What Structural Engineers Need to Know About the New OSHA Silica Dust Standards

This week’s post was written by Todd Hamilton, PE. ICI Field Engineer at Simpson Strong-Tie.

In March of 2016, the United States Department of Labor issued new OSHA standards on how crystalline silica dust should be handled in various workplaces including within the construction industry. The changes are intended to limit workers’ exposure to and inhalation of silica dust on the jobsite. These regulations will replace the current standard, which was issued in 1971. Compliance with the new rules will be required on construction jobsites starting September 23, 2017, and will be enforced through OSHA from that time forward.

Crystalline silica is a naturally occurring mineral that is found in sand, sandstone, shale and granite, and since some of these materials can be found on jobsites on their own or as a component of a construction material such as concrete and mortar, changes to how workplaces contain and dispose of silica dust will affect the way our industry operates. Some of the processes performed on a construction jobsite that can expose workers to crystalline silica dust are drilling, grinding and sawing concrete and masonry; jackhammering; and sand blasting. Inhaling crystalline silica can lead to long-term illness and early death. Illnesses caused by inhaling silica dust include silicosis, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The new OSHA standards do the following:

  • Reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift. Previous PEL was 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift.
  • Require employers to use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to keep worker silica exposure within the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high-exposure areas; develop a written exposure-control plan; offer medical exams to highly exposed workers; and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposure.
  • Provide medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and give them information about their lung health.
  • Provide flexibility to help employers – especially small businesses – protect workers from silica exposure.

Beyond that, the OSHA standards offer three methods an employer can use to demonstrate compliance:

  • A list of common jobsite activities and the required engineering control method, plus the additional respiratory protection (if needed) to meet the 50 PEL.
  • For activities/protection methods not included in the preceding list, the use of credible third-party assessment is allowed to show that the exposure level is < 50 PEL. This includes data from universities, trade associations, etc. that can be used provided they are based on conditions similar to, or more inherently hazardous than, the employer’s current conditions.
  • Manufacturers can generate their own data on their workers’ exposure level using an air-monitoring system.

Visit the US Department of Labor’s OSHA website for more in-depth information and useful links.

All these new requirements directly affect contractors onsite, but it’s also important for structural engineers to have an understanding of them. Beyond that, there are some key things that structural engineers should consider when specifying products such as post-installed anchors where the installation process includes drilling concrete, which does generate crystalline silica dust. Back in 2006 when Acceptance Criteria 308 was adopted, it made a lot of changes to how adhesive anchors are tested and qualified, but it also required that the manufacturers’ printed installation instructions (MPII) be published as part of the code report. This tied the published data in the code report to the installation procedures that could be used to achieve those data. And with the adoption of ACI 335.4 in 2015, the requirement for the MPII to be included in the code report continues. Therefore, with MPIIs being a part of the code report, a structural engineer needs to understand the importance of having an installation method that accounts for silica dust generated during the installation process and verify that the MPIIs include an installation process which utilizes a high-efficiency dust-collection system.

To get a better understanding of how these high-efficiency dust-collection systems work, let’s look at the Simpson Strong Tie Speed Clean™ DXS dust extraction system. This system was developed through a partnership with Bosch. Here is a video that clearly explains the system and its method:

So as structural engineers, we should consider what the MPII says when we are specifying a product.  Does it have an installation procedure, such as the Simpson Strong-Tie/Bosch DXS, that properly controls the crystalline silica dust generated? Does the code report lock the contractor into a specific brand of vacuum? Some code reports may only allow the use of a specific brand and model of vacuum and drills that can be used, which in some cases could require the purchase of new tools.

The new OSHA standard is very beneficial to installers because it will protect them from potential long-term health hazards. When it comes to anchor installation, the new regulations, along with compliant technologies such as the Speed Clean DXS, will eliminate the blow-brush-blow installation method that creates a lot of harmful airborne crystalline silica dust and is also often a source of installation error. Even though it will take time and effort for contractors and engineers to come to grips with the full ramifications for their projects, the new regulations are a positive development for the construction industry.

The Top 5 Helpful Tips for Using CFS Designer™ to Optimize Your Workflows

Back in April of last year, I had the opportunity to show how our new CFS Designer software  could help structural engineers “go lean” in their design process by eliminating repetitive tasks (while still meeting required design standards, of course!). Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to visit with hundreds of engineers in person to teach them about CFS Designer and how it can help them improve and optimize their workflows. As a power user of the software, I want to share my top tips for letting CFS Designer help you save the maximum amount of time.

Tip #1. You need to create only one design file for each project.
CFS Designer has to generate lots of code-compliant designs quickly, but that doesn’t mean you need to end up with dozens of unrecognizable file names on your desktop. The software includes a very handy WorkSpace area in the lower left-hand area of the screen that enables you to save all your wall, jamb, header, and general interaction designs in a single project space. This means that you will be saving only ONE file for each project, a feature that can save you a lot of confusion over time.

