Why Fire-Rated Hangers Are Required in Type III Wood-Frame Buildings

One of the first mixed-use designs I worked on as a consulting structural engineer was a four-story wood-frame building over two levels of parking. Designing the main lateral-force-resisting system with plywood shearwalls was a challenge for this project that required new details to meet the high design loads. The high overturning forces were resisted using the Simpson Strong-Tie® Strong-Rod™ anchor tiedown system, which incorporates high-strength rods, bearing plates and shrinkage compensation devices.

At the time, these construction details using Strong-Rod systems and high- load shearwall diaphragms were new, innovative concepts. However, this method of construction rapidly became commonplace as intense demand for housing fueled the trend toward denser, mixed-use developments in downtown areas. I discussed the trend toward taller, denser developments in this post.

A more recent trend in wood-frame construction has been the shift to Type III wood-frame construction, which allows designs up to five stories. To help educate designers on some of the nuances of Type III wood-frame construction and provide guidance on meeting the associated code requirements, we reached out to Bruce Lindsey, the South Atlantic Regional Director for WoodWorks. Bruce wrote a two-part article entitled Fire Protection Considerations with Five-Story Wood-Frame BuildingsPart 1 and Part 2. This post will go into more detail on connecting the floor system to the two-hour fire-rated exterior walls and discuss our new DG series joist hangers that are specially designed for this application.

As a structural engineer, I was aware of fire requirements mostly because I needed to account for the weight of fire sprinklers, added layers of gypsum board, fire-proofing on steel, or concrete slab thickness in my design. While the increased loads can affect the vertical- and lateral-force-resisting systems, I seldom needed to change the details and connections in my designs.

The exterior walls in Type III wood-frame construction require fire-retardant-treated (FRT) lumber with two layers of gypsum board to provide a two-hour fire rating. There are many established fire-rated floor and wall assemblies available. The challenge, as discussed in Part 2 of Mr. Lindsey’s post, is detailing the intersections between the floor and wall systems. Connecting the floor framing to the exterior walls in Type III construction requires careful detailing to transfer the vertical loads without compromising the two-hour fire rating of the wall assembly.

Below is a summary of some of the possible fire wall connections as discussed in Mr. Lindsey’s previous blog posts.

A solid header on top of the wall that has adequate thickness to provide a two-hour rating through its charring capability. The cost and availability of solid rim board material should be considered.

A continuous 2x ledger or blocking to provide one hour of fire resistance. The second hour of resistance is provided by ceiling gypsum board. Some jurisdictions object to this detail over concerns about a fire starting within the floor cavity.

Some jurisdictions interpret the two-hour exterior wall requirement as applying only to the wall and not the floor. In such jurisdictions, designers can sometimes use standard platform framing in Type III construction.

A variation where the ledger can be installed over two layers of gypsum board. Simpson Strong-Tie has tested and published values for ledger connections over gypsum board using our SDWH and SDWC fasteners. The testing of these fasteners was discussed in our Spanning the Gap post from earlier this year.

In this detail, one hour of fire resistance is provided by a single layer of gypsum board running the full height of the wall with a hanger installed over the gypsum board. The second hour of resistance is provided by the ceiling gypsum board.

A variation of this detail is our DU/DHU series of drywall hangers that are installed over two layers of gypsum board. These were addressed in this post.

Designs using hangers or ledgers installed over gypsum board can create construction sequencing challenges. Since the gypsum board needs to be installed before the framing, the contractor will need to coordinate between the trades.

A new solution that eliminates sequencing issues for Type III construction is our series of DG/DGH/DGB fire wall hangers, which are designed to easily install on a two-hour wood stud fire wall. These top-flange hangers feature enough space to allow two layers of 5/8″ gypsum wall board to be slipped into place after the framing is complete.

These new fire wall hangers were tested in accordance with ICC-ES AC13 and ASTM D7147, which I discussed in How We Test – Part I: Wood Connectors. These standards do not explicitly detail how to test a hanger installed on a wood stud wall, so we collaborated closely with ICC Evaluation Services to develop a test setup that meets the intent of the standards.

All three of our new fire wall hangers have been tested according to ASTM E814 and received F (flame) and T (temperature) ratings for use on either or both sides of the fire wall. These ratings verify that the DG/DGH/DGB hangers do not reduce the two-hour fire wall assembly rating.

Our testing and load tables address installation of 2×4 or 2×6 stud walls constructed of Douglas fir (DF), southern pine (SP), spruce-pine-fir (SPF) or hem-fir (HF) lumber.

