Soft-Story Retrofits Using the New Simpson Strong-Tie Retrofit Design Guide

Thousands of soft-story buildings up and down the West Coast require retrofits to prevent collapse in the event of a major earthquake. Whether the retrofits are mandated by a city ordinance (as in San Francisco, Berkeley and Los Angeles) or are undertaken as voluntary upgrades, the benefits of adding necessary bracing to strengthen the ground story are immense. Simpson Strong-Tie has taken the lead, with our new Soft-Story Retrofit Guide, to provide information that helps engineers find solutions to reinforce soft-story buildings against collapse. We are also providing information on the two methods that can be used for the analysis and design of these soft story retrofits.

soft-story-retrofit-guideAfter the initial information section of the guide, a two-page illustrated spread (pp. 14–15) shows various retrofit products that could be used to retrofit the soft-story structure with reference to the following pages. Three main lateral-force-resisting systems highlighted in this graphic are the Strong Frame® special moment frame (SMF), the new Strong-Wall® wood shearwall, and conventional plywood shearwalls. Individual retrofit components are also shown, such as connection plates and straps for lateral-load transfer, anchors for attachment to the foundation, fasteners and additional products such as the RPBZ retrofit post base and AC post caps for providing a positive connection.

soft-story-product-illustrationTurning the page, you come to the section describing in detail the many benefits of the Strong-Frame special moment frame (SMF) in a retrofit situation. The engineered performance of the SMF provides the additional strength and ductility that the building requires and can be fine-tuned by selecting various combinations of beams, columns, and Yield-Link® structural fuse sizes. A typical retrofit Strong Frame® SMF comes in three complete pieces allowing for the frame to be installed on the interior of the structure in tight quarters. The frame is simply installed using a 100% snug-tight field-bolted installation with no on-site welding or lateral-beam bracing required.

field-installation-beam-to-columnThe next lateral system we focus on is the Strong-Wall® shearwall and the new grade beam solutions offered to reduce the concrete footprint. The new Strong-Wall wood shearwall includes an improved front-access holdown and top-of-wall connection plates for easier installation. Both the Strong Frame SMF and the Strong-Wall wood shearwall have load-drift curves available for use with FEMA P-807. Site-built shearwalls can be installed using retrofit anchor bolts at the mudsill and new holdowns at the shearwall end posts.

strong-wall-wood-shearwall-pushover-curveIn the pages following the lateral systems, various products are shown with tabulated LRFD capacities, whereas ASD capacities are typically provided in the order literature for these products. Both ASD and LRFD capacities have been provided for products with new testing values such as the A35 and L90 angles installed with ⅝”-long SPAX screws into three different common floor sheathing materials, as well as for the new HSLQ heavy-shear transfer angle designed to transfer higher lateral forces directly from 4x blocking to the 4x nailer on the Strong-Frame SMF, even when a shim is used between the floor system and the frame. LRFD capacities are provided in this new Soft-Story Retrofit Guide specifically for use with the FEMA P-807 design methodology. This methodology specifies in section 6.5.1 that:

Load path elements should be designed to develop the full strength and the intended mechanism of the principal wall or frame elements. Therefore, to ensure reliability, appropriate strength reduction factors should be applied to the ultimate strengths of load path elements. Specific criteria may be derived from principles of capacity design or from other codes or standards, such as ASCE/SEI 41 or building code provisions involving the overstrength factor, Ωo.

FEMA P-807 bases the capacity of the retrofit elements on the peak strength. LRFD capacities are provided for various load-path connector products, which can be used to develop the full strength of the lateral-force-resisting element to satisfy this requirement.

typical-a35-hslq412-installationWrapping up, the guide focuses on the various free design tools and resources available for the evaluation, design and detailing of the soft-story structure retrofit. These tools include the Weak Story Tool with Simpson Strong-Tie® Strong Frame® Moment Frames, Design Tutorials for the WST for both San Francisco– and Los Angeles–style buildings, our Soft-Story Retrofit Training Course offering CEUs, Strong Frame Moment Frame Selector Software, Anchor Designer™ Software for ACI 318, ETAG and CSA, and tailored frame solutions using our free engineering services.

soft-story-documentsFor other information regarding soft-story retrofits, refer to previous blogs in “Soft-Story Retrofits,”  “City of San Francisco Implements Soft-Story Retrofit Ordinance,” and “Applying new FEMA P-807 Weak Story Tool to Soft-Story Retrofit.”




How to Select a Connector Series – Hurricane Tie

When it comes to wood-frame construction, hurricane ties are among the most commonly specified connectors. They play a critical role in a structure’s continuous load path and may be used in a variety of applications, like attaching roof framing members to the supporting wall top plate(s), or tying wall top or bottom plates to the studs. They are most commonly used to resist uplift forces, but depending on regional design and construction practices, hurricane ties may also resist lateral loads that act in- or out-of-plane in relation to the wall.

Simpson Strong-Tie manufactures approximately 20 different models of hurricane ties, not counting twist straps, other clips, or the new fully-threaded SDWC screws often used in the same applications. This assortment of models raises the question, “How do you select the right one?”

In this post, we’ll outline some of the key elements to consider when selecting a hurricane tie for your project.

