confirm that the anchors being designed fall within its scope.


Note that anchors used for temporary construction means, such as tilt wall panel bracing, are not addressed in the IBC. As a result, they are not required to be designed in accordance with the provisions of ACI 318, Appendix D. Section D.2.2 lists anchor types that fall within its scope, and those that are excluded (considered “Alternative Materials”).


Code Anchors are required to meet the ACI 318-11 Section D.2.3 qualification requirements described below.


ACI 355.2 (Qualification standard for expansion and undercut anchors) and ACI 355.4 (Qualification standard for adhesive anchors) are referenced here as the qualification criteria for specific types of postinstalled anchors. For the design professional it can be difficult to determine, without fully investigating these Referenced Standards, whether a specific proprietary anchor has been tested and is qualified for use in concrete. A simpler means by which to identify whether a proprietary anchor has been qualified to the Referenced Standard is a current Research Report (e.g., Evaluation or Code Report) which provides third-party review and verification that the product has been tested to and meets the qualification standard. There are two primary Research Report providers: IAPMO UES (International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials Uniform Evaluation Service) and ICC-ES (International Code Council Evaluation Service).
These agencies are ANSI ISO 17065 accredited. They review independent laboratory test data, witnessed or conducted by an accredited third party, for a product and verify its conformance to publicly developed and majority-approved qualification criteria (or acceptance criteria) established for a given anchor type. Research Reports are an invaluable tool to the design professional and building official as evidence of conformance with the IBC.

There are two acceptance criteria that apply to post-installed “Code Anchors”:

  • ICC-ES AC193 – Acceptance Criteria for Post-Installed Mechanical Anchors in Concrete Elements
  • ICC-ES AC308 – Acceptance Criteria for Post-Installed Adhesive Anchors in Concrete Elements

These acceptance criteria reference ACI 355.2 and ACI 355.4, respectively, as the foundation for the test program by which the anchor is evaluated, and establish minimum performance standards for qualification. A Research Report is issued for an anchor that meets these minimum standards.

Masonry Reinforcement and Concrete Strengthening with Composites

Guest blogger Brad Erickson, Engineering Manager: Composite Strengthening Systems™

Guest blogger Brad Erickson, Engineering Manager

This week’s post comes from Brad Erickson, who is the Engineering Manager for the Composite Strengthening Systems™ product line at our home office. Brad is a licensed civil and structural engineer in the State of California and has worked in the engineering field for more than 17 years.  After graduating from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a B.S. in Architectural Engineering, he worked for Watry Design, Inc. as an Associate Principal before coming to Simpson Strong-Tie.  Brad is the Engineering Manager for Composite Strengthening Systems and his experience includes FRP design, masonry and both post-tensioned and conventional concrete design.  While not at work, Brad enjoys spending time carting his three kids around to their competitive soccer games and practices.

Have you ever had a concrete or masonry design project where rebar was left out of a pour? Chances are, the answer is yes. Did you wish you could solve this problem by putting rebar on the outside of that element? That’s exactly what Simpson Strong-Tie Composite Strengthening Systems™ (CSS) can do for you and your project. In effect, composites act like external rebar for your concrete or masonry element. Composites can be used in similar configurations to rebar but are applied on the exterior surface of the element being strengthened.

The initial offering in our CSS line is our fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) product group. An FRP composite is created by taking carbon or glass fabric and saturating it with a two-part epoxy which, when cured, creates the composite. Together, the weight of the fabric and the number of layers in the composite determine how much strength it will add to your concrete or masonry element.

reinforce1 Another form of FRP composite is a precured carbon laminate. The carbon fibers are saturated in the manufacturing facility and are attached to the structure using CSS-EP epoxy paste and filler, an epoxy with a peanut butter–like consistency. We also carry paste profilers (pictured below) that help contractors apply the proper amount of paste to a piece of precured laminate.

reinforce2Of course, before any concrete or masonry reinforcement project can succeed, proper surface preparation is of the utmost importance. Without a good bond with the substrate, a composite will not be able to achieve the intended performance. Concrete voids must be repaired, cracks must be injected and sealed, and any deteriorated rebar must be cleaned and coated. Prior to composite placement, the surface of the substrate must be prepared to CSP-3 (concrete surface profile) in accordance with ICRI Guideline No. 310.2. Grinding and blasting are the most common surface-preparation techniques.

reinforce3The following are just a few applications where composites can be used for concrete and/or masonry retrofits. The orange arrows show the direction of the fibers in the fabric – in other words, the direction in which the composite provides tension reinforcement.