DG Hanger

DGH Hanger

DGB Hanger

Drywall Notch Detail

If you are working on a Type III wood-frame construction project, check out our Fire Wall Solutions page, which has product profiles with links to further information about the new DG hanger series, as well as our DU/DHU series of drywall hangers and fire wall fastener solutions using Strong-Drive® SDWS Timber screws.

FAQs Regarding Strong-Rod Anchor Tiedown Systems (ATS) for Shearwall Overturning

How would a six-story light-frame wood building perform in a large earthquake? Back in 2009, Simpson Strong-Tie was a partner in the World’s Largest Earthquake Test, a collaboration of the NEESWood project, to answer that question. This was a full-scale test which subjected the building to 180% of the Northridge earthquake ground motions (approximately a M7.5). Within the building, Simpson Strong-Tie connectors and Strong-Frame SMF were used, with the Strong-Rod™ anchor tiedown system (ATS) serving as holdown for each shearwall.

The NEESWood building was designed under Performance-Based Design methodology, and the test was conducted as validation for the approach. Buildings of similar size to the NEESWood building are built to current codes using similar products. Mid-rise light-frame wood structures continue to be a popular form of construction in various densely populated cities across the country. As part of the lateral-force-resisting system, continuous rod systems are used as the holdown for the shearwall overturning restraints. Simpson Strong-Tie has been involved with continuous rod systems since the early 2000s when we launched the Strong-Rod anchor tiedown system.

Today, rod manufacturers design the continuous rod systems with design requirements (loading, geometry, etc.) Supporting documents (e.g., installation details, layouts, RFI/markups and calculations) are submitted for each unique project. Over the years, engineers have asked many questions related to the design of these systems. In this week’s blog, we will explore Frequently Asked Questions pertaining to Strong-Rod ATS systems used as shearwall overturning restraints (holdowns).

Is there a code report for the system?

The Strong-Rod ATS system is a series of rods (fully threaded rods and proprietary Strong-Rods), coupler nuts, bearing plates, nuts and shrinkage compensation devices (ATUD/TUD and RTUD).

The majority of these components are designed in accordance with the building code and reference standards (e.g., NDS, AISC). A project-specific calculation package is submitted for each job that addresses the evaluation of these elements. Therefore, these elements are not listed in evaluation reports.

Shrinkage compensation devices, on the other hand, are proprietary components which are not addressed by the building code or reference standards. Therefore, they are tested in accordance with ICC-ES acceptance criteria AC316 and are listed in ICC-ES ESR-2320. 

What is the material specification of the rods used above concrete?

The specified rod materials are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. ATS Rod Material Specifications

Can threaded rods or couplers be welded to steel beams?

Simpson Strong-Tie generally does not recommend this practice. Of the materials listed in Table 1, ASTM A307 material is the only specification that contains supplementary requirements for welding. When standard strength rod is supplied to the job, it is not guaranteed that this will be the material provided.

ASTM A449 and A193-B7 high-strength rods develop strength and ductility characteristics through controlled quenching and tempering treatments. Quenching is the rapid cooling of metal (usually by water or oil) to increase toughness and strength. This process often increases brittleness. Tempering is a controlled reheating of the metal which increases ductility after the quenching process. Precise timing in the application of temperature during the tempering process is critical to achieving a material with well-balanced mechanical properties. It is unlikely that field welding will satisfy the requirements of quenching and tempering.

Coupler nuts are generally fabricated from material exhibiting characteristics similar to high-strength rods. Thus, it is not recommended to weld coupler nuts to steel beams due to the potential for embrittlement.

Simpson Strong-Tie specifies a weldable cage which is fabricated from ASTM A36 material for such applications.

How do you calculate the Maximum ASD Tension Capacity provided in the job summary?

Simpson Strong-Tie provides a comprehensive design package for continuous rod systems used as holdowns for multi-story stacked shearwalls. The individual run calculations, as shown in Figure 1, provide the Maximum Tension Capacity, which correlates to the maximum force the system can deliver. Plan check often requests justification on how these values are derived at each level. These values are calculated, and the process explained below may be used on any Simpson Strong-Tie ATS Job Summary as justification.

Figure 1. Sample ATS Run Type SW9

The maximum tension capacity published within the Job Summary and the Installation Details is derived using the following procedure:

  • Step 1: Evaluate the top-most level. Compare the published capacities of the rod in tension, plate in bearing and the take-up device. The lowest of these three will govern and becomes the Maximum Tension Capacity for this level.
  • Step 2: Evaluate the next level down. (a) Sum the Maximum Tension Capacity from Step 1 and the published capacity of the take-up device from this level. (b) Sum the Maximum Tension Capacity from Step 1 and the published capacity of the plate in bearing from this level. (c) Compare derived values from (a) and (b) to the published capacity of rod in tension. The lowest of these three values will govern and becomes the Maximum Tension Capacity of this level.
  • Step 3: Repeat Step 2 as necessary until the bottom-most level is reached.