Figure 1. The orange box is highlighting the file name (which doubles as the Project Name on the summary reports), which shows up at the top of the WorkSpace area. In this example, I’ve added just one beam/stud model for the sake of simplicity.

Tip #2. Quickly duplicate similar wall sections or design types by right-clicking on the model name in the WorkSpace.
On cold-formed steel projects, there are often very similar wall sections or jambs that you’ll need to design. They may have slightly different parapet heights, different loading or different wall widths. Instead of starting from scratch and creating a new section every time, CFS Designer allows you to right-click on any existing design. The right-click action brings up a “Duplicate” pop-up which lets you create an identical model in your WorkSpace. You then have the ability to change the model name, make slight modifications, and then re-save your project to see it show up as a new model in the WorkSpace area.

Figure 2. Here’s where to right-click in order to get the “Duplicate” pop-up to appear.

Tip #3. Expand the “Member Forces” and “Connection Summary” sub-menus in the Beam Design module to get real-time updates of the reaction loads, member stresses and connection solutions.
A critical area of member design is the reaction points, because it doesn’t really matter whether your cold-formed steel member is adequately designed if the connection points don’t have a solution. Many engineers I met with thought they had to click on the “Summary Report” button every time they wanted to know the reaction forces, waiting anywhere from 10 to 15 seconds for the PDF file to load and then having to scroll through to find the correct section. Thankfully, there’s a much quicker way to view the reactions. CFS Designer instantly updates the reaction values on the design screen, but the onscreen menus that have this useful information need to be opened up first. Within the Beam Design module, click on the small down arrows to the left of “Member Forces” and “Connection Summary,” and that will expand these two useful sections and display the design information without your having to wait and generate the output. On a related note, another useful area to keep an eye on during design is the very bottom of the screen, where green text will let you know when your maximum member stress and web crippling check are compliant, red text will alert you if your member design is insufficient, and the deflection ratio limit is always displayed.

Figure 3. Here’s where to find the collapsed “Member Forces” and “Connection Summary” menus.

Figure 4. Click on the arrows to the left of the menu titles to see your important design information in detail.

Tip #4. Use the “WorkSpace Report” button for a one-click method of combining ALL the individual summary pages into a single PDF file.
After you’re done generating all your different models and saving them to your WorkSpace, you’re probably going to want to generate the output files you can print and add to your calculation package for submittal. One engineer I met with a couple of years ago told me that this was the most dreaded step because it meant she had to open each model, click on the “Summary Report” button, wait those 10–15 seconds for the PDF file to generate, and then print it out or save it. For large projects, this would need to occur 20–30 times – yikes! Thankfully, a huge part of the development of CFS Designer relies on feedback such as this to help Simpson Strong-Tie continuously improve the program’s functionality. The latest version of CFS Designer introduces a “WorkSpace Report” button, which takes a single click to create all of the summary reports for each model type, saved in a single PDF file.

Figure 5. Be sure to use the “WorkSpace Report” button to save yourself a ton of time generating all your printable output.

Tip #5. Use the onscreen tip pop-ups. Small gray question mark icons are strategically placed throughout CFS Designer to offer helpful tips and tricks for specific input boxes.
Structural engineers are expected to know a lot, but it isn’t always necessary to remember all the details if you know where to look them up. Because the information requested by some of the input boxes may not be completely self-evident, we built in some handy pop-up tips to help out. A small gray circle with a question mark inside makes its appearance next to input boxes. Hovering your mouse over one of these question marks will cause an info box to appear, letting you know what information is required, what code section to reference, or what design methodology is being used. I have found these pop-up tips to be immensely helpful, especially in conjunction with the program’s User’s Manual (located under the Help menu, at the top of the program).

Figure 6. I got this box to pop up by hovering over the question mark next to the “Load Modifiers” section of the Beam Input module. If you search for “Load Modifier” in the User’s Manual, it will direct you to the relevant AISI code section.

I’ve had fun sharing some of my top tips with everyone today, but there is a great opportunity coming up to learn even more about our CFS Designer software from one of the original developers of the software. Join me and Rob Madsen, P.E., Senior Project Engineer from Devco Engineering, for a one-hour live demo of the software and connection solutions. Rob has been described as one of the premier structural engineers in the cold-formed steel design arena, and he will walk you through detailed wall stud, jamb, header and stacked wall design examples using CFS Designer. I’ll be presenting on the innovative, tested and code-listed product solutions that Designers can use to save time in addressing the critical connection points in CFS design. We hope you can join us for the live demo, but if you have other commitments at that time, a recording of the webinar will be made available on our website for your viewing convenience. The course will also earn professional development hours (PDHs) and continuing education units (CEUs) for any folks who need credits to renew their professional licenses.

