Tag Archives: International Residential Code

Buildings Designed/Built to Code

Designed / Built to Code

Sounds pretty impressive to think you are going to be investing in a new building designed and/or built to “Code”.

Right?

Well – maybe not so much. To begin with “Code” happens to be bare minimum requirements to adequately protect public health, safety and welfare. This does not mean a structure built to “Code” will withstand all possible circumstances. As an example, residential structures (R-3) are designed so as there is a 2% probability of their design loads being exceeded in any given calendar year!

So, how does a consumer best protect their interests?

BE AN INFORMED BUYER

Whether investing in a complete building kit, or having a builder provide materials as well as erection labor – if you receive a proposal stating only “to Code” or not mentioning “Code” at all…..

RUN

All proposals and agreements for buildings should mention what Code and Code version is being used. IRC (International Residential Code) and IBC (International Building Code) do have some differences between them. Every three years there is a new Code version published. Each version has latest updated changes due to testing, research and new products being introduced. Your new building should either match your jurisdiction’s adopted Code version or (if no structural permits are required), most recent version.

ENGINEERING

Unless you are building within prescriptive ‘cook book’ restrictions of a Code, I am a firm believer of buildings being fully engineered. Not just engineered trusses (as an example) but every component and connection being checked and verified by a Registered Professional Engineer specific to your building’s features on your site. This is for everyone’s protection (not just yours, but also your provider and any hired builder).

WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON PROPOSALS AND AGREEMENTS

Beyond applicable Code version, there are other factors you should have included:

Ground Snow Load (Pg) in areas where it snows. Ground snow load is not the same as roof snow load, but is important as it affects drift zones on each side of roof ridges. In these areas, roof purlins often must be closer together, larger dimension or higher graded material to compensate for drifting.

Flat Roof Snow Load (Pf) is usually calculated from Pg and incorporates factors such as Occupancy (low risk buildings get a 20% reduction), wind exposure (an exposed building has snow blow off, a protected site has snow sit) and temperature (heated or unheated and well or poorly insulated). Some jurisdictions mandate a minimum Pf, ignoring applicable laws of physics.

No snow? Then Lr applies, rather than Pf. Lr is a reduced uniformly distributed roof live load ranging from a minimum of 12 to a maximum of 20 psf (pounds per square foot), depending upon the area being carried by a given member.

Design Wind Speed in either V (basic design wind speed, sometimes expressed as Vult) or Vasd, in mph (miles per hour). These values are directly correlated as Vasd equals V multiplied by square root of 0.6.

Wind Exposure – rarely mentioned and extremely important. Most buildings will be on Exposure C sites, meaning they must resist a 20% greater wind force than a fully protected Exposure B site. Become more knowledgeable by reading here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/03/wind-exposure-confusion/

If wind exposure is not delineated on a proposal or agreement, it is not a good sign.

Allowable Foundation Pressure – most people are not interested in having their buildings settle. This value relates to your site’s soil being able to support a given value per square foot of building weight INCLUDING roof and floor live (or snow) and dead (permanent) loads. Keeping it simple, easier to dig equals lower values.  In an ideal world, a geotechnical engineer has tested your site’s soils and can provide an exact measure of soil strength in his or her report. Many providers assume a value of 3000 psf, this would exclude soils including any silts or clays and using this as a value could compromise structural integrity.

Seismic Zone: for single story wood or steel frame structures with low or no snow and more than just bare minimum design wind forces, seismic forces will not dictate structural design. However, they should be checked.

If you are negotiating with a provider or builder who is not clearly stating all of these factors, you are very well paying hard earned money for something you are not getting.

Contact your local jurisdiction so you are aware of what Code minimum requirements are. Ask your provider or builder for any additional investment to upgrade to a greater roof load and/or design wind speed – in most cases it is negligible and it allows you to make informed choices as to risk/reward.

Things You Want to See On a Building Proposal

Things You Want to See on a Building Proposal/Contract

Maybe you (as a soon to be building owner, building contractor or provider) are satisfied with being overly vague when it comes to what you are buying or selling. From a contractor/provider standpoint, this gives you lots of leeway to add ‘extra dealer margin’ by providing minimal (or less than minimal) components to unsuspecting buyers.

