Holdown Anchorage Solutions

A couple years ago, I did a post on selecting holdown anchorage solutions. At the time, we had created a couple engineering letters that tabulated SSTB, SB and PAB anchor solutions for each holdown to simplify specifying anchor bolts. About a year later, a salesperson suggested we tabulate SSTB, SB and PAB anchor solutions for each holdown. You know, to simplify specifying anchor bolts…

This conversation reminded me of the difficulty in keeping track of where design information is. In the C-C-2017 Wood Construction Connectors catalog, we have added this material on pages 62-63. Which should make it easier to find. I thought I should update this blog post to correct the links to this information.

A common question we get from specifiers is “What anchor do I use with each holdown?” Prior to the adoption of ACI 318 Appendix D (now Chapter 17 – Anchoring to Concrete), this was somewhat simple to do. We had a very small table in the holdown section of our catalog that listed which SSTB anchor worked with each holdown.
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Introducing the Building Strong Blog

Building Strong Blog

This week we want to let you know about a new resource, the Building Strong blog. It’s very different from the SE Blog in that it ranges beyond the topics important to structural engineers to cover issues and various perspectives that help construction professionals of all disciplines design and build safer, stronger structures as efficiently as possible. We developed the new industry blog to highlight issues and topics that are of special interest to construction and building professionals. Through semi-monthly articles, the blog will cover topics ranging from rising labor costs to innovative technologies and the changing landscape of the building industry.

The Building Strong blog will cover topics on:

  • Safety, codes, and compliance
  • Residential and commercial construction
  • Decks and outdoor living
  • Building resilience
  • Emerging trends and industry insights
  • Collaborations and giving
  • Pro tips

We’re excited to offer the Building Strong blog. If you enjoy the SE Blog, this new content will give you a fresh take on timely topics affecting our industry. Check it out today!

What Structural Engineers Need to Know About the New OSHA Silica Dust Standards

This week’s post was written by Todd Hamilton, PE. ICI Field Engineer at Simpson Strong-Tie.

In March of 2016, the United States Department of Labor issued new OSHA standards on how crystalline silica dust should be handled in various workplaces including within the construction industry. The changes are intended to limit workers’ exposure to and inhalation of silica dust on the jobsite. These regulations will replace the current standard, which was issued in 1971. Compliance with the new rules will be required on construction jobsites starting September 23, 2017, and will be enforced through OSHA from that time forward.
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Q&A About Advanced FRP Strengthening Design Principles

Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey and this disaster in Texas. To help with relief efforts we are donating $50,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Employees at our Houston warehouse are safe and the employees from our McKinney branch will be doing as much as they can to help with relief efforts.

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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.
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Meet the First Simpson Strong-Tie Engineering Excellence Fellow with Build Change

Introducing James P. Mwangi, Ph.D., P.E., S.E. – our first annual Simpson Strong-Tie Engineering Excellence Fellow with Build Change. James Mwangi will write a quarterly blog about his experience throughout the Fellowship.

I’m delighted to have been asked to contribute this post and feel honored to be the first-ever Simpson Strong-Tie Engineering Excellence Fellow with Build Change. It’s my hope that this post will inform you about my professional background, why I applied to the Fellowship and how I think the Fellowship can benefit people and the structures they live, work and go to school in.
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Revisiting Stainless-Steel Nail Calculations . . . .

This week’s post was written by Bob Leichti, Manager of Engineering for Fastening Systems.

Those of you who have been following the Simpson Strong-Tie SE Blog for a while may recall our 2013 blog post on the withdrawal resistance of stainless-steel nails. There have been several developments relating to that subject since that blog was posted, and we want to help you catch up.

First, the National Design Specification for Wood Construction (NDS) was revised in 2015. In the 2015-NDS revision, a new chapter 10, Cross-Laminated Timber, was created, moving Dowel-Type Fasteners from Chapter 11 to Chapter 12. Every place in the original blog post where there is a snip of the NDS, you will find the same information in NDS-2015 Chapter 12. Did you know that you can download a free, view-only copy of the NDS from the American Wood Council at awc.org?