Applying this procedure to the sample run, SW9, will wield the following result:

  • Step 1: Evaluate capacities published at Level 4
    • Plate in bearing (PBRTUD5-6A) = 7.06 kips governs
    • Take-up device (RTUD6) = 20.83 kips
    • Rod in tension (ATS-R6) = 9.61 kips
      • The lowest value in Step 1 is the plate in bearing, hence 7.06 kips is the maximum load that can be delivered at Level 4 and is the Maximum Tension Capacity.
    • Step 2: Evaluate capacities at Level 3
      • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 4 = 7.06 kips (See Step 1)
      • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 4 + take-up device (ATS-ATUD9-2) = 7.06 + 12.79 = 19.85 kips
      • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 4 + plate in bearing (PL9-3×5.5) = 7.06 + 10.03 = 17.09 kips
      • Rod in tension (ATS-R7) = 13.08 kips       governs
        • The lowest value in Step 2 is the rod in tension, hence 13.08 kips is the maximum load that can be delivered at Level 3 and is the Maximum Tension Capacity.
      • Step 3: Evaluate capacities at Level 2
        • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 3 = 13.08 kips (See Step 2)
        • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 3 + take-up device (ATS-ATUD9-2) = 13.08 + 15.56 = 28.64 kips
        • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 3 + plate in bearing (PL9-3×5.5) = 13.08 + 10.03 = 23.11 kips
        • Rod in tension (ATS-R7) = 13.08 kips       governs
          • The lowest value in Step 3 is the rod in tension, hence 13.08 kips is the maximum load that can be delivered at Level 2 and is the Maximum Tension Capacity.
        • Step 4: Evaluate capacities at Level 1
          • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 2 = 13.08 kips (See Step 3)
          • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 2 + take-up device (ATS-ATUD14) = 13.08 + 24.39 = 37.47 kips
          • Maximum Tension Capacity from Level 2 + plate in bearing (PL14-3×8.5) = 13.08 + 13.98 = 27.05 kips       governs
          • Rod in tension (ATS-R11) = 32.30 kips
        • The lowest value in Step 4 is due to the plate in bearing, hence 27.05 kips is the maximum load that can be delivered at Level 1 and is the Maximum Tension Capacity.

In the System Deflection Summary page(s) of the Job Summary, is the Total System Deflection provided at Allowable or Strength levels?

Immediately following the individual run calculations in each job summary, Simpson Strong-Tie provides a summary of deflection of the rod system similar to what is shown in Figure 2. This breaks down the deformation of all components being considered. In the example below, the rod elongation and deflection of the take-up device are summed to provide the total deflection.

The calculated system deflection is presented at ASD level. See section below for how to use these system deflections for your drift calculation.

Figure 2. Sample System Deflection Check

What system deflection limit do you typically design to, and what does that include?

Unless otherwise specified on the plans or required by the building jurisdiction, Simpson Strong-Tie will design the continuous rod system to satisfy the deformation limits set forth in ICC-ES Acceptance Criteria (AC316). In some instances, the Designer may need a more restrictive deformation due to project specific conditions (e.g., tight building separations) and will require rod manufacturers to design for a lower deformation. Some jurisdictions (e.g., City of San Diego, City of San Francisco) may also have specific design requirements that continuous rod systems must conform to. The minimum recommended per-floor deformation limit set forth in AC316 is:

(Rod Elongation) + (Shrinkage Compensation Device Deflection) ≤  0.2” (ASD),

Or     (PDL/AE) + [ΔR + ΔA(PD/PA)] ≤ 0.2” (ASD)


PD = ASD demand cumulative tension load (kips)
L = length of the rod between restraints – i.e., floor-to-floor (in.)
A = net tensile area of the rod (in.2)
E = Young’s Modulus of Elasticity (29,000 ksi)
ΔR = seating increment of the shrinkage compensation device (as published in ICC-ES evaluation report)
ΔA = deflection of the shrinkage compensation device at the allowable load (as published in ICC-ES evaluation report)
PA = Allowable capacity (kips)

Should deformation limits be specified in the construction documents?