Now, my employer happens to offer a “price match guarantee” for any comparable building package. If I had a dollar for every quote from a competitor where it was impossible to even determine what was being proposed to be provided, I would be sitting in a beach chair along an ocean, not writing this article!

Today I am going to address a few highlights, if you are pondering a building investment, you will want to pay close attention…provided getting best investment for your money is important.

Things like building dimensions (width, length, eave height and roof slope) as well as roof style (gable, single slope, monitor, gambrel, dual slope, etc.) might seem to be no brainers, however I find even some of these certainly important features to be overlooked!

While there does exist an actual ANSI (American National Standards Institute) definition of Eave Height – most builders and vendors are unawares or just plain choose not to use it. Somewhere your agreement should spell out what is proposed or provided so all have a clear understanding. (Please read more here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/03/eave_height/)

Will this building be fully enclosed, partially enclosed or merely a roof? It makes a difference in wind design, so should be clearly delineated.

FEATURES

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but is to provide an idea as to how extensive it should be.

Thickness (gauge) of steel roofing and siding, as well as warranty AND substrate should be called out. Caution here as IRC (International Residential Code) Table R905.10.3(2) requires a minimum of AZ 50 for 55% aluminum-zinc-alloy-coated steel (Galvalume) or G-90 for Galvanized steel. These same requirements can be found in IBC (International Building Code) Table 1507.4.3(2). Lesser coatings can only be used for “U” buildings. Will there be wainscot, and if so will there be trim between it and upper wall panels?

How will roof steel condensation be controlled? Not addressing this now will cause challenges later. Integrated Condensation Control (Dripstop or Condenstop), Reflective Radiant Barrier (aka Bubble – and it is NOT insulation), Metal Building Insulation (vinyl faced fiberglass), Sheathing (OSB or plywood) with 30# or heavier felt or a synthetic ice and water shield? Tyvek or other similar housewraps (Weather Resistant Barriers) are not effective for condensation control.

How will any dead attic spaces be ventilated? Soffits, gable, ridge?

If other materials are to be used for roofing and/or siding, specifics as to thickness, quality and warranty should be clearly delineated.

Overhangs – open (no soffit) or enclosed (with soffit). Length of overhangs. Soffit material to be used (vinyl, steel, aluminum) as well as vented or non-vented.

Any overhead sectional or roll-up (coil) doors should be appropriately wind rated. Residential or commercial doors? Smooth faced, long panel or short panel? And glass, and if so, inserts? Specifics as to any manufacturer’s stated R values, thickness of steel, interior backers, track options (standard, low headroom, high lift or with run of roof), color, finish painted or primed only, vinyl weather seals, steel trims on jambs,  openers and operators should be called out.

Entry door width and heights, is door wood, steel, aluminum, vinyl covered, fiberglass? Jambs wood, steel, aluminum, vinyl covered wood? Doors and jambs finish painted or primed only? Crossbucks? Raised Panel? Glass? Wind rated? R value? Keyed lockset, dead bolts?

Windows with dimensions, type of frame material (aluminum, vinyl, composite, etc.), type (sliding, single hung, double hung, fixed, casement, etc.). Glazing (single, double or triple pane, tempered or non-tempered glass). Color of frame. Integrated J channels? Screens? Gas filled? U-factor and SHGC.

Wall framing (girts) external or bookshelf? External girts rarely meet Code deflection requirements and framing will have to be added to create an insulation cavity or apply interior finishes.

Trusses designed to support a ceiling load? If for sheetrock, a 10 psf (pounds per square foot) bottom chord dead load is required.

Future Building Owners – if it is not specifically called out for, do not assume you are getting it. Building providers and contractors – if you are providing a feature and do not call it out, you are doing a poor job of selling yourself.

Our next article will delve into “Code” design requirements – don’t miss out!

Human Habitation Prohibited

Human Habitation Prohibited

“Please be aware that the Land Development Code and adopted Building Codes prohibit the human occupancy of any Accessory Building. This means that buildings such as metal buildings, pole barns, tool sheds, garages, or any other accessory structures shall not be constructed or used for human occupancy. Accessory Buildings are not constructed to the same Building Code standards as Dwellings and therefore a neither suitable nor safe living quarters.”