Bonus Tip: Sign up for our upcoming CFS Designer™ webinar on Thursday, September 28!

Further Reading

For additional information or articles of interest, check out these available resources:

    • AISIStandards – A free download of all the cold-formed steel framing standards adopted by the 2015 International Building Code.


    • CFSEI – The Cold-Formed Steel Engineering Institute, an incredibly useful technical and professional resource for Designers of cold-formed steel structures, with a huge library of technical notes.




Q&A About Advanced FRP Strengthening Design Principles

Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey and this disaster in Texas. To help with relief efforts we are donating $50,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Employees at our Houston warehouse are safe and the employees from our McKinney branch will be doing as much as they can to help with relief efforts.

This week’s post was written by Griff Shapack, PE. FRP Design Engineer at Simpson Strong-Tie.

On July 25, 2017, Simpson Strong-Tie hosted the second interactive webinar in the Simpson Strong-Tie FRP Best Practices Series, “Advanced FRP Design Principles,” in which Kevin Davenport, P.E. – one of our Field Engineering Managers – and I discussed the best practices for fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) strengthening design. The webinar examines the latest industry standards, proper use of material properties, and key governing limits when designing with FRP and discusses the assistance and support Simpson Strong-Tie Engineering Services offers from initial project assessment to installation. Watch the on-demand webinar and earn PDH and CEU credits here.

During the live webinar, we had the pleasure of taking questions from attendees during the Q&A session. Here is a curated selection of Q&A from that session:

While I see how you improve the flexural capacity of a beam, how do you increase its shear capacity to match new moment strength?

ACI 440.2R recommends checking the element for shear if FRP is used to increase flexural strength. U-wraps can be used to provide shear strengthening of a beam.

Are there any “pre-check” serviceability checks (deflection, vibration, etc.) similar to the ACI 440 strength check that you recommend when considering the use of FRP?

ACI 440.2R contains a few serviceability checks on the concrete, rebar and FRP that can be performed once you have designed a preliminary strengthening solution.

Are these strengthening limits for gravity loads only? What about for a seismic load combination?

Yes, the strengthening limits are just for gravity loading. Seismic loading does not require an existing capacity check as it is highly unlikely for the FRP to be damaged during a lateral event.

Did Simpson Strong-Tie perform load tests on FRP repaired timber piles?

We are currently testing our FRP products as applied to timber piles at West Virginia University. We have also implemented a full-scale testing program on damaged timber piles at our own lab using our FX-70® fiberglass jacket system.

Will any of your seminars cover FRP and CMU? Seismic applications?

Yes, these are topics we are considering for future webinars.

The 0.6 limit for compressive stress can be very limiting. Can this value be evaluated on a case-by-case basis? The Euro code allows higher limits on compressive stress?

Our designers will report this value, along with the section addressing this check from ACI 440.2R, to the EOR and discuss whether the EOR would like to proceed with the FRP strengthening on his or her project.

Which engineer (EOR or Delegated Engineer) is responsible for specifying the scope of special inspections?

We provide a draft FRP specification to the EOR to use in their final determination of the special inspection requirements for a project. It’s in the owner’s best interest to hire a qualified special inspection agency on an FRP installation project.

For complete information regarding specific products suitable to your unique situation or condition, please visit strongtie.com/css or call your local Simpson Strong-Tie RPS specialist at (800) 999-5099.

Advanced FRP Design Principles

In this free webinar we will dive into some very important considerations including the latest industry standards, material properties and key governing limits when designing with FRP.

The New Way to Connect with Strong Frame®

The April SE blog article, What Makes Strong Frame® Special Moment Frames So Special, explained the features and benefits of the Yield-Link® structural fuse design for the Strong Frame® special moment frame (SMF) connection. In this blog, I will be introducing the Yield-Link end-plate link (EPL) to the Strong Frame connection family.

What is the EPL?
The EPL connection (Figure 1) is the latest addition to the Strong Frame Strong Moment Frame (SMF) solution. The new EPL connection can accommodate a W8X beam which is approximately a 33% reduction in beam depth from a W12X beam. The frame is field bolted without the need for field welding which means a faster installation. The snug-tight bolt installation requirement means no special tools are required. The EPL SMF connection has the same benefit of not requiring any additional beam bracing as the T-Stub connection. The frame can be repaired after a large earthquake by replacing the Yield-Link connection. Since the shear tab bolts will be factory installed, installation time for the frame is reduced by 25% making the EPL connection one of the most straightforward connections to assemble.

