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.

An Introduction to Helical Wall and Stitching Ties

This week’s post is written by Kevin Davenport, who works as a Field Engineer with Simpson Strong-Tie. Kevin is responsible for providing technical support on Simpson Strong-Tie products for Infrastructure, Commercial and Industrial market segments within his Southeastern territory. He is a registered professional engineer in Georgia and received his B.S. (’97) and M.S. (’98) from Clemson University. Kevin is a member of ICRI, ACI and various local chapters of SEA. 

What do you do when brickwork is in bad condition? Depending on what state the brickwork is in, a tear-down may be called for. However, often brickwork can be restored and strengthened using helical ties such as Simpson Strong-Tie® Heli-Tie™ wall ties and stitching ties. This post introduces these two types of helical ties, which might be just what you need for your next brick restoration project.

What is a helical tie? 

A helical tie is made by twisting a metal profile into the shape of a helix. The design of the Simpson Strong-Tie Heli-Tie wall tie also  incorporates a large core diameter in order to provide higher torsional capacity. The benefit of this feature is less axial deflection due to a propensity for normal helix shape to “uncoil” under tension load. Since helical ties are typically used in building façades, they are generally made from stainless steel in order provide the necessary corrosion resistance.  Helical ties can be used to retrofit and stabilize brickwork in two common applications: 1) Wall anchor applications, and 2) Stitching tie applications.

heli tie

What are common helical wall tie applications?

Application #1: Anchoring building façades to structural members

In a wall anchor application, the helical tie is used to stabilize the façade by transferring out of plane façade forces through the anchor into the backup material. The need for this type of reinforcement arises when pre-existing wall anchors were never installed, were inadequately spaced or have corroded away over time. Helical ties are an economical solution that can be installed directly through a brick façade into various backup materials such as solid concrete, CMU block, and even wood or metal studs.

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Image 1: Installing a helical tie.

A pilot hole is drilled through the existing brick wall and any air gap into the backup material. Then the helical tie is placed in an installation tool and driven into the pre-drilled hole. As it is driven, the fins of the helical tie tap into both the masonry and backup material and provide an expansion-free connection that will withstand tension and compression loads. Some helical wall ties, like the Heli-Tie, use an installation tool that countersinks the tie below the surface of the brickwork. This allows the hole to be patched and concealed with a color matching material.  Thereby, helical anchors allow the repair to be both efficient and inconspicuous when completed.

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There are presently no specific U.S. design standards for the use and qualification of helical wall ties. However, a rational calculation of required spacing given the demand load can be easily calculated using ACI 530 (Building Code Requirement and Specifications for Masonry Structures), Section 6.2, and test data with an appropriate factor of safety. In addition, many Designers also follow the detailing practice for prescriptive anchored veneer in Section that prescribes the following:

  1. At least one anchor for each 3.5 ft2 of wall area, and
  2. A maximum anchor spacing of 32″ horizontal and 25″ vertical, and
  3. Around openings larger than 16″ in either dimension: Additional perimeter anchors at maximum 36″ spacing within 12″ of the opening.

Prescriptive anchors also require bed joints to be at least twice the thickness of the embedded anchor. However, this provision is not relevant for helical anchors since they are installed into a drilled hole, rather than embedded into a wet mortar joint.

Application #2: Stabilizing multiple-wythe brick walls

In this application, the wall tie is used to attach wythes of brick to one another in an effort to stabilize the wall. By intermittently alternating installation angles (0 o, 45 o, 0o, -45 o, etc.) the tie promotes more monolithic behavior of the wall.

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What are common helical stitching tie applications?

Unlike wall anchor applications, in a stitching tie application the helical tie is used to stabilize brickwork by transferring in- and out-of-plane shear and bending forces across an existing crack. Stitching ties are placed in the plane of the wall within the horizontal bed joint.

The existing bed joint is routed out deep enough to recess the helical tie and cleaned out. Then, the recess is filled about 2/3 deep with a repair mortar (such as Simpson Strong-Tie® FX-263 Rapid Hardening Vertical/Overhead Repair Mortar). The helical stitching tie is then pressed into the mortar, followed by a trowelling with encapsulating grout. The installation provides an inconspicuous repair and preserves the appearance of the structure.

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For red brick, we recommend placing stitching ties  at a minimum vertical spacing of 12″ and  extending the ties at least 20″ on either side of the crack.

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Helical ties are not something that you see on every jobsite, however, they can provide a fast and cost-effective solution for brickwork rehabilitation. Hopefully this post provided you some background about them and an insight into our Heli-Tie product offering. The recent launch of our Repair Protection Strengthening Systems product line complements the Heli-Tie with a wide array of other repair products.

Do you have any past experience with helical wall ties, or questions? Please share in the comments below.