This quote is from Guidelines for the Permitting, Construction and Use of Accessory Buildings and Structures and is provided by Cass County, Missouri.

Taken all by itself, it would lead one to believe it is impossible to build a barndominium or shop/house in Cass County.

Now….. as the late, great Paul Harvey would have said, “Here is… the rest of the story”:

Planning Departments (also referred to as Planning and Zoning or other similar monikers) can place many restrictions on what can or cannot be built upon any particularly zoned piece of property. These restrictions may include (but are not limited to): Maximum or minimum footprint of dwellings, ratio of living space to garage/shop space, wall and/or overall building heights, setbacks from property lines and other structures, even such things as allowable materials and colors for roofing and siding products.

Yes, I know, it is YOUR property (or yours and your bank) however as long as you have to pay property taxes, you are actually just renting ground from your tax collecting authorities.

What Planning Departments cannot legally do is to prohibit a Code Conforming structural building system from being utilized (and to do so could very well be a Constitutional violation).

Most jurisdictions have adopted International Building Codes (IRC for residential, IBC for other structures). 

IRC has no language in it pertaining to post frame construction, while IBC indeed does.

To follow are IRC excerpts justifying IBC use:

In “Effective Use of the International Residential Code”:

Paragraph 4:

“It is important to understand that the IRC contains coverage for what is conventional and common in residential construction practice. While the IRC will provide all of the needed coverage for most residential construction, it might not address construction practices and systems that are atypical or rarely encountered in the industry. Sections such as R301.1.3, R301.2.2.1.1, R320.1, M1301.1, G2401.1 and P2601.1 refer to other codes either as an alternative to the provisions of the IRC or where the IRC lacks coverage for a particular type of structure, design, system, appliance or method of construction. In other words, the IRC is meant to be all inclusive for typical residential construction and it relies upon other codes only where alternatives are desired or where the code lacks coverage for the uncommon aspect of residential construction.”

IRC R301.1.3 Engineered design.

“When a building of otherwise conventional construction contains structural elements exceeding the limits of Section R301 or otherwise not conforming to this code, these elements shall be designed in accordance with accepted engineering practice. The extent of such design need only demonstrate compliance of nonconventional elements with other applicable provisions and shall be compatible with the performance of the conventional framed system. Engineered design in accordance with the International Building Code is permitted for all buildings and structures, and parts thereof, included in the scope of this code.”

In lay person’s terms – a post frame building can be fully engineered to meet with all necessary requirements for meeting structural requirements for snow, wind and other climactic conditions for residential as well as a plethora of other uses.

Should any jurisdiction tell you otherwise – please share this information with them and if they are still unyielding, send me a copy of their written (and approved by City/Town council or county commissioners) documentation and I will politely discuss further with them on your behalf.

Not Quite an Acme Hole Kit

Not quite an Acme Hole Kit

I grew up in an era where we (as children) could watch cartoons such as Road Runner and not immediately go out and try antics as pictured on our screens. Somehow our generation understood this and used common sense.

One of my favorites is Acme’s “Hole Kit” where a floppy black disk is thrown down to dive into or to have Wile E. Coyote fall into.

Now Acme, as a company, is never clearly defined in Road Runner cartoons, but appears to be a conglomerate producing every product type imaginable, no matter how elaborate or extravagant – most never working as desired or expected (some working very well, but backfire against our friend Mr. Coyote).

Acme did have a second to none delivery service. Wile E. can merely drop an order into a mailbox and have product delivered within seconds!

It is this quick delivery where Hansen Pole Buildings’ newest offering comes into play, “Rafter-span Structural Roof System”.


Having spent a fair portion of my adult working career in management or ownership of prefabricated metal plate connected wood truss manufacturing facilities, I can vouch for how little of a profit we ever could make on orders of very few small span roof trusses. When someone wanted four or six trusses 24 foot span or less, no matter what we were to charge them, our profits would rarely cover paperwork needed to process.

Truss trucks are also not cheap to operate. Get a key even close to their ignition switches and dollar signs start to spin like watching slot machines in a casino – except in this game there are no winners.