FRP Confinement


Flexural Strengthening

Shear Strengthening

Shear Strengthening

Wall Flexural Strengthening

Wall Flexural Strengthening

This is a summary of the basics of composites and their installation on strengthening projects. As composites are not yet in the design codes in the United States, the American Concrete Institute has produced 440.2R-08: Guide for the Design and Construction of Externally Bonded FRP Systems for Strengthening Concrete Structures. This guide has numerous recommendations for using fiber-reinforced polymer systems to strengthen your concrete or masonry construction.

If you would like more information about FRP design, you can learn the best practices for fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) strengthening design during a recorded webinar offered by Simpson Strong-Tie Professional Engineers. We look at FRP components, applications and installation. We also take you behind the scenes to share the evaluation process informing a flexural beam-strengthening design example and talk about the assistance and support Simpson Strong-Tie Engineering Services offers from initial project assessment to installation.

screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-11-39-27-amFor complete information regarding specific products suitable to your unique situation or condition, please visit or call your local Simpson Strong-Tie RPS specialist.

Overcoming Adhesive Anchor Orientation Challenges with the Piston Plug Adhesive Delivery System

Modern code-listed adhesive anchors offer high-strength connection solutions for a variety of applications. However, as in all construction projects, good product performance requires proper selection and installation. In this blog post, we will discuss the challenge of installation orientation and an accessory that can help installers more easily make proper adhesive anchor installations—the piston plug adhesive delivery system.

ACI 318-11 Appendix D (Anchoring to Concrete) calculations use a uniform bond stress model to calculate an adhesive anchor’s resistance to bond failure. According to this theory, an adhesive anchor is assumed to transfer applied loads into the concrete base material uniformly along its effective embedment depth, hef. The equation for an anchor’s basic bond strength (expressed in pounds of force) is simply the adhesive formulation’s bond strength per unit area (λ * τcr) multiplied by the idealized cylindrical surface area of the insert that is in contact with the adhesive (π * da * hef):

Nba = λ τcr π da hef             (ACI 318-11, Eq. D-22)

oaa1Although the model is a simplification of reality, the mathematical expression represents the core assumption that the adhesive is able to transfer stress completely along the entire depth of the anchorage. This is a key requirement in installation: Anchoring adhesives must be installed such that air entrapment and significant voids are prevented.

Downward installations (Figure 1) have historically presented relatively few challenges for adhesive injection in this regard. In such applications, gravity is helpful; the adhesive naturally flows to the bottom of the drilled hole while being dispensed from the cartridge through a static mixing nozzle. The installer maintains the open end of the nozzle below the free surface of the adhesive until the drilled hole is filled to the desired level. For deep holes, extension tubing is affixed to the open end of the nozzle to increase reach. This procedure avoids entrapping air bubbles in the adhesive material.

Downward adhesive installation in concrete.

Figure 1 – Downward installation orientation

Installations into horizontal, upwardly inclined or overhead drilled holes (Figure 2) require more care on the part of adhesive anchor installers. Although the installation principle to avoid entrapping air is similar for these orientations, a key difference is that gravity does not help to keep the adhesive towards the “bottom” (deepest point) of the drilled hole. At worst, it can work against the installer when ambient temperatures may cause the adhesive to run out of the hole during injection. These adhesive anchor installations can be more difficult for an untrained installer and can slow the rate of work. This is one of the reasons that ACI 318-11 Section D.9.2.4 requires continuous special inspection of adhesive anchor installations in these three orientations when the application is also intended to resist sustained loads.