Demand Load

Let’s start with the obvious one. If your building’s roof trusses have an uplift of 600 lb. at each end, don’t select a hurricane tie with a published capacity of less than 600 lb. It’s also important to consider combined loading if you plan to use the tie to resist both uplift and lateral loads. When the connector is resisting lateral loads, its capacity to resist uplift is reduced. I won’t go into too much detail on this topic since it was covered in a recent blog post, but in lieu of the traditional unity equation shown in Figure 1, certain Simpson Strong-Tie connectors (hurricane ties included) are permitted to use the alternative approach outlined in Figure 2.

Figure 1. Traditional Linear Interaction Equation

Figure 1. Traditional Linear Interaction Equation

Figure 2. Alternative Approach for Simultaneous Loading

Figure 2. Alternative Approach for Simultaneous Loading

What if the tabulated loads in the catalog for a single connector just aren’t enough? Use multiple connectors! An important note on using multiple connectors, though: Using four hurricane ties doesn’t always mean you’ll get 4x the load. Check out the recently updated F-C-HWRCAG16 High Wind-Resistant Construction Application Guide for allowable loads using multiple connectors and for guidance on the proper placement of connectors so as to avoid potential overlap or fastener interference.

Figure 3. Allowable Load Comparison for Single and Multiple H2.5A Connectors

Figure 3. Allowable Load Comparison for Single and Multiple H2.5A Connectors

Figure 4. Proper Placement of (4) H2.5A’s to Avoid Fastener Interference

Figure 4. Proper Placement of (4) H2.5A’s to Avoid Fastener Interference


Dimensional Requirements

While the majority of the hurricane ties that Simpson Strong-Tie offers are one-sided (such as the H2.5A), some are designed so the truss or rafter fits inside a “U” shape design to allow for fastening from both sides (such as the H1). If using the latter, make sure the width of the truss or rafter is suitable for the width of the opening in the hurricane tie – don’t select an H1 for a 2-ply roof truss.

Figure 5. H2.5A and H1 Hurricane Ties

Figure 5. H2.5A and H1 Hurricane Ties

Additionally, the height of the hurricane tie and the wood members being attached should be compatible. For example, an H2.5A would not be compatible with a roof truss configured with only a nominal 2×4 bottom chord over the plate since the two upper nail holes in the H2.5A will miss the 2×4 bottom chord (see Figure 4). This is actually such a common mis-installation that we specifically tested this scenario and have developed an engineering letter on it (note the greatly reduced capacity). In this case the ideal choice would be the H2.5T, which has been specifically designed for a 2×4 truss bottom chord.

Figure 6. H2.5A Installed on 2x4 Truss Bottom Chord

Figure 6. H2.5A Installed on 2×4 Truss Bottom Chord

Figure 7. H2.5T Installed on 2x4 Truss Bottom Chord

Figure 7. H2.5T Installed on 2×4 Truss Bottom Chord


It’s also essential to pay close attention to the diameter and length of the fasteners specified in the Simpson Strong-Tie literature. While many hurricane ties have been evaluated with 8d x 1½” nails for compatibility with nominal 2x roof framing, some require the use of a longer, 8d common (2½” long) nail and others require a larger-diameter 10d nail.

When specifying products for a continuous load path, it’s a good idea to select connectors that all use the same size nail to avoid improper installations on the job. It’s much easier if the installer doesn’t need to worry about which size nail he currently has loaded in his pneumatic nailer.

Wall Framing

Do your roof and wall framing members line up? If so, creating a continuous load path can be made simpler by using a single hurricane tie to fasten the roof framing to studs. The H2A, H7Z, and H10S are some of the connectors designed to do just that. If your framing doesn’t align, though, you can use two connectors to complete the load path. For simplification and to reduce potential mix-ups in the field, consider selecting the same hurricane tie for your roof framing-to-top-plate and top plate-to-stud connections, like the H2.5A.

Figure 8. Roof-Framing-to-Stud Connection with Single Hurricane Tie

Figure 8. Roof-Framing-to-Stud Connection with Single Hurricane Tie

Besides the added benefit of fewer connectors to install, using a single hurricane tie from your roof framing to your wall studs can eliminate top-plate roll, a topic discussed at length in one of our technical bulletins.

Other Factors

Some additional factors that may influence your selection of a hurricane tie are:

  • Environmental factors and corrosion should be considered when selecting any product. Nearly every hurricane tie is available in ZMAX®, our heavier zinc galvanized coating, and several are available in Type 316 stainless steel. A full list of products available in ZMAX or stainless steel may be found on our website. On a related note, be sure to use a fastener with a finish similar to that of the hurricane tie in order to avoid galvanic corrosion caused by contact between dissimilar metals.
  • When retrofitting an existing structure, local jurisdiction requirements will also influence your decision on which hurricane tie to use. As an example, the state of Florida has very specific requirements for roof retrofitting, which we outline in a technical bulletin, and they specifically mention the roof-to-wall connection. Be sure to check with your local city, county or state for specific requirements before you decide to retrofit.
  • Availability of wind insurance discounts in your area could also affect your decision on which type of hurricane tie to use on your home. Your insurance company may provide a greater discount on your annual premium for ties that wrap over the top of your roof framing and are installed with a certain minimum quantity of nails. Check with your insurance provider for additional information and requirements.

Although this is a lot to take in, hopefully it makes choosing the right hurricane tie easier for you on your next project. Are there any other items you consider in your design that weren’t mentioned above? Let us know in the comments below.