Our “Rafter-span Structural Roof System” began way before today’s current shortages of things like metal connector plates for trusses. Our (America’s) International Residential Code (IRC) devotes an entire section of Chapter 8 to rafter span tables, providing tables for various spacing of rafters (12 to 24 inches), four choices of lumber species (with four grades in each), as well as options for roof live and dead load combinations. Pretty much a recipe book for residential stick framed roofs!

I often wondered why a similar system could not be developed for post frame buildings, especially where our current design solution was a pair of prefabricated trusses spaced every 10 to 14 feet. We started in on this process a year ago, using structural computer models to test out our theories. Sure enough, this system worked as we had anticipated!

Now, instead of waiting three, four or even six months (or maybe told to try another manufacturer) for prefabricated trusses – most clearspans of up to and including 24 feet can have their components delivered as a portion of a building’s lumber framing package. And – be built onsite from as little as seven pieces of dimensional lumber (Heavier roof loads may require nine pieces)!

As an added bonus – rather than having a roof truss horizontal bottom chord hanging usually six inches below eave height (reducing head room), this system allows for a ‘rafter tie’ to be placed horizontally at a height equal to rise of frame divided by 7.5 ABOVE eave height!

Need to get a taller overhead door centered in an endwall? This may very well be your solution.

P.S. I may have failed in not emphasizing how this system not only gets on jobsites quicker, it is also LESS EXPENSIVE!

CAUTION  – DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS  without all member sizes, grades and connections having been determined by a Registered Professional Engineer. ALL Hansen Pole Buildings are 100% engineered including our “Rafter-span Structural Roof System”.

Wood I-Joists for Your Barndominium

With many barndominiums being multi-storied, or at least having lofts or mezzanines, there are several methods of structural support. These would include dimensional lumber, wood trusses and I-joists.

In our own post frame barndominium, we utilized I-joists as rafters for both side sheds. They are also floor joists for my lovely bride’s mezzanine sewing loft – a partial third floor above our master bedroom.

When I began my prefabricated metal connector plated wood truss career back in 1977, one of my first jobs was cutting webs for wood floor trusses. Then, wood floor trusses were a fairly new concept, they allowed for much longer clearspans than dimensional lumber, were consistent in size and made for very fast framing.

Floor trusses were (and are) in direct competition with I-joists. I-joists were invented in 1969 and are engineered wood products used for both floors and roofs. They have a great deal of strength in relationship to size and weight.

I-joists require correct installation – meaning a requirement for more experience and training than a dimensional lumber framed floor. Most common mistake is misplacing or improperly sizing holes in OSB (Oriented Strand Board) webs. This can compromise I-joist strength, potentially leading to structural failure. Other common installation mistakes include cutting or chiseling flanges, improperly size joist hangers, improper nailing and wrong sized nails. Rim joists much also match I-joist size as mismatches can strain joists. When an I-joist crosses a main beam, squash blocks must be installed alongside I-joists to transfer loads from I-joist to beam. Missed nails and glue setting too fast can lead to an uneven or squeaky floor. Field modification or repairs usually require manufacturer’s consultation.

I-joists need to be drilled for mechanical installations (e.g. HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc.) leading to lost-time and effort as compared to open web floor trusses. in order to meet IRC (International Residential Code), I-joists must be covered on both sides of their full solid web with fire resistive chemicals or cladding. I-joists often do not perform well when exposed to fire or water. Thin I-joist webs can be relatively easily damaged or burned through by fire. OSB I-joist webs can be swelled by excessive moisture absorption causing web weakening. Top and bottom flanges (usually 2×4) can exhibit cupping, warping or splitting from excessive swelling due to moisture absorption.

For vibration control, both web stiffeners and blockings can be necessary to obtain desired floor stiffness.

Floor trusses have a distinct advantage for being mechanical equipment friendly. With the ability to design chase openings for ductwork through them, this is a big advantage. But let’s say there is a job site change and the truss company was not informed (never happens right?) and the ductwork must be shifted. Openings in webbing will allow for this adjustment to happen seamlessly. With this type of flexibility, who wouldn’t want floor trusses?

With I –Joists, holes you can actually cut into each joist can be pretty small. These holes also must follow certain parameters. Sometimes this is very limiting and you must stay within certain locations to place holes. Let’s not forget if you cut into a flange, a big no-no, you’re going to need a new joist.