Second, after we published our blog post about stainless-steel nail withdrawal, a journal paper was published about withdrawal resistance of stainless-steel nails. This paper has all the nitty-gritty related to withdrawal resistance and bending yield strength for smooth-shank stainless-steel nails: Ramer, D.R. and Zelinka, S.L. (2015). “Withdrawal Strength and Bending Yield Strength of Stainless Steel Nails,” Journal of Structural Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers, Vol. 141, no. 5, 7 pp. (DOI: 10:1061/ASCE)ST.1943-541X.0001088).

Third, the NDS has been through another revision cycle and will soon have a 2018 copyright date. The chapter on dowel-type fasteners has some significant revisions that we will discuss in a blog post when the NDS-2018 is published later this year. SPOILER ALERT: NDS-2018 has a new withdrawal function for smooth-shank stainless steel nails.

Stay tuned!

The Cold-Formed Steel Construction Catalog is HOT off the press!

The SE Blog is taking some time off for the 4th of July holiday this week. However, we’ve just released the 2017 edition of our Connectors for Cold-Formed Steel Construction catalog – order a hard copy to be mailed to your office or download a PDF copy and start using it today!

Connectors For Cold-Formed Steel Construction

The C-CF-2017 is a 308-page catalog including specifications, load tables and installation illustrations for our cold-formed steel connectors and clips, helping you easily specify and install in commercial curtain-wall, mid-rise and residential construction.

How Heat Treating Helps Concrete Anchoring Products Meet Tougher Load Demands

Joel Houck is a senior R&D engineer for Simpson Strong-Tie’s Infrastructure-Commercial-Industrial (ICI) group based out of the new West Chicago, IL location. He has spent the last 17 years with Simpson developing new mechanical anchors and adhesive anchor components, as well as developing a lot of the lab equipment required to test these products. This experience has given him extensive knowledge and insight into the concrete anchor industry, especially when it comes to the proper function and performance of anchors. Joel is a professionally licensed mechanical engineer in the state of Illinois.

There’s a saying in Chicago, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait fifteen minutes.” That’s especially true in the spring, when temperatures can easily vary by over 50° from one day to the next. As the temperature plunges into the blustery 30s one evening following a sunny high in the 80s, I throw my jacket on over my T-shirt, and I’m reminded that large swings in temperature tend to bring about changes in behavior as well. This isn’t true just with people, but with many materials as well, and it brings to mind a thermal process called heat treating. This is a process that is used on some concrete anchoring products in order to make them stronger and more durable. You may have heard of this process without fully understanding what it is or why it’s useful. In this post, I will try to scratch the surface of the topic with a very basic overview of how heat treating is used to improve the performance of concrete anchors.

According to the ASM Handbook: Heat Treating, heat treatment is a process of heating and cooling a solid metal or alloy in such a way as to obtain desired conditions or properties.1 In practical terms, metals (usually steel in the case of most concrete anchors) are heat treated in order to improve their properties in some way over their base condition. When steel wire is formed into the complex shapes of anchors during the manufacturing process, the steel needs to be soft and formable; however, it is often beneficial to the performance of the final anchor product to be much harder and stronger than the base steel from which it’s formed. That’s where heat treating comes into play. By heating and cooling soft steel in a controlled manner, changes are made to the crystal structure of the steel in order to improve mechanical properties such as hardness, toughness, strength or wear resistance. Although the steel undergoes very complex microstructural changes during the heat treatment process, the end result is fairly straightforward – the once soft steel becomes harder and stronger as dictated by the heat treating process. As concrete anchors become more and more complex in order to meet the needs of building codes and designers, heat treating is becoming a more common and necessary component of high-strength anchors.

Figure 1. Steel microstructures: (a) soft steel example; (b) heat treated steel example.2

Depending on the desired results, there are many different types of heat treating processes that can be considered. The type of heat treatment and the parameters that are used can be customized for the steel type and the specific anchor application. There are several different types of heat treatments that are typically used for anchors. Two of the most common types are through hardening (also called neutral hardening) and surface hardening (also called case hardening).

