Fine Homebuilding Video Series: How to Build a Deck

We’re partnering with folks at Fine Homebuilding on a video series on how to build a deck that is code compliant and that highlights the critical connections of a deck. This series is called Ultimate Deck Build 2016. The video series comprises five videos that walk professionals through the recent code changes for the key connections of a deck.

The series features David Finkenbinder, P.E., a branch engineer for Simpson Strong-Tie who is passionate about deck codes and safety. He offers information on load resistance and the hardware that professionals can use at the crucial connections to make a deck code compliant. “This was a great opportunity to collaborate with the team at Fine Homebuilding, to communicate the connections on a typical residential deck and the role that they serve to develop a strong deck structure,” said David. “These same connections would also likely be common in similar details created by an Engineer, when designing a deck per the International Building Code (IBC).”

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The videos are being released every Wednesday during the month of March and feature the following deck connections:

  • Ledger Connection: This is the primary connection between a deck and a house. David tells the Fine Homebuilding team about various code- compliant options for attaching a deck ledger to a home.
  • Beam and Support Posts: David explains how connectors at this critical point can prevent uplift and resist lateral and downward forces. He also discusses footing sizes and post-installation anchor solutions.
  • Joists: This video reviews proper joist hanger installation and the benefits of installing hurricane ties between the joists and the beams. David goes into common joist hanger misinstallations, such as using the wrong fasteners or using a joist hanger at the end of a ledger.
  • Guardrail Posts: David reviews the different ways that you can attach a guardrail post so as to resist an outward horizontal load.
  • Stairs: David explains code-compliant options for attaching stringers to a deck frame.

Make sure to watch the series and let us know what you think. For more information, Fine Homebuilding has created an article titled “Critical Deck Connections.”

(Please note: this article is member-only/subscription content, so to read it you’ll need to either subscribe online or pick up the April/May issue of Fine Homebuilding.)

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Testing Fasteners for Deck Ledger Connections

This week’s blog post was written by Aram Khachadourian, R&D Engineer for Fastening Systems. Since joining Simpson Strong-Tie 14 years ago, he has designed and tested holdowns, hangers, truss connectors and anchor bolts. He has drafted numerous acceptance criteria as well as quality standards. His current focus is the development, testing and code approval of structural fasteners. Prior to his work at Simpson Strong-Tie, he spent his time designing steel buildings including strip malls, wineries and airplane hangars. Aram graduated from the University of California at Davis with a Civil Engineering degree, and is a registered professional engineer in California.

As we approach the beginning of spring, homeowners across the country are starting to turn their thoughts to the backyard and making plans to add a new deck for summer enjoyment.

As a contractor, designer, or homeowner, you want to know that this new deck will have the structural integrity to stand firm for many years and remain safe for everybody who will use it. While there are many aspects to building a safe, strong deck, today we are focusing on the attachment of the deck ledger to the structure.

Prior to 2009, numerous catastrophic deck failures attributed to improper deck ledger attachments demonstrated the need for building code guidance. A calculated solution was overly conservative because the sheathing layer, typically present between the deck ledger and the structure’s band joist, was considered to be a gap in the connection. A prescriptive approach to deck ledger attachments was finally introduced in the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC). Table R502.2.2.1 provided fastener spacings for ½”-diameter lag screws and bolts. These values were based on testing conducted by researchers at Virginia Tech and Washington State University.

The tests included a variety of band joist types, with pressure-treated Hem-Fir as the deck ledger material. The deck ledger was tested at high moisture content to represent a wet, worst-case field condition. The test assembly had a load bar spanning two joists that were attached to the deck ledger with joist hangers. The ledger was attached through the sheathing to the rim board. Only the rim board was supported by the test frame. The average ultimate load was divided by a factor-of-safety of 3 and then further divided by the load duration coefficient of 1.6 to achieve an allowable load. These values were then applied to a deck live load of 40 psf plus a deck dead load of 10 psf to derive allowable fastener on-center spacings for various joist spans.

When Simpson Strong-Tie began to rate fasteners for ledger connections, we used a similar method of testing and analysis. However, we incorporated a few changes. One of the changes we implemented was a symmetric test set-up.  The original test assembly had a ledger on one end of the joists and a support member as the boundary condition on the other. We put a ledger at each end of the joists so stiffness differences in the supports would not affect the test results. We also chose a larger factor-of-safety of 3.2 (instead of 3.0) to maintain consistency with calculation of fastener allowable loads in other applications. In order to provide our customers with a broader range of construction options, we tested many typical rim board and ledger materials, and we ran tests with single and double ledgers. You can see an example of a typical test set up here:

A typical testing set up

Testing deck ledger connections.

We have tested many Simpson Strong-Tie® Strong-Drive® fasteners for ledger applications including the SDWS Timber screw (SDWS22DB), SDWH Timber-Hex SS screw (SDWH-SS), SDWH Timber-Hex screw (SDWH19DB), and SDS Heavy-Duty Connector screw (SDS). We also have information regarding ledgers attached to studs and ledgers fastened over gypsum board. You can find all of this information in our latest fastener catalog.

One final construction tip – deck ledgers can fail due to cross-grain tension. This occurs when the joist hangers are attached to the deck ledger near the bottom of the ledger, but the fasteners holding the ledger to the building are near the top of the ledger. To prevent cross-grain tension failure, place the joist hangers so at least half of the ledger fasteners are below the joist hanger line.

Take a look through the various ledger options in our fastener catalog, and if we don’t address your condition, let us know. As always, call us in the Engineering Department if you have questions.

Please share your feedback in the comments area below.