Floor trusses can clear-span with the same floor ratings much further than any I-Joist product. This is very beneficial to frugal barndominium builders and owners out there. Let’s face it though; aren’t we all trying to be more frugal with everything we do? Who wants to put in an extra steel beam and posts or 3-4ply LVL to carry some “I’s” those extra 3’ or 4’ because their span rating is good for distance required? Those beams could add up to several hundred (even thousands) of dollars.

I-Joists may need an increased depth or decreased spacing to span very same distances, using very same design criteria. Bridging and blocking can be increased to “shore” up a floor, but this runs a risk of them being omitted.

In my mind, floor trusses are a winning answer. Are they for you?

Struggles to Define What a House Should Look Like

With barndominiums, shouses and post frame homes rising in popularity, jurisdictions are struggling to define what a house should look like.

To follow is an article by Arielle Breen in August 13, 2020’s Manistee, Michigan News Advocate detailing their city’s challenges.

“Does the building plan look like a pole barn or a house?

The answer is that it does not matter what it looks like since a new house in Manistee does not have a detailed design guideline to define what a house looks like — or what the city’s ordinance actually means when it refers to a house needing to fit into “the character of its neighborhood.”

But Manistee City Planning Commission may be looking at creating specific standards for the look of new houses built in the city in the future.

Mike Szokola, Manistee County planner, said if a person wants to build a house in the city and meets criteria such as minimum height and setback requirements, then zoning permits can not be declined as the current ordinance reads.

“At no point in time do I get to ask them ‘What’s it made out of’ (or) ‘How many windows does it have,’” Szokola said at the last Manistee City Planning Commission meeting while showing an example of a home proposed on Ninth Street.

He said there are no design standards within the city’s ordinance that would prevent that style of house.

Gable Pole BuildingThe topic was brought up at the Aug. 6 meeting after Szokola reported he had seen more than one house come through requesting permits in which the house didn’t quite fit with what a typical house in the area might look like.

Members stated that the house resembled a pole barn structure one might see in rural areas outside of the city.

Rob Carson, Manistee County Planning director, said at the meeting that a lot of communities have design guidelines that stipulate aspects such as how many windows a home needs to have and what types of siding are appropriate.

“This is the second building that we’ve received a permit for in less than a year that is going to strike up some controversy in these neighborhoods,” Carson said at the meeting. “When this came in and Mike brought it to me, I was concerned but I said ‘There’s nothing we can do to stop it right now.’ And that’s what the primary issue is.”

While planning commission members said there is a need to have some sort of guideline, they were also hesitant about being strict with appearance requirements in any ordinance they may pursue.

Planning commission member Shelly Memberto said as a property owner she tends to be careful about design.

“I live in probably one of the oldest houses in the city. And I’m sure that the owner, when the house submitted across the street from me which is probably now 80 years old today, they probably hated visually how it looked,” Memberto said. “It didn’t fit in with the character 140 years ago, but maybe it did 60 years after that.

“I don’t know that 20 years from now every house isn’t going to look like this (Ninth Street house example,)” she said.

Carson expressed concern that once approvals for houses go through that are not in character, they could “trigger” more cases as the city has “a whole lot of new visitors.”

“Somebody may say ‘Hey, look there is a pole barn someone let them put up. It’s got a loft in it, it’s separated from the vehicle space. That’s what we want because we’re only here two months of the year,’” Carson said.

He said the commission could find a “happy medium that doesn’t go overboard on regulation but would appease the public and the residents of the city.”

Carson said he would gather several examples of ordinances the commission could consider and discuss at an upcoming meeting that would show the less stringent and more strict options available if the commission wished to proceed with a design guideline ordinance.”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru comments:

Pole Barn Guru BlogUltimately, Planning Departments have every right to enforce aesthetic ordinances – as long as they are applied universally to all types of structural systems within a given occupancy classification (such as R-3 residential). What they cannot do is to regulate whether a Code conforming structural system may or may not be used. Should your jurisdiction try to prevent you from constructing a fully engineered post frame home – send me a copy of their written ordinance (not just anecdotal evidence) and I will go wage war for you.

Can We Do This?

Can we do this?

Engineered post frame building construction allows for nearly any situation a client can imagine to be achieved structurally. As some of you long-time loyal readers may have read – “You are only limited by your imagination, budget and available space”.