Simpson Strong-Tie strongly recommends this information be included in the construction documents. Along with the cumulative tension and compression forces, the required deformation limits for the holdown are important to ensure that rod manufacturers are designing the holdown to satisfy the desired shearwall performance.

 How do I use the system deformation limit?

The System Deflection is the total deformation of the holdown system from floor to floor (refer to the last two columns in Figure 2). This information represents the total ASD holdown deformation term, Δa, for each level and is to be used in the shearwall drift equation from the Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic (2015 SDPWS 4.3-1).

ASCE 12.8.6 requires that shearwall drift be calculated at strength level. Therefore, the information provided within the System Deflection Summary page needs to be converted from ASD to Strength Level. The conversion factors in Table 2 can be used to convert the ASD deformations to strength level. For discussions and methodology in converting bearing plate deformation to strength level, please refer to the WoodWorks Design Example of a Five-Story Wood Frame Structure over Podium Slab found here.  

Table 2. ATS Rod Deflection ASD to LRFD Conversion Factors

Can rod systems be used in Type III construction?

Yes! 2015 IBC §2303.2.5 requires that Fire Retardant-Treated Wood (FRTW) design values be adjusted based on the type of treatment used on the project. Adjustment factors vary for each FRTW manufacturer; refer to the ICC-ES evaluation report of the specified FRTW manufacturer for the unique adjustment values. Rod manufacturers need to know what treatment is being used so this information can be taken into consideration when designing compression posts and incremental bearing (bearing plates).

For more information and previous discussions on fire protection in mid-rise construction, see our previous posts:  Fire Protection Considerations with Five-Story Wood-Frame Buildings Part 1 and Part 2, and Connectors and Fasteners in Fire-Retardant-Treated Wood.

What are Simpson Strong-Tie’s guidelines for fire caulking material?

While there are many options for fire-rated caulking, these products can be used in conjunction with the Simpson Strong-Tie ATS system. Below is a list of considerations when selecting and specifying a material for use where the rods penetrate the top and sole plates:

  • The fire-rated caulking shall not be corrosive to metal when used in contact with ATS components.
  • Direct contact with shrinkage compensating devices (e.g., TUD, ATUD, RTUD) shall be avoided. Shrinkage compensating devices have moving components and may not function properly with debris interference.
  • Indirect contact with shrinkage compensating devices shall also be avoided. Shrinkage compensation accumulates up the building and therefore the largest shrinkage occurs at the top of the building. As such, when the building shrinks, remnants of the material may still be stuck to the threads of the rod and may be detrimental to the performance of some shrinkage compensating devices (e.g., an RTUD). It is recommended to detail the installation with shrinkage taken into consideration.
  • The fire-rated caulking should be pliable to accommodate wood shrinkage and the building moving down during this process.
  • The performance and the suitability of fire-rated caulking are outside the scope of Simpson Strong-Tie.

Why doesn’t your design include compression post design?

If the Engineer of Record has already specified compression posts to be used with a continuous rod system, Simpson Strong-Tie will not provide these on the holdown installation drawings. This is primarily done to prevent discrepancies between the specification in the contract documents and what is shown on the installation drawings.

 What is the maximum spacing between compression posts?

For platform-framed structures, the maximum spacing between compression posts is 9″. The large majority of Simpson Strong-Tie bearing plates will fit within the 9″ spacing requirement, eliminating the need for notching compression posts. In some framing conditions, such as balloon framing or a top chord bearing truss, the maximum spacing will be reduced to 6″. This is due to the limited amount of space between the top of the compression posts transferring uplift (via bearing) into the point of restraint (e.g., bearing plate) at the level above. To ensure this load path is complete, the posts need to be spaced closer.

What is the nailing schedule for the bridge block to the king studs?

Simpson Strong-Tie doesn’t recommend nailing the bridge block to the cripple as the bridge block member will shrink. Locking the bridge block in place may result in a gap forming between the bottom of the bridge block member and the top of the cripple studs, which is not accounted for in the Total System Deflection.

 Are there any published documents with design examples of continuous rod systems used in mid-rise construction?

There are two resources publicly available that provide discussion and examples. The first is a manual published by the Structural Engineers Association of California (SEAOC). Titled 2015 IBC SEAOC Structural/Seismic Design Manual Volume 2 – Examples for Light-Frame, Tilt-Up and Masonry Buildings, this document provides two examples  – one for a four-story wood hotel building, and the other for a three-story cold-formed steel apartment building on concrete podium deck.

Another useful resource is published by WoodWorks and is a design example of a five-story wood-frame structure over podium slab. This document can be found here.  

What questions do you have about the Strong-Rod ATS System? Leave them below.