Like everyone else in the world, I’ve been spending more time at home these past few months. More than I ever have before. During this time, I’ve found myself thinking about all the home improvement projects that would make our outdoor space more enjoyable. It’s something that in the extreme busyness of our “normal” life, I didn’t have a lot of time for. But being home 24/7 with two energetic and loud little boys has meant a lot of outside time. As a California native, I am grateful to be able to enjoy beautiful outdoor weather most of the year. I love being outside with my family, hanging out in the backyard, escaping all the tempting electronic devices that are constantly pulling us in. And now, more than ever, while sheltering –in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m so thankful for a backyard that we can enjoy. So, topping my backyard home improvement project list: adding a shade structure, like a pergola or pavilion.
At Simpson Strong-Tie, we really try to listen to our customers. Our products are developed with your needs in mind.
Last year, at my daughter’s college orientation, I found myself in an interesting conversation with one of the other parents. It turned out that he owns a deck-building company. When he found out that I’m an engineer at Simpson Strong-Tie, his first question was “why don’t you guys make some nice-looking connections that I can use on my decks?”
I had to choke back a laugh because that’s exactly what I was working on at the time. What he didn’t mention (but we knew he also needed) were connectors that are fast to install, suitable for outdoor use and structurally rated for engineered designs. We also knew code approval was critical to help building departments approve the designs.
The Outdoor Accents® connectors we designed include some basic T’s, L’s, angles and post bases with a nice architectural feature of decorative edges from our Mission Collection®. The steel has our ZMAX® (G185) galvanizing (which is twice as heavy as our standard G90) to resist corrosion and a black powder-coat finish for aesthetics.
But the real innovation is in the fastener. Architectural connectors and big bolts go hand in hand, but big bolts are expensive, time consuming and often structurally unnecessary. To solve the installation issue, we designed a decorative washer that looks like a washer and nut and perfectly fits our SDWS22DBB Structural Wood screw.
We named it the shear tube nut (STN) because the extended tube increases the shear area in contact with the connector.
Together with the SDWS22DBB screw, this solution looks like a bolted connection but installs with the speed and ease of a self-tapping screw. Structurally as well, the hardware is comparable to a bolted connection with a shear capacity of 470 lb. per fastener when used with metal side plates, i.e., connectors.1 The solution has also been tested and load rated for use directly on wood, so it can be used for a variety of other connections such as joining multi-ply beams, knee braces, etc.
In order to be code approved, the SDWS22DBB screws were tested with and without the STN in both wood-to-wood and metal-to-wood per AC233 Acceptance Criteria for Alternate Dowel-Type Threaded Fasteners. The connectors and fasteners, including STN, were tested as assemblies per ASTM D7147. Code agency reviewers quickly saw the benefits of the design and issued evaluation reports verifying the loads. The Outdoor Accents® connectors and SDWS22DBB screws are recognized under IAPMO UES ER-280 and ER-192, respectively. The smaller APA21 angle uses our new SD10112DBB screw, which is listed in ICC-ES ESR-3046.
My deck-builder friend will be pleased to see the new connectors are now available at select Home Depot stores.
I can’t wait to see what he thinks of them and to get his ideas for the next big project. How about you? What would you build with these new architectural products? Let us know in the comments below.
- Ref. IAPMO UES ER-192 Table 6A steel side member DF = 470 lb.; 2015 NDS Table 12B 3 1/2″ main member, 1/2″ bolt, DF perpendicular-to-grain = 510.
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