Hansen Pole Buildings’ Designer Doug has a client who contracted with a third-party to create floor plans and elevation drawings. Sadly, Doug’s client paid $900 for this work, when it might have been done for $695 or even free with this service: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/post-frame-floor-plans/

As drawn, this design would have a fairly low sloped ‘shed’ style roof spanning 20 feet from building face to outside with a trussed roof system. These two reverse gables would be framed in on top of shed roof purlins.

I can see some potential challenges occurring here.

Shed roof slope appears to be less than a 3:12 roof slope. This voids steel roofing paint warrantees provided by most roll formers. It also means every side lap has to have a butyl sealant between overlap and underlap per R905.10.2 of the International Residential Code:

“1. The minimum slope for lapped, nonsoldered-seam metal roofs without applied lap sealant shall be three units vertical in 12 units horizontal (25-percent slope).”

While I was not privy to distance along the wall length of this shed roof, it appears to be a great enough distance so a fairly significant structural header will need to be placed from column-to-column to support the low heel of shed trusses.

If this is in snow country, snow is going to build up between these two reverse gables and weight will need to be accounted for.

While this design is totally doable, it will entail additional investment in materials, plus more than a fair amount of time to assemble everything and maintain water tightness.

What would I have recommended?

Instead of a shed roof design, use a reverse gable porch with a single gabled truss spanning from corner column to corner column. Roof slope could match the main building, being steep enough to maintain warranty and leak free integrity. Plus – much easier to construct!

Lofty Barndominium Ambitions

Lofts and mezzanines (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/03/a-mezzanine-for-your-barndominium/) are popular inclusions in barndominiums. Even though my lovely bride and I have a mezzanine in our South Dakota shouse, they are not often truly practical from an accessibility or economics stance.

Reader Devin in Porun writes:

“I’m designing and building a 42’x50′ pole barn home with 10′ exterior walls. Viewing the plans from the front entry on the long wall, the left half of the interior will be framed rooms and the right half will be a large open kitchen/dining/living room space. I want to have an open loft over the half of the building that has interior framing. I want to be able to stand in the loft for at least 3-5′ each side of center, roughly 6′ of head space when finished. What style/type of trusses do you recommend and at what pitch? Would you use the same trusses all the way across the house, or use different ones for each half with the same exterior pitch? I like the high ceilings over the open portion, but would like to minimize the ceiling height to avoid heating and cooling unnecessary space.  Thank you for your time!”


In order to have your greatest possible resale value, you should have any lofted space designed so as to be considered as habitable space. International Residential Code (IRC) Section R304.1 Minimum area. “Habitable rooms shall have a floor area of not less than 70 square feet. R304.2 Minimum dimensions. “Habitable rooms shall be not less than 7 feet in any horizontal dimensions. R304.3 Height effect on room area. “Portions of a room with a sloping ceiling measuring less than 5 feet or a furred ceiling measuring less than 7 feet from the finished floor to the finished ceiling shall not be considered as contributing to the minimum required habitable area for that room.” R305.1 Minimum height. “Habitable space, hallways and portions of basements containing these spaces shall have a ceiling height of not less than 7 feet.”

This space will also need to be serviced by stairs, causing you to lose roughly 50 square feet of floor space.

Now, on to trusses – most prefabricated wood truss manufacturers are limited to building and shipping trusses up to 12′ in height. Allowing for truss top chord thickness, on a 42 foot span your maximum roof slope will most often be roughly 6.25/12. You can order “bonus room” trusses for this lofted area, and should be able to get 7’2″ from top of truss bottom chord to bottom of ‘cross tie’ (allowing for thickness of 3/4″ OSB or plywood subflooring and drywall for ceiling to attain a seven foot finished ceiling) in center 10-11 feet, with a maximum room width of roughly 14 feet. These trusses will come along with a healthy cost premium due to larger members required to make this happen and extra shipping costs. In your open portion, you could utilize scissors trusses to reduce heating and cooling as much space, while still giving a spacious cathedral look.

When all is said and done, you might want to consider a more ‘standard’ and economical roof slope of say 4/12 – and add to your ground level footprint rather than trying to gain expensive space in a loft. Keep in mind, this loft space is going to be difficult to move large pieces of furniture (couches, beds, dressers, etc.) in and out of without damage to walls or items being moved and it will prove mobility challenging (or impossible) for a certain population percentage.