Figure 1: New Yield-Link EPL connection

Why Did We Develop the EPL?
The development of the EPL came from strong interest and numerous requests to offer a solution with more head room for clearance of retrofit projects or enhancement for new construction using a shallower beam profile. The original T-stub link design has the shear tab welded to the column flange. The geometry of the shear tab meant that a W12X beam is required to accommodate the Yield-Link Flange. In Figure 2, you can see that a shallower beam profile will bring the Yield-Link flange closer to each other and limit the attachment of the shear tab. A new connection was needed.

Figure 2: Yield-Link flange interference with shear tab

Figure 3: 3 Bolt configuration with notched flange plate. (The 3rd bolt is on opposite side of beam.) The asymmetric layout produced uneven force distribution in the bolts.

How Did We Develop the EPL?
Multiple configurations were studied, including a notched flange plate with 3 bolts (Figure 3) to avoid interference with the shear tab connection to the column. In the end, a compact end plate link combining the shear tab and Yield-Link stem in a single connection was the final design. However, many questions loomed over the prototype. How will the single end plate design perform in a full scale test? Will the new configuration change the limit state? These questions needed to be studied prior to launching an expensive full-scale test program with multiple samples and configurations. Numerous Finite Element Analysis (FEA) models were studied and refined prior to full scale testing of a prototype. Modeling included ensuring the stem performs as a fuse (Figure 4) as discussed in the April blog and the integrity of the shear tab is maintained in the compact design. Figure 5 shows a graph comparing the analytical model to the actual full scale test. The full scale test with a complete beam and column assembly was performed to the requirements under AISC 341 Section K. The full scale test passed the requirements for the SMF classification as can be seen in Figure 6 for the specimen with 6-inch columns and 9-inch beam.

Figure 4: Equivalent Plastic Strain Plot of Yielding-Link Stem

Figure 5: Full Scale Test vs. Analytical model

Figure 6: Moment at Face of Column vs. Story Drift

Where Can I Get More Information?
The EPL is now recognized in the ICC-ES ESR-2802 code report as an SMF. EPL solutions are also offered in the Strong Frame Moment Frame Selector Software. Want to see how the new connection and member sizes can expand your design options? Visit www.strongtie.com to download the new Strong Frame Design Guide or contact your Simpson representative for more information.

What’s New in the ACI 440.2R-17?

The wait is over. The ACI 440.2R-17 Guide for the Design and Construction of Externally Bonded FRP Systems for Strengthening Concrete Structures is now available. The following post will highlight some of the major changes represented by this version of the document.

It’s been a long road and countless committee hours to get from the last version of ACI 440.2R-08 to this document. While there are multiple smaller changes throughout the document, the most notable update is the addition of Chapter 13 – Seismic Strengthening.


The new seismic chapter addresses the following FRP strengthening scenarios:

  • Section 13.3 – Confinement with FRP
    • This section includes all of the following: general considerations; plastic hinge region confinement; lap splice clamping; preventative buckling of flexural steel bars.
  • Section 13.4 – Flexural Strengthening
    • The flexural capacity of reinforced concrete beams and columns in expected plastic hinge regions can be enhanced using FRP only in cases where strengthening will transfer inelastic deformations from the strengthened region to other locations in the member or the structure that are able to handle the ensuing ductility demands.
  • Section 13.5 – Shear Strengthening
    • To enhance the seismic behavior of concrete members, FRP can be used to prevent brittle failures and promote the development of plastic hinges.
  • Section 13.6 – Beam-Column Joints
    • This section covers a great deal of recent research on the design and reinforcement of beam-column joints.
  • Section 13.7 – Strengthening Reinforced Concrete Shear Walls
    • This section provides many recommendations for FRP strengthening of R/C shear walls.

Simpson Strong-Tie Can Help

We recognize that specifying Simpson Strong-Tie® Composite Strengthening Systems™ (CSS) is unlike choosing any other product we offer. Leverage our expertise to help with your FRP strengthening designs. Our experienced technical representatives and licensed professional engineers provide complimentary design services and support – serving as your partner throughout the entire project cycle.

For complete information regarding specific products suitable to your unique situation or condition, please visit strongtie.com/css or call your local Simpson Strong-Tie RPS Specialist at (800) 999-5099.

Upcoming Free Webinar: Advanced FRP Design Principles

Join us live on July 25 for the second interactive webinar in the Simpson Strong-Tie FRP Best Practices Series: Advanced FRP Design Principles. In this webinar we will highlight some very important considerations during the FRP design processes. This will include topics such as the latest industry standards, proper use of material properties, and key governing limits when designing with FRP. Attendees will also have an opportunity to pose questions to our engineering team during the event. Continuing educations units will be offered for attending this webinar. 

Advanced FRP Design Principles

In this free webinar we will dive into some very important considerations including the latest industry standards, material properties and key governing limits when designing with FRP.

