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.

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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 6.2.2.5.6 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.

 

Unreinforced Masonry (URM) Buildings: Seismic Retrofit

URM Buildings. Image credit: www.henryturley.com

URM Buildings. Image credit: www.henryturley.com

Unreinforced Masonry buildings in moderate to high seismic areas can be a disaster in waiting. These types of structures have little or no ductility capacity (reference the recent “Building Drift – Do You Check It?” blog post for a discussion on ductility) required for structures to prevent loss of life in a seismic event. Many of these buildings are in densely populated areas, have historical meaning, and can be costly to retrofit. Fortunately, there are tools available for engineers to assess and design the needed retrofits to mitigate the potential loss of life and increase the seismic resiliency of these buildings.

Image credit: International Code Council (ICC).

Image credit: International Code Council (ICC).

ASCE 31-03, Seismic Evaluation of Existing Buildings, and ASCE 41-06, Seismic Rehabilitation of Existing Buildings, are two reference standards that are referenced in the 2012 International Existing Building Code (IEBC). (It should be noted that both of these reference standards are currently being combined into one document – ASCE 41-13.) Although ASCE 31 and 41 provide assistance to engineers in determining minimum seismic retrofits for these brittle structures, it is recommended that design of the retrofits be performed by a qualified engineer with experience in working with these types of brittle structures.

Currently the 2012 IEBC has been adopted in 39 states in the U.S. and several other areas (see reference map below).

2012 IEBC Adoption Map. Image credit: International Code Council (ICC).

2012 IEBC Adoption Map. Image credit: International Code Council (ICC).

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Out-of-Plane Wall Anchorage Design

While the Simpson Strong-Tie Tye Gilb R&D lab in Stockton is a large testing facility, the world’s largest R&D lab is Mother Nature herself. Natural disasters such as earthquakes or storms put our engineering designs to the test. In this week’s blog post, I’ll be turning attention to wall anchorage for out-of-plane forces and the lessons we have learned from Mother Nature so far.

The 1979 building code incorporated many of the lessons learned from the 1971 San Fernando earthquake. In 1994, Mother Nature put the 1979 building code to the test with the January 17 Northridge earthquake. The Northridge earthquake showed that some of the increased design and detailing requirements in the 1979 building code worked well to improve performance over what was observed in 1971. However, it also revealed to researchers that acceleration at the roof level of single story warehouse buildings were three to four times the ground acceleration. The combination of higher than expected acceleration and excessive deformation of the wall anchorage assembly caused many wall anchorage failures.

Figure 1 Out-of-Plane Wall Anchorage Assembly

Several changes in the design forces used for wall anchorage and additional detailing requirements were incorporated in the 1997 Uniform Building Code. The requirements have been refined with each new building code, but overall the requirements and design forces have remained about the same under the current International Building Code. Wall anchorage design is governed by ASCE 7-05 and ASCE 7-10 Section 12.11. These provisions aim to mitigate the brittle wall anchorage failures observed in past earthquakes by increasing the design force and in Seismic Design Categories C through F, requiring: Continue reading