Figure 2 – Overhead, upwardly inclined and horizontal installation orientations (Source: ACI 318-11, Section RD.1)

Figure 2 – Overhead, upwardly inclined and horizontal installation orientations
(Source: ACI 318-11, Section RD.1)

To aid the installer, Simpson Strong-Tie offers a piston plug adhesive delivery system (Figure 3). Consisting of pre-packaged flexible tubing, piston plugs and an adhesive retaining cap, this system allows installers to more easily and consistently make high-quality installations while completing their work efficiently. The installation sequence is provided in Figure 4.

Figure 3 – Piston plug delivery system

Figure 3 – Piston plug delivery system

The system consists of three components:

  • Piston plug – The key component of the system, it is slightly smaller in diameter than the drilled hole. As the adhesive is dispensed into the drilled hole, the piston plug is displaced out of the hole by the advancing volume of the injected adhesive. The displacement creates a more positive feel for the installer to know where the free surface of the adhesive is.


  • Flexible tubing – For use with the piston plug to facilitate injection at the deepest point of the drilled hole.
  • Adhesive retaining cap – Provided to prevent adhesive material from flowing out of the drilled hole after dispensing and to provide a centering mechanism for the insert. For heavy inserts in overhead conditions, other means must be provided to carry the weight of the insert and prevent it from falling or becoming dislodged from the hole before the adhesive has fully cured.


Figure 4 – Installation sequence

Figure 4 – Installation sequence

What do you think about the piston plug adhesive delivery system? Let us know by posting a comment below.

Understanding and Meeting the ACI 318 – 11 App. D Ductility Requirements – A Design Example

If you’re one of the many engineers still confused by the ACI 318 – 11 Appendix D design provisions, this blog will help explain what’s required to achieve a ductile performing anchorage. Most building codes currently reference ACI 318 – 11 Appendix D as the required provision for designing a wide variety of anchor types that include expansion, undercut, adhesive and cast-in-place anchors in concrete base materials. This blog post will focus on section D. for an anchor located in a high seismic region. We’ll go over what these requirements are with a simple design example.

Ductility is a benefit in seismic design. A ductile anchor system is one that exhibits a meaningful degree of deformation before failure occurs. However, ductility is distinct from an equally important dimension called strength. Add strength, and a ductile steel element like the one shown in Figure 1 can now exhibit toughness. During a serious earthquake, a structural system with appreciable toughness (i.e., one that possesses both strength and ductility in sufficient degree) can be expected to absorb a tremendous amount of energy as the material plastically deforms and increases the likelihood that an outright failure won’t occur. Any visible deformations could help determine if repair is necessary.

Figure 1 – ½" mild steel threaded rod tensilely loaded to failure (starting stretch length = 8d)

Figure 1 – ½” mild steel threaded rod tensilely loaded to failure (starting stretch length = 8d)

Let’s start off with a simple example that will cover the essential requirements for achieving ductility and applies to any type of structural anchor used in concrete. We’ll arbitrarily choose a post-installed adhesive anchor. This type of anchor is very common in concrete construction and is used for making structural and nonstructural connections that include anchorage of sill plates and holdowns for shear walls, equipment, racks, architectural/mechanical/electrical components and, very frequently, rebar dowels for making section enlargements. We’ll assume the anchor is limited to resisting earthquake loading in tension only and is in seismic design category C – F. Section D. requires that if the strength-level earthquake force exceeds 20% of the total factored load, that the anchor be designed in accordance with section D. and D. We will focus on achieving the ductility option, (a), of D.

To understand anchor ductility we need to first identify the possible failure modes of an anchor. Figure 2 shows the three types of failure modes we can expect for an adhesive anchor located away from a free edge. These three failure modes generically apply to virtually any type of anchor (expansion, screw, cast-in-place or undercut). Breakout (Nb) and pullout (Na) are not considered ductile failure modes. Breakout failure (Nb) can occur very suddenly and behaves mostly linear elastic and consequently absorbs a relatively small amount of energy. After pullout failure (Na) has been initiated, the load/displacement behavior of the anchor can be unpredictable, and furthermore, no reliable mechanism exists for plastic deformation to take place. So we’re left with steel (Nsa). To achieve ductility, not only does the steel need to be made of a ductile material but the steel must govern out of the three failure modes. Additionally, the anchor system must be designed so that steel failure governs by a comfortable margin. Breakout and pullout can never control while the steel yields and plastically deforms. This is what is meant by meeting the ductility requirements of Appendix D.