How Heat Treating Helps Concrete Anchoring Products Meet Tougher Load Demands

Joel Houck is a senior R&D engineer for Simpson Strong-Tie’s Infrastructure-Commercial-Industrial (ICI) group based out of the new West Chicago, IL location. He has spent the last 17 years with Simpson developing new mechanical anchors and adhesive anchor components, as well as developing a lot of the lab equipment required to test these products. This experience has given him extensive knowledge and insight into the concrete anchor industry, especially when it comes to the proper function and performance of anchors. Joel is a professionally licensed mechanical engineer in the state of Illinois.

There’s a saying in Chicago, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait fifteen minutes.” That’s especially true in the spring, when temperatures can easily vary by over 50° from one day to the next. As the temperature plunges into the blustery 30s one evening following a sunny high in the 80s, I throw my jacket on over my T-shirt, and I’m reminded that large swings in temperature tend to bring about changes in behavior as well. This isn’t true just with people, but with many materials as well, and it brings to mind a thermal process called heat treating. This is a process that is used on some concrete anchoring products in order to make them stronger and more durable. You may have heard of this process without fully understanding what it is or why it’s useful. In this post, I will try to scratch the surface of the topic with a very basic overview of how heat treating is used to improve the performance of concrete anchors.

According to the ASM Handbook: Heat Treating, heat treatment is a process of heating and cooling a solid metal or alloy in such a way as to obtain desired conditions or properties.1 In practical terms, metals (usually steel in the case of most concrete anchors) are heat treated in order to improve their properties in some way over their base condition. When steel wire is formed into the complex shapes of anchors during the manufacturing process, the steel needs to be soft and formable; however, it is often beneficial to the performance of the final anchor product to be much harder and stronger than the base steel from which it’s formed. That’s where heat treating comes into play. By heating and cooling soft steel in a controlled manner, changes are made to the crystal structure of the steel in order to improve mechanical properties such as hardness, toughness, strength or wear resistance. Although the steel undergoes very complex microstructural changes during the heat treatment process, the end result is fairly straightforward – the once soft steel becomes harder and stronger as dictated by the heat treating process. As concrete anchors become more and more complex in order to meet the needs of building codes and designers, heat treating is becoming a more common and necessary component of high-strength anchors.

Figure 1. Steel microstructures: (a) soft steel example; (b) heat treated steel example.2

Depending on the desired results, there are many different types of heat treating processes that can be considered. The type of heat treatment and the parameters that are used can be customized for the steel type and the specific anchor application. There are several different types of heat treatments that are typically used for anchors. Two of the most common types are through hardening (also called neutral hardening) and surface hardening (also called case hardening).

Figure 2. Fasteners entering a heat treating furnace.3

Through hardening changes the mechanical properties (hardness, strength, ductility, etc.) of the steel without affecting its chemical composition. In order to alter the microstructure of the steel, it is heated in a furnace to a very high temperature, and then rapidly cooled, usually by submerging it in a liquid quench medium such as water or oil. This process will generally result in a very hard, but brittle material, so a secondary operation, called tempering, is employed after quenching. To temper steel, it is reheated to a lower temperature and then cooled in order to remove the stresses and brittleness created during the original quenching operation. Through hardening is useful where increased strength and toughness are required and surface wear isn’t a big concern, such as in our Crimp Drive® and split-drive anchors, setting tools for drop-in type anchors, high-strength all-thread-rod for adhesive anchors, and gas- or powder actuated fasteners. In order to effectively through harden an anchor, moderate levels of hardening elements must be present in the base steel, usually in the form of carbon. As the carbon content in the steel increases, so does the ability to harden it. The chemical composition of the steel along with the specific heat treating parameters will determine the level of hardness, strength and toughness of the final parts.

Surface hardening changes the hardness of the steel at the surface of the part by modifying the chemical composition of the steel at its surface only. This is done by altering the atmosphere in the heat treating furnace in order to get alloying elements, usually carbon, to diffuse into the surface of the steel. The increased carbon content increases the hardenability of the steel at the surface, but it can’t penetrate deeply into the steel, so a thin case forms around the surface of the steel with higher strength and hardness than the interior of the part. This creates parts that have high ductility throughout most of the interior, but that also have hard, wear-resistant surfaces. This type of heat treatment is useful in heavy-duty anchors where components of the anchors are sliding against each other during the setting process. It’s also useful in screw anchors, where the steel threads need to be very hard and wear resistant in order to cut into the concrete, but the ductility of the anchor must be maintained in order to avoid brittle failures in service. Just as with through hardening, there are many variations of surface hardening used in anchors, depending on the specific application.

Figure 3. Cross-section of surface hardened bar showing different hardness zones at the surface and in the interior.4

By using these two processes along with other heat treating processes, we are able to expand our ability to meet the higher demands placed on anchors in an industry that continues to evolve. As heat treating and steel chemistry continue to innovate, we will continue to use these developments to provide our customers with No-Equal concrete anchors that meet our high standard for performance and safety.