Barndominium Egress Windows

Barndominiums, shouses (shop/houses) and post frame homes have become a popular alternative to ‘conventional’ stick frame construction. This creates a radical mind shift for those of us who have been focused on non-residential structures for years or even decades. An important consideration is including adequate windows for egress.

Dedicated readers will remember my oldest step-son, Jake. Although he is a high school physics/biology/chemistry teacher by vocation – he seems to have a bit of the “builder gene” in him.

For those who missed out on some of prior adventures – they begin here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/07/construction-time-2/

Jake’s dad is a successful farmer in South Dakota. Growing up on a farm, Jake got plenty of dirt under his fingernails, and after spending several years in Tennessee, he, his lovely wife and their then two children (now three with two-year-old Liam) returned to his roots – to farm with his Father – Dan.

Needing a place to live, convenient to Dan’s farm, they remodeled Jake’s paternal grandmother’s house – adding a 24’6” wide x 32’ two-story “wing”. In effect, they made it a four-level home.

I have been involved with roughly 20,000 post frame buildings across four decades, and until recently very few have intentionally been designed as houses (or at least I was not told they were going to be houses). When it came time for Jake’s bedroom windows – I bounced “minimum egress size” off him. Jake (being a scientist) had fast answers at his fingertips via the internet on his smart phone.

An egress window is one large enough to allow entry or exit if there is an emergency. Egress window requirements are used to guarantee a minimum window size and maximum height above a floor.

Egress window requirements are designed to make sure windows can open enough to climb through when there is an emergency. Egressable windows are only required in bedrooms and basements. Heights and widths of clear openable space are designed to allow a firefighter with an oxygen tank on, to climb through windows.

From 2012 IRC (International Residential Code):

R310.1 Emergency escape and rescue required. 
Basements, habitable attics and every sleeping room shall have at least one operable emergency escape and rescue opening. Where basements contain one or more sleeping rooms, emergency egress and rescue openings shall be required in each sleeping room. Where emergency escape and rescue openings are provided they shall have a sill height of not more than 44 inches (1118 mm) measured from the finished floor to the bottom of the clear opening. The net clear opening dimensions required by this section shall be obtained by the normal operation of the emergency escape and rescue opening from the inside. Emergency escape and rescue openings shall open directly into a public way, or to a yard or court that opens to a public way.

R310.1.1 Minimum opening area. 
All emergency escape and rescue openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet (0.530 m2).

Exception: Grade floor openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5 square feet (0.465 m2).

R310.1.2 Minimum opening height. 
The minimum net clear opening height shall be 24 inches (610 mm).

R310.1.3 Minimum opening width. 
The minimum net clear opening width shall be 20 inches (508 mm).

R310.1.4 Operational constraints. 
Emergency escape and rescue openings shall be operational from the inside of the room without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge.

Key phrase here is “net clear opening”. While a four foot wide by three foot tall sliding window would “appear” to have a sliding two foot by three foot panel, when physically measured the actual opening falls just below a 5.7 square foot threshold.

Typically sized sliding windows for egress are four foot wide by four feet tall, or five foot wide by three feet tall.

With single or double hung windows, they must be at least three feet in width and five feet in height.

Building a new post frame building to be your next home, or a mother-in-law apartment? Keep these window egress sizes in mind when planning for sleeping areas – and help keep everyone safe.

Building Department Checklist 2019 Part 1

BUILDING DEPARTMENT CHECKLIST 2019 PART I

I Can Build, I Can Build!

(First published six years ago, it was more than past time to update to reflect current code requirements!)

Whoa there Nellie…..before getting all carried away, there are 14 essential questions to have on your Building Department Checklist, in order to ensure structural portions of your new building process goes off without a hitch.  I will cover first seven today, finishing up tomorrow, so you have a chance to take notes, start your own home file folder of “what to do before I build”.  Careful preparation will be key to having a successful post frame building outcome.

#1 What are required setbacks from streets, property lines, existing structures, septic systems, etc.?

