In our second blog in the “How to Pick a Connector Series,” Randy Shackelford discussed the various considerations involved in selecting a joist hanger. So why is this blog post about truss hangers? A hanger is a hanger, right? Before I moved into the Engineering Department at Simpson Strong-Tie, I was the product manager for our Plated Truss product line. I can assure you that there is a bit more that goes into the selection (and design) of a truss hanger than does into selecting a joist hanger!
Of course, all of the considerations that were covered in the joist hanger blog apply to truss hangers as well. This blog post is going to discuss some additional considerations that come into play in selecting a hanger for a truss rather than a joist, and how some hangers have features designed especially for trusses.
The first (and most obvious) truss-specific consideration is the presence of webs. Because of truss webs, top-flange hangers are not as conducive to truss applications as they are to joist applications. A better alternative for trusses is an adjustable-strap hanger that can be installed as a top-flange hanger or face-mount hanger. Take the THA29, for example, Simpson’s first hanger developed specifically for the truss industry (circa 1984). It can accommodate different girder bottom chord depths, which eliminates the need for multiple SKUs, and the straps can be field-formed over the top of the girder bottom chord to reduce the number of fasteners (just like top-flange hangers). When a web member is in the way of the top-flange installation method, the straps can be attached vertically to the web in a face-mount installation instead.
Typical THA29 Installation
What if the web at that location isn’t vertical? You can still install the strap onto the web, but if any nails land in the joint lines formed by the intersection of the wood members, they cannot be considered effective. Therefore, the hanger allowable load may need to be reduced to account for ineffective header nails. This alternative installation is acceptable for any face-mount hanger located at a panel point as shown in our catalog (see detail below).
Although very versatile, not all adjustable-strap hangers can be installed on all sizes of bottom chords. Our catalog specifies a C-dimension for these hangers, which corresponds to the height of the side-nailing flanges. If that dimension exceeds the height of the bottom chord, then the straps cannot be field-formed as needed for the top-flange installation. And if the hanger isn’t located at a panel point, nailing the straps to any diagonal web that the straps can reach (see photo below) is not an acceptable option!
The wrong hanger selection for the application
Another unique consideration that goes into the selection of a truss hanger is the heel height of the carried truss. A truss with a short heel height installed into a tall hanger will likely leave air (or “daylight,” as I call it) behind a lot of the nail holes running up the side flanges. When nail holes in a hanger have air behind them instead of wood, this equates to a reduction in hanger capacity. So when the carried truss has a heel height that is much less than the depth of the carrying member (and the hanger), it is important to use the appropriate hanger capacity for that condition and not overestimate the hanger’s capacity. Refer to our technical bulletin T-REDHEEL for allowable loads for reduced heel height conditions.
Example of a short heel installed in a tall hanger.
Because trusses are capable of carrying a lot of load – and producing large reactions – hangers for truss applications often require larger capacities than joist hangers. Unfortunately, there is only so much capacity that can be achieved from a hanger that fits entirely onto a girder truss bottom chord. Therefore, in order to use our highest load-rated truss hangers, a properly located vertical web is required, and the web must be wide enough for the hanger’s required face fasteners and minimum edge distances. The more capacity that is required, the more fasteners it takes, and the wider the vertical web must be. Our highest-load-rated truss hanger that installs with screws is the HTHGQ. It has a maximum download capacity of 20,735 lb., but it requires a minimum 2×10 vertical web. The THGQ/THGQH series can be installed onto as small as a 2×6 web, but the maximum possible capacity on a 2×6 web is 9,140 lb.
In addition to high-capacity hangers, truss applications often require high-capacity skewed hangers. When selecting skewed hangers, it’s important to realize that hangers with custom skew options usually have a reduction that must be applied to the hanger’s 90-degree capacity. Another important factor that is sometimes overlooked in the selection of skewed hangers is whether the carried member is square-cut or bevel-cut. When the member is square cut – as in the case of trusses – not only does this typically result in a greater reduction in capacity, but some skewed hangers cannot be used at all with square-cut members. For example, the fastener holes on the side flange may not be located far enough away from the header to accommodate square-cut members. See the photo below for an example of what can happen if a skewed hanger that is intended for a bevel-cut member is used for a truss.
Incorrect hanger selection – this skewed hanger requires the carried member to be bevel-cut whereas the truss is square-cut.
Not all skewed hangers can be used with square-cut members (trusses).
As discussed in the previous hanger blog, face-mount hangers offer the advantage of being installed after the joist (or truss) is installed. What if the truss is installed prior to the hanger and a gap exists between the truss and the carrying member? In that case, the best option may be to select a truss hanger that was designed with this type of installation tolerance in mind, the HTU hanger. Other face-mount truss hangers that use double-shear nailing are great when gaps are limited to ⅛” or less, but their capacities take a pretty large hit when the gap exceeds ⅛” (see our previous blog Minding the Gap in Hangers for more information). The HTU was designed to give an allowable load for up to a ½” gap between the end of the truss and the carrying member. In addition, it has built-in nailing options to accommodate short heel heights even in the taller models – definitely a truss hanger!
Finally, there is one more thing to consider when selecting a face-mount hanger for a truss application, which relates to how tall the carrying member is compared to the hanger. Assuming the bottom of the hanger will be installed flush with the bottom of the girder bottom chord, a hanger that is much shorter than the bottom chord will induce tension perpendicular to the grain in the chord. Due to wood’s inherent weakness in perpendicular-to-grain tension, a hanger that is too short may limit the amount of load that can be transferred– to something less than the hanger’s published allowable load. Therefore, it isn’t enough to check whether the hanger fits on the bottom chord; the hanger must also cover enough depth of the chord to effectively transfer the load (or else the allowable hanger load may need to be reduced to the member’s allowable cross-grain tension limit).
Cross-grain tension is not a truss-specific issue, but because it is an explicit design provision in the truss design standard (TPI 1), it is a necessary consideration to mention in a discussion about truss hanger selection. In fact, proper detailing for cross-grain tension in different wood applications could be a future topic in and of itself.
Add to all this the specialty truss hangers that can carry two, three, four, and even five trusses framing into one location, and it is no wonder that there is an entire section in our catalog that is dedicated to truss hangers. Are there any other truss hanger needs that you would like to discuss? Please let us know in the comments below!