Mechanical Anchors

From complex infrastructure projects to do-it-yourself ventures, Simpson Strong-Tie offers a wide variety of anchoring products to meet virtually any need.


1 Lampman et al. (1997). ASM Handbook: Heat Treating. Materials Park, OH: ASM International.

2 “Microstructure of the AISI 4340 Steel.” Digital Image. Research Gate, n.d. Web. 14 June 2017 https://www.researchgate.net.

3 “Heat Treat Furnace.” Digital Image. ThomasNet Web Solutions, n.d. 14 June 2017 http://www.morganohare.com/heat-treating.html.

4 “Macrographs Showing Case Depth of Steels.” Digital Image. Science and Education Publishing Co. Ltd, n.d. 14 June 2017 http://pubs.sciepub.com.

Revisiting Spanning the Gap

Three years ago, we created this blog post based on a technical support question we often receive about allowable fastener loads for ledgers to wood framing over gypsum board. Given that this is still a frequent question and a relevant topic, we decided to revisit the post and update it.

Drywall. Wall board. Sheetrock. Sackett Board? A product called Sackett Board was invented in the 1890s, which was made by plastering within wool felt paper. United States Gypsum Corporation refined Sackett Board for several years until 1916, when they developed a new method of producing boards with a single layer of plaster and paper. This innovation was eventually branded SHEETROCK®. More details about the history of USG can be found here.

No matter what you call it, gypsum board is found in almost every type of construction. Architects use it for sound and fire ratings, while structural engineers need to account for its weight in our load calculations. A common technical support question we receive is for allowable fastener loads for ledgers to wood framing over gypsum board.

Ledger over Gypboard

Ledger over Gypboard

One method to evaluate a fastener spanning across gypsum board is to treat the gypsum material as an air gap. Technical Report 12, General Dowel Equations for Calculating Lateral Connection Values, is published by the American Wood Council.

Technical Report 12

Technical Report 12

TR12 has yield limit equations that allow a designer to account for a gap between the main member and side member of a connection. With a gap of zero (g=0), the TR12 equations provide the same results as the NDS yield limit equations.

Technical Report 12 Yield Limit Equations[1]

Technical Report 12 Yield Limit Equations

The equations are fairly complex, but it should be intuitive that the calculated fastener capacity decreases with increasing gap. Engineers are often surprised to see a 40, 50, even 60% drop in fastener capacity with one layer of 5/8” gypsum board. So what else can you do?

Testing, of course! In So, What’s Behind a Screw’s Allowable Load? I discussed the methods used to load rate a proprietary fastener such as the Simpson Strong-Tie® Strong-Drive® SDS or SDW screws. To recap, ICC-ES Acceptance Criteria for Alternate Dowel Type Fasteners, AC233, allows you to calculate and do verification tests, or load rate based on testing alone. We develop our allowable loads primarily by testing, as the performance enhancing features and material optimizations in our fasteners are not addressed by NDS equations.

So to determine the performance of a fastener installed through gypsum board, we tested the fastener through gypsum board. This is easier to do if you happen to have a test lab with a lot of wood and fasteners in it. We did have to run down to the local hardware store to pick up gypsum board for the testing.

SDWS Over 2 Layer Gypboard

SDWS Over 2 Layer Gypboard


SDWS Over 2 Layer Gypboard Failure

A full set of allowable loads for Strong-Drive SDWH and SDWS are available on strongtie.com. The information is given as single fastener shear values for engineered design, and also screw spacing tables for common ledger configurations. As much fun as writing spreadsheets to do the Technical Report 12 calculations is, having tabulated values based on testing is much easier.

Fastening Systems

In the fastener marketplace, Simpson Strong-Tie stands apart from the rest. Quality and reliability is our top priority.

How Are DECK-DRIVE™ DWP Screws Load-Rated?

Experiential learning — has it happened to you? Certainly it has, because experiential learning is learning derived from experience. It happens in everyday life, in engineering and in product development, too. For example, experience has taught us that after a product is launched, our customers will find applications for the product that were never expected or listed in the product brief. Also, experience has shown us that larger fasteners tend to be placed in applications that have greater structural and safety demands.

When the larger Deck-Drive™ DWP screws were manufactured, we decided that they should be marketed as “load-rated” screws because they were big enough to support physically large parts and would be expected to provide structural load resistance.

So what is a “load-rated” screw? To Simpson Strong-Tie, a load-rated screw is a threaded fastener that has controlled dimensions and physical properties, as well as validated connection properties.  Load-rated fasteners are also subject to the same quality inspection that would occur if they were undergoing an evaluation report.