Figure 2 –Three possible failure modes for an adhesive anchor loaded in tension

Figure 2 – Three possible failure modes for an adhesive anchor loaded in tension

Getting back to our design example, we have a single post-installed 5/8” diameter ASTM F1554 Gr. 36 threaded rod that’s embedded 12” deep, in a dry hole, in a concrete element that has a compressive strength of 2,500 psi. The concrete is 18” thick and we assume that the edge distance is large enough to be irrelevant. For this size anchor, the published characteristic bond strength is 743 psi. Anchor software calculations will produce the following information:


The governing design strength is compared to a demand or load combination that’s defined elsewhere in the code.

Here’s the question: Before proceeding with the remainder of this blog, judging by the design strength values shown above, should we consider this anchorage ductile? Your intuition might tell you that it’s not ductile. Why? Pullout clearly governs (i.e., steel does not). So it might come as a surprise to learn that this adhesive anchor actually is ductile!

To understand why, we need to look at the nominal strength (not the design strength) of the different anchor failure modes. But first let’s examine the equations used to determine the design strength values above:


The above values incorporate the notation φ (“phi”) and a mandatory 0.75 reduction factor for nonductile failure modes (Ncb ,Na) for applications located in high seismic areas (seismic design category C–F). The φ factor is defined in section D.4. However, manufacturers will list factors specific to their adhesive based on anchor testing. The mandatory 0.75 reduction comes from section D. and is meant to account for any reduction associated with concrete damage during earthquake loading. The important thing to remember is that the nominal strength provides a better representation of the relative capacity of the different failure modes. Remove these reduction factors and we get the following:


Now steel governs since it has the lowest strength. But we’re not done yet. Section D. of Appendix D requires that the expected steel strength be used in design when checking for ductility. This is done by increasing the specified steel strength by 20%. This is to account for the fact that F1554 Gr. 36 threaded rod, for example, will probably have an ultimate tensile strength greater than the specified 58,000 psi. (Interestingly, the ultimate strength of the ½” threaded rod tested in Figure 1 is roughly 74 ksi, which is about 27% greater than 58,000 psi.) With this in mind, the next step would be to additionally meet section D. such that the following is met:


By increasing the steel strength by 20%, the nominal strength of the nonductile failure modes (Ncb ,Na) must be at least that much greater to help ensure that a ductile anchor system can be achieved. The values to compare finally become:


ductility8Now steel governs, but one more thing is required. As shown in Figure 3, Section D. of Appendix D also requires that the rod be made of ductile steel and have a stretch length of at least eight times the insert diameter (8d). Appendix D defines a ductile steel element as exhibiting an elongation of at least 14% and a reduction in area of at least 30%. ASTM F1554 meets this requirement for all three grades of steel (Grade 36, 55 and 105) with the exception of Grade 55 for anchor nominal sizes greater than 2”. Research has shown that a sufficient stretch length helps ensure that an anchor can experience significant yielding and plastic deformation during tensile loading. The threaded rod shown in Figure 1 was tested using a stretch length of 4” (8d). Lastly, section D. requires that the anchor be engineered to protect against buckling.

Figure 3 – Stretch length

Figure 3 – Stretch length

Appendix D doesn’t require that an anchor system behave ductilely. Three additional options exist for Designers in section D3.3.4.3. Option (b) allows for the design of an alternate failure mechanism that behaves ductilely. Designing a base plate (or support) that plastically hinges to exhibit ductile performance is one example. Option (c) involves a case where there’s a limit to how much load can be delivered to the anchor. Although option (c) under D. falls under the tensile loading section of Appendix D, the best example would apply to anchorage used to secure a wood sill plate or cold-formed steel track. We know from experiments that the wood crushes or the steel yields and locally buckles at a force less than the capacity of the concrete anchorage. Clearly energy is absorbed in the process. The most commonly used option is (d), which amplifies the earthquake load by Ωo. Ωo can be found in ASCE 7 – 10 for both structural and nonstructural components. The value of Ωo is typically taken to be equal to 2.5 (2.0 for storage racks) and is intended to make the anchor system behave linear elastically for the expected design-level earthquake demand.