Figure 2. Fasteners entering a heat treating furnace.3

Through hardening changes the mechanical properties (hardness, strength, ductility, etc.) of the steel without affecting its chemical composition. In order to alter the microstructure of the steel, it is heated in a furnace to a very high temperature, and then rapidly cooled, usually by submerging it in a liquid quench medium such as water or oil. This process will generally result in a very hard, but brittle material, so a secondary operation, called tempering, is employed after quenching. To temper steel, it is reheated to a lower temperature and then cooled in order to remove the stresses and brittleness created during the original quenching operation. Through hardening is useful where increased strength and toughness are required and surface wear isn’t a big concern, such as in our Crimp Drive® and split-drive anchors, setting tools for drop-in type anchors, high-strength all-thread-rod for adhesive anchors, and gas- or powder actuated fasteners. In order to effectively through harden an anchor, moderate levels of hardening elements must be present in the base steel, usually in the form of carbon. As the carbon content in the steel increases, so does the ability to harden it. The chemical composition of the steel along with the specific heat treating parameters will determine the level of hardness, strength and toughness of the final parts.

Surface hardening changes the hardness of the steel at the surface of the part by modifying the chemical composition of the steel at its surface only. This is done by altering the atmosphere in the heat treating furnace in order to get alloying elements, usually carbon, to diffuse into the surface of the steel. The increased carbon content increases the hardenability of the steel at the surface, but it can’t penetrate deeply into the steel, so a thin case forms around the surface of the steel with higher strength and hardness than the interior of the part. This creates parts that have high ductility throughout most of the interior, but that also have hard, wear-resistant surfaces. This type of heat treatment is useful in heavy-duty anchors where components of the anchors are sliding against each other during the setting process. It’s also useful in screw anchors, where the steel threads need to be very hard and wear resistant in order to cut into the concrete, but the ductility of the anchor must be maintained in order to avoid brittle failures in service. Just as with through hardening, there are many variations of surface hardening used in anchors, depending on the specific application.

Figure 3. Cross-section of surface hardened bar showing different hardness zones at the surface and in the interior.4

By using these two processes along with other heat treating processes, we are able to expand our ability to meet the higher demands placed on anchors in an industry that continues to evolve. As heat treating and steel chemistry continue to innovate, we will continue to use these developments to provide our customers with No-Equal concrete anchors that meet our high standard for performance and safety.

Mechanical Anchors

From complex infrastructure projects to do-it-yourself ventures, Simpson Strong-Tie offers a wide variety of anchoring products to meet virtually any need.


1 Lampman et al. (1997). ASM Handbook: Heat Treating. Materials Park, OH: ASM International.

2 “Microstructure of the AISI 4340 Steel.” Digital Image. Research Gate, n.d. Web. 14 June 2017 https://www.researchgate.net.

3 “Heat Treat Furnace.” Digital Image. ThomasNet Web Solutions, n.d. 14 June 2017 http://www.morganohare.com/heat-treating.html.

4 “Macrographs Showing Case Depth of Steels.” Digital Image. Science and Education Publishing Co. Ltd, n.d. 14 June 2017 http://pubs.sciepub.com.

Introduction to the Site-Built Shearwall Designer Web Application

Written by Brandon Chi, Engineering Manager, Lateral Systems at Simpson Strong-Tie.

Wood shearwalls are typically used as a lateral-force-resisting system to counter the effects of lateral loads. Wood shearwalls need to be designed for shear forces (using sheathing and nailing), overturning (using holdowns), sliding (using anchorage to concrete) and drift, to list some of the main dangers.  The Simpson Site-Built Shearwall Designer (SBSD) web app is a quick and easy tool to design a wood shearwall based on demand load, wall geometry and design parameters.

The web application provides two options for generating an engineered shearwall solution: (1) Solid Walls; and (2) Walls with Opening using the force-transfer-around opening (FTAO) method. Both options generate solutions that offer different combinations of sheathing, nailing, holdowns, end studs and number/type of shear anchors. The app can generate a PDF output for each of the possible solutions. Design files can be saved and reused for future projects.

App Overview

Design Input: 

Figure 1 shows the input screens for the “Solid Walls” and “Walls with Opening” designs with common wall parameters that are applicable to both design options. The user interface uses quick drop-down menu and input fields for the designer to select the different options and parameters. Unless otherwise noted, all the input loads are to be nominal (un-factored) design loads. The application will apply load combinations to determine the maximum demand forces for the shearwall design.