The products in the focus of this blog are Deck-Drive DWP Wood stainless-steel tapping screws. They are made from stainless steel (Types 305 and 316) and are particularly interesting because they have a box thread design feature. What is a box thread and what are its benefits? A box thread is a thread that is square rather than round. It is formed by rolling (not a trivial tooling challenge) like a standard thread. The box thread is preferred for some applications in part because of the low torque required to install the screw; that is, the installation demand is low relative to standard threads of the same pitch (number of threads per inch). You can easily see the box thread by looking from the point of the screw toward the head. The square corners of the box thread rotate at a defined angle, giving the threaded length a twisted appearance. The box thread is also used on the Timber-Hex SS screws. See Figure 1 for an illustration.

Figure 1. Phone photo showing box thread on a DWP screw (No.12, 4 inches long). These screws have a flat head, and this size has a T-27, six-lobe drive recess.

When we load rate a fastener, ICC-ES AC233 (Acceptance Criteria for Alternate Dowel-type Threaded Fasteners, 2015) is the guiding document. Essentially, we do everything that would be done if the product was going into an evaluation report. The testing uses representative products and is witnessed by a third party, and every test report is reviewed and stamped by a professional engineer. The DWP screws that are fully load rated are No. 12 and No. 14 that are three to six inches long. This means that we have evaluated by test the shear and tensile strengths, bending yield strength, head pull-through resistance, withdrawal resistance and certain logical lateral shear configurations of these models. The connection properties are developed in at least three species combinations of wood representing a range of specific gravities. Each cell in the connection load matrix is a reference allowable value based on a mean of at least 15 tests that is subject to a precision of five percent at a 75-percent confidence level. Table 1 is snipped from the prepublication spreadsheets.

While we were working on the No. 12 and No. 14 screws, we also realized that No. 10 DWP screws often require withdrawal loads because they are used in decks and docks to fasten the decking to the structural frame. You can see in Table 1 that the withdrawal loads were included for No. 10 DWP screws and the related properties, because uplift resistance is often engineered for those applications.

What is the test method for each property in the load table? See Table 2 for the test method used for each property and the related data for that property. The reference allowable shear loads shown in Table 1 represent more than 1,200 individual tests, and each test includes wood specific gravity, moisture content and continuous load-displacement data from start of test to past ultimate load.

Table 1. Reference allowable properties for the DWP load-rated screws.

Table 2. Test methods used to evaluate the properties of load-rated screws per ICC-ES AC233.

Load rating screws is a big job, and it creates an elevated continuous quality-monitoring obligation. However, our experience has taught us that the engineering community needs information and reference properties that can be relied on when specifying, and thus working with load-rated screws makes it possible to put your stamp on a design with confidence.

We look forward to hearing from you about load-rated fasteners, because we learn from you every time you contact us.

Design More with Our New Steel Deck Diaphragm Calculator App!

People are always innovating new things! There are always new tools, software, apps or, more recently, digital assistants to help us organize our life! Here’s something I want to share with you. Recently my family bought Google Home, and both my boys (ages 8 and 5) are constantly exploring it and testing its capabilities: “Hey, Google, play this music” or “Hey, Google, what time is it?” or “Hey, Google, repeat ‘Nathan is bad.’” While Google Home helps them with the former requests, it simply says, “I am still learning,” in response to commands like “repeat ‘Nathan is bad.’”  It’s funny to see them experiment and come up with creative ideas to use the tool. Many of us appreciate tools that help us be more organized or increase our efficiency or that are simply fun to use. Our new revised diaphragm calculator for designing metal decks is our attempt to help the engineering community get more done in less time.

So What Are the Updates and Revisions?

We have updated our design software to design per Canadian Standards like CSA136 and to design per Limit States Design. The app is so easy to use that you can design a steel deck diaphragm in minutes! The software designs steel decks for both shear and uplift forces acting on the deck and provides tables with diaphragm shear capacities for a given deck span using Simpson Strong-Tie deck fasteners that conform to Canadian codes and standards. These fasteners have an evaluation report, IAPMO UES ER-326, are recognized in SDI (Steel Deck Institute) DDM03 Appendix VII and IX and the CSSBI (Canadian Sheet Steel Building Institute) Design Manual and have FM approvals.

Overview of the App

When you open our diaphragm design software, Steel Deck Diaphragm Calculator, there is an option to “Select your Country.”  You can choose to design for US standards, in which case you select the USA option, or you can select Canada Imperial or Canada Metric, which are new additions. The app has three sections: (1) Optimized Solutions, (2) Diaphragm Capacity Tables and (3) Other Diaphragm Tables. All three options are available for the USA option. The Optimized Solutions help you to design a deck for any given shear and uplift. You can refer to our previous blog, Design Examples for Steel Deck Diaphragm Calculator Web App, for some examples on how to design steel decks using the Optimized Solutions selection. Diaphragm Capacity Tables are available to the USA and both Canada selections. Other Diaphragm Tables is available only to the USA selection.