These same options exist for shear loading cases. However, achieving system ductility through anchor steel is no longer an option for shear loading according to ACI 318 – 11, because the material probably won’t deform appreciably enough to be considered ductile.

While factors such as edge-distance and embedment-depth restrictions make achieving ductility difficult for post-installed anchors, it should come as some consolation that in many cases the Designer can achieve ductile performance for cast-in-place anchors loaded in tension through creative detailing of reinforcing steel (section D.5.2.9) to eliminate breakout as a possible failure mode. This has been explored in some detail in two previous Simpson Strong-Tie blogs titled “Anchor Reinforcement for Concrete Podium Slabs” and “Steel Strong Wall Footings Just Got a Little Slimmer.”


“You Cannot Escape Responsibility Tomorrow by Evading it Today”

While the contents of this blog are certainly not what Abraham Lincoln had in mind when he made the statement that I’m using to title this blog post, it does speak volumes to the pertinence of what will be discussed today. “Design by others” or some variation of this appears in many parts of Simpson Strong-Tie details.

Simpson Strong-Tie receives technical calls from contractors and plans examiners inquiring about information that requires input from the Designer. When these calls occur during construction there can be confusion and frustration in the field because the Designer is needed to evaluate and resolve the issue. Designers and engineers that identify these conditions ahead of time will reduce confusion and delays on their projects.

Strong-Wall® Shearwalls

The Strong-Wall® shearwall product line uses several iterations of “design by others” within its installation details. It is important to note that many details within the installation drawings may require input from the Designer when certain conditions exist.

For example, Detail 7 on SSW2 shows an alternate first-story installation where the Steel Strong-Wall shearwall bypasses the floor framing and bears directly onto concrete. A ledger may be attached to the shearwall to support perpendicular floor framing. The specification of the hanger and attachment is project specific and would require evaluation by the Designer.

This condition is also on the Strong-Wall SB shearwall installation details as seen in the following detail. The detail is generic and requires attachment information from the Designer.  When these conditions do not exist on the project, it may be beneficial to cross out the detail or delete and state “not used” to lessen confusion during plan check and construction.


The note “Foundation Dimensions are for Anchorage only. Foundation design (size and reinforcement) by others” can be found in multiple locations on the Wood Strong-Wall,  Steel Strong-Wall and Strong-Wall Shear Brace detail sheets.


Soil type and loading conditions not related to the product design vary from project to project and cannot be designed into a one-size-fits-all foundation solution. Thus, the information provided by Simpson Strong-Tie in the installation drawings only addresses the concrete anchorage requirements of ACI 318 (Section D5.2.9/ACI 318-11; Section These details assume no reinforcement in the footing, resulting in rather large foundations. Since design requirements vary with every project, it’s important for Designers to evaluate and verify each condition.

The new Steel Strong-Wall shearwall grade beam solutions reduce the size of the footings required for anchorage. However, the Designer must specify the grade beam reinforcement for proper performance. The details for the grade beam solutions (see SSW1.1 sheet) are based on ACI 318 and testing that was conducted by Simpson Strong-Tie.

For the grade beam solutions, Designers have two options:

(1) Design grade beam to resist the moment induced from amplified forces to the anchor, or

(2) The lesser of the tabulated moment or the amplified LRFD design moment for seismic (ASD Shear / 0.7) x Ω0 x (SSW Height).

Furthermore, the Designer is responsible for specifying the size and number of shear and flexural reinforcement throughout the grade beam beyond the anchor reinforcement depicted in the details.