Figure 1A. Application Design Criteria Input. – Solid Wall
Figure 1B. Application Design Criteria Input. – Walls with Opening
Figure 1C. Application Design Criteria Input. – Common Wall Input Parameters

Figure 2 shows the allowable stress design (ASD) load combinations used for calculating the demand loads for the different components of the wood shearwall (i.e., holdown, compression post, sheathing and nailing design, etc.).

Figure 2. Load Combinations.

In addition to the lateral loads (wind and seismic) applied at the top of the wall and the wall’s own weight, uniform loads on top of the wall and concentrated point loads at the end posts can also be modeled. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. Addition Loads on the Wall.

Embedded anchor or embedded strap holdowns can be modeled by the app. (See Figure 4.) For the embedded strap option, additional input parameters are required since they will affect the allowable load of the selected strap holdown.

Figure 4. Holdown Design Options.

The Designer has the option to include additional sources of vertical displacement for drift calculation. (See Figure 5.)

Figure 5. Other Sources of Vertical Displacement Options.

Design Calculations:

For hand-calculated design when the demand forces are determined, the holdown size and shear anchorage can be selected from tabulated values. Design for the sheathing/nailing and compression post is relatively straightforward as well; however, the shearwall drift calculation may take a bit more work. This is where the SBSD app comes in handy. Below are two sections on the shearwall drift and strap force calculations and assumptions used in the SBSD application. If you are interested, please contact Simpson Strong-Tie for other design assumptions used in designing the SBSD app.

Shearwall Deflection Calculations:

Equation 1 shows the shearwall deflection equation from the 2008 Edition of Wind & Seismic Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic (SDPWS).

The Δa value from the third term of the equation is the total vertical elongation of the wall holdown system from the applied shear in the shearwall. The third term accounts for the additional displacement from holdown displacement. For holdown deflection, the deflection value depends on the post size used with the holdown size. When hand-calculating shearwall drift, Designers may have to perform a couple of iterations to come to the final post and holdown size. The SBSD app accounts for the holdown displacement and the post size used for overturning force calculation.

For shearwall-with-opening deflection calculation, EQ-2 is used in the SBSD app.

The solid wall, ∆solid wall, term is calculated using EQ-1 above. For the window strip and wall pier deflection terms, the height “h” used in EQ-1 is taken as the height of the window opening. ∆a is the deflection from nail slip in the shearwall. For more information regarding shearwall deflection with opening, please refer to Example 1 in Volume 2 of the 2015 IBC SEAOC Structural/Seismic Design Manual.

Strap Force Calculations:

For the Wall with Opening design option, there are several methods (Drag Strut, Cantilever Beam, SEAOC/Tompson, Diekmann) to calculate the force transfer around the opening. In the SBSD app, the Diekmann technique is used to calculate the pier forces in the shearwall and the strap forces around the opening. When calculating the strap forces, the SBSD app assumes they are the same at the top and bottom of the opening. In addition, contribution of the gravity load only affects the overturning forces in the holdown and post design but not the wall pier forces or strap forces.

Design Output:

Once all design parameters are entered and calculated, a list of possible solutions (where available) will be shown. (See Figure 6.) Common parameters such as sheathing material and type, wood species, minimum lumber grade, etc., are shown first, followed by other design parameters. The user can filter the solutions by seismic drift or wind drift.

Figure 6. Onscreen Output.

The Designer can select the PDF button next to the desired solution to see a PDF design file on a separate screen. (See Figure 7.)  The PDF design file contains the detailed design criteria input by the Designer, calculated demand loads, shearwall material summary, and a design summary for holdown, sheathing, and compression post design. A detail summary for shearwall deflection is also shown, with each term of the shearwall deflection equation (EQ-1) separated. Shear anchorage and design assumption notes follow the design summary section. This PDF file can be saved and printed by the Designer.

Figure 7. Detailed PDF Output.

I hope you find the SBSD web app helpful for your day-to-day wood shearwall design needs. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below.