Metal Deck Diaphragm Design Using Limit States Design (LSD)

When you select Canada for the country, you will have the option to select Diaphragm Capacity Tables as shown in the screen shot below. You can generate diaphragm shear tables by entering:

  1. Steel Deck Information: In this section, you select the type of the deck, the design method, the load type you would like the tables to be generated in and the deck thickness. You can enter uplift if you would like to design the deck for combined shear and tension, or leave the net uplift as zero if you are generating shear-only tables.
  2. Quik Drive Fastener Information: In this section, you input information about the structural and side-lap fasteners.

Click the Calculate button to generate the tables.

A PDF copy of the tables can be generated in either English or French.

This easy-to-use design software can be used by the designers, specifiers or erectors to generate the tables required. More information about our X series of screws (including XL and XM), tools and the required industry approvals for designing the profiled deck diaphragms can be found on our website at strongtie.com.

Please try out the app and let us know your comments and feedback so we can continue to improve our software to better serve your needs!


5 Tips to Stay Informed on Construction News and Industry Updates

For a structural engineer working on multiple projects in various stages of design and construction, it can be challenging to keep up to date on the latest industry trends. However, many of us in the construction industry enjoy learning about new construction techniques and unique projects. Being educated about new technology and design tools can also increase efficiency in the office.

To make it easier to catch up on pertinent industry news, we are sharing our top five tips and shortcuts.

1. Make Time to Stay Informed

Blocking off time on your calendar will enable you to catch up on industry news.

Make sure you block off some time on your calendar each week to read up on construction news. Pick a consistent day and time (if possible) that is usually a little slower and less likely to be booked with meetings. At our office, Monday mornings and Friday afternoons tend to be the best times.

2. Subscribe to Industry Newsletters

After you block off time on your calendar, the next step is to subscribe to a few construction industry newsletters. Depending on the newsletter, you can sign up for a hard copy or have them delivered electronically to your inbox. Here are some great construction industry newsletters to get you started:

  • Structural Engineers Association Newsletters: If you haven’t signed up for your local city or state SEA newsletter, you should start here. Many structural engineering association chapters have newsletters. For example, the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California has a monthly online newsletter. The state of Texas offers an online quarterly journal, and a few local chapters, including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston, have their own newsletters. With a quick Google search, you can find one in your area.
  • ICC eNews: Subscribe to the International Code Council’s weekly digital newsletter for ICC news, programs and industry events.
  • Civil + Structural Engineer e-News: Sign up on the home page of their website.
  • Hanley Wood newsletters: You can choose from more than 30 different online industry newsletters focused on residential construction and remodeling, or commercial design and construction.
  • Structural Report® newsletter: Subscribe to this quarterly print and online newsletter for structural engineers and architects that provides industry and building safety news and Simpson Strong-Tie product information.
  • Strong-Tie News: For a quick read, sign up for our monthly company newsletter sent via email. The e-news features new products and software, literature, videos, industry news and training events.
  • Concrete News: If you are involved in concrete construction and repair, this triannual print and digital newsletter has articles on the latest code changes, industry news and Simpson Strong-Tie product solutions.

3. Attend a Technical Webinar

Webinars are an easy way to stay connected to your profession and the construction industry while learning new things. As an added bonus, some webinars offer CEUs or PDH credits so you can stay current with professional development requirements. Click here to find out our top three reasons why you should attend webinars.

Here is a list of organizations that offer webinars that many of our engineers attend:

 4. Get Out to a Live Training Event

There are many courses devoted to improving building standards and the overall safety of structures. . We provide hundreds of classes to engineers, architects, builders and code officials each year, so make sure to sign up for a workshop in your area or to try one of our online courses.

Don’t forget to attend technical conferences, too. The Structural Engineering Institute (part of ASCE) has multiple conferences throughout the year that help you earn CEU and PDH credits. The American Wood Council has an event calendar with live trainings and webinars on hot topics in the industry, also.

 5. Talk with Other Structural Engineers

It’s so easy to take this tip for granted. We sometimes forget that the greatest asset and resource we have are our colleagues. At Simpson Strong-Tie, we offer “lunch and learn” sessions where different departments share initiatives that affect the business. If you work in an engineering firm with different specialties, a lunch-and-learn session is an easy way for everyone to find out about a new project or design challenge.

Another great way to connect with fellow structural engineers is to take part in networking events with structural engineering organizations. Here are some to look into:

There are also several professional LinkedIn groups, like this one, that provide not only educational content, but also a way for you to ask questions and hear the thoughts and opinions of your peers.

These are a few tips to get you started, but there are myriad resources to help you stay informed, including traditional trade magazines, industry blogs and social media sites. Simpson Strong-Tie is always here to help, as well. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to learn about industry news and our latest products and resources.