Delivery of forces to the Strong-Wall shearwall (to the top of wall), including properly sizing the structural members, should be based on project specific requirements.

Strong Frame® Moment Frames

Simpson Strong-Tie Strong Frame® ordinary moment frames and special moment frames contain similar requirements for the Designer. Moment frames have been discussed many times in this blog: Special Moment Frame Installation: What Structural Engineers Should Watch For, Steel Moment Frame Beam Bracing and Breaking News:  Simpson Strong-Tie Strong Frame Special Moment Frame Testing Today.

The notes on SMF2 state “Footing/Grade beam size and reinforcing shall be specified by the Designer as required to resist the imposed loads, such as foundation shear and bending, soil bearing pressure, shear transfer, and frame stability/overturning.”

Moment frame foundation solutions are based on satisfying the minimum concrete anchorage requirements. Detailing can be a crucial area for this product line as it is common to find deeper footings at these locations, which should be reflected on your construction documents.

Like Strong Wall shearwalls, Designers must evaluate the project conditions and detail the load path of the forces to the resisting element (in this case the Strong Frame moment frame). Ensuring proper transfer of forces that are detailed within your construction documents will reduce headaches down the road.

Strong-RodTM Systems

Strong-Rod™ systems are continuous rod tiedown solutions for multi-story, light-frame wood construction. These systems include Anchor Tiedown Systems (ATS) for shearwall overturning restraint and Uplift Restraint Systems (URS) for roofs. Both systems utilize the same components (i.e. bearing plates, rods, couplers and shrinkage compensation devices), however the detailing, design and locations of these two systems differs.

For ATS, the Designer is responsible for the following:

  • Developing the cumulative tension/compression loads,
  • Determining the system displacement requirements as defined in ICC-ES Acceptance Criteria AC316 to satisfy code required drift equations (this specifically addresses the holdown part of the Equation 4.3-1 of the 2015 Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic)
  • The location of each holdown/shearwall.

A more elaborate description of the Designer’s responsibilities for ATS can be found on page 23 of our  Strong-Rod Systems design guide (F-L-SRS15). Simpson Strong-Tie incorporates this information into our design of the system and provides calculations and installation drawings to the Designer for review (a sample two-story run is shown below).


For URS, there are two different approaches to design that have different level of responsibilities. The Designer has fewer responsibilities when specifying a rod with a “system (CRTS)” evaluation report per AC391, but they are still responsible for developing the project’s wind uplift loads, specifying URS details and designing systems for shearwall overturning.

More requirements must be taken into account when designing and specifying a rod system using steel components with a “rod-run only (CRTR)” AC391 evaluation report, or no report at all. (A more elaborate description of the Designer’s responsibilities for URS can be found on page 43 of the  Strong-Rod Systems design guide).

Based on the project information provided, the rod manufacturer will design and detail the system and submit calculations and installation drawings to the Designer for review.

Podium Deck Anchorage

The newest details published by Simpson Strong-Tie on podium deck anchorage solutions were developed to reduce the impact of an industry-wide challenge; resolving large tension forces (upwards of 50 kips) from four- to five-story narrow shearwalls into thin (often 10-14 inch thick) concrete podium decks. These solutions (e.g., design tables installation drawings and sample calculations), which are on our website, rely on special anchor reinforcement details using standard construction rebar.


More information about these solutions can be found this blog post and in the shallow anchor page on our website. It is important to note that the Designer is responsible for selecting the best anchorage detail to satisfy the demand loads based on his/her concrete specification and specific project conditions. The Designer is also responsible for designing and detailing the flexural reinforcement within the slab to achieve the amplified forces.


Adding standard installation details to your construction documents saves significant design time. However, the responsibility does not end with the copy-and-paste. The installation details by Simpson Strong-Tie contain details of many common applications. Some may not apply to your project, while others may require additional input from you. Of course, the Designer is permitted to use alternate details and is not limited to what is shown on the installation drawings. Providing complete information will save time and frustration during plan check and construction. Simpson Strong-Tie is here to answer questions and help with your next project. Please reach out to us by calling 800-999-5099 or by clicking here.