Seemingly every jurisdiction has its own set of rules when it comes to setbacks. Want to build closer to a property line or existing structure than distance given? Ask about firewalls. If your building includes a firewall, you can often build closer to a property line. Creating an unusable space between your new building and a property line isn’t very practical. Being able to minimize this space could easily offset the small investment of a firewall. As far as my experience, you cannot dump weather (rain or snow) off a roof onto any neighbor’s lot, or into an alleyway – so keep those factors in mind.

#2 What Building Code will be applicable to this building?

Code is Code, right? Except when it has a “residential” and also has a “building” version and they do not entirely agree with each other. IBC (International Building Code) only applies to post frame buildings, not IRC (International Residential Code:

(https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2018/10/what-building-code-applies-to-post-frame-construction/).

Also, every three years Building Codes get a rewrite. One might not think there should be many changes. Surprise! With new research even things seemingly as simple as how snow loads are applied to roofs…changes. Obviously important to know what Code version will be used.

#3 If building will be in snow country, what is GROUND snow load (abbreviated as Pg)?

Make sure you are clear in asking this question specific to “ground”. When you get to #4, you will see why.  Too many times we’ve had clients who asked their building official what their “snow load” will be, and B.O. (Building Official) replied using whichever value they are used to quoting.  Lost in communication was being specific about “ground” or “roof” snow load.

As well, what snow exposure factor (Ce) applies where building will be located? Put simply, will the roof be fully exposed to wind from all directions, partially exposed to wind, or sheltered by being located tight in among conifer trees qualifying as obstructions? Right now will be a good time to stand at your proposed building site and take pictures in all four directions, and then getting your B.O. to give their determination of snow exposure factor, based upon these photos.

#4 What is Flat Roof Snow Load (Pf)?

Since 2000, Building Codes are written with flat roof snow load being calculated from ground snow load. Now design snow load has become quite a science, taking into account a myriad of variables to arrive with a specific roof load for any given set of circumstances.

Unfortunately, some Building Departments have yet to come to grips with this, so they mandate use of a specified flat roof snow load, ignoring laws of physics.

Make certain to clearly understand information provided by your Building Department in regards to snow loads. Failure to do so could result in an expensive lesson.

#5 What is “Ultimate Design” or Vult wind speed in miles per hour?

Lowest possible Vult wind speed (100 miles per hour) only applies in three possible states – California, Oregon and Washington for Risk Category I structures. Everywhere else has a minimum of 105 mph.  Highest United States requirement of 200 mph for Risk Category III and IV buildings comes along portions of Florida’s coastline.  Don’t assume a friend of yours who lives in your same city has your same wind speed.  The city of Tacoma, WA has six different wind speeds within city limits!

Vult and nominal design wind speed Vasd are NOT the same thing. Make certain to always get Vult values.

#6 What is wind exposure (B, C or D)?

Take a few minutes to understand the differences:

(https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/03/wind-exposure-confusion/).

A Building Department can add hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars to your project cost, by trying to mandate an excessive wind exposure.  Once again, a good place for photographs in all four directions from your building site being shared with your Building Department.  Some jurisdictions “assume” worst case scenarios.  Meaning, your property could very well have all four sides protected and easily “fit” category B wind exposure requirements.  However, your jurisdiction may have their own requirement for every site in their jurisdiction to be wind exposure C, no matter what.  It’s their call.

#7 Are “wind rated” overhead doors required?

Usually this requirements enforcement occurs in hurricane regions. My personal opinion – if buying an overhead door, invest a few extra dollars to get one rated for design wind speeds where the building will be constructed. Truly a “better safe, than sorry” type situation.

I’ve covered seven most important questions for your Building Department Checklist, and they really weren’t so difficult, were they?  Come back tomorrow to find out the last seven!

 

Bookshelf Girts for Insulation

In the land where I first became acquainted with pole barn (post frame) building construction, was used a term known as commercial girts. These are actually what is more appropriately named “bookshelf girts” designed so as to create an insulation cavity which would extend 1-1/2 inches outside of the columns. The commercial girt is sized so the wall columns do not project inside of the plane of the bookshelf girts. An example would be using a 2×8 girt on 6×6 columns.

Reader Matt in Poland writes:

“Hi Mike, I didn’t come across your blog until after we purchased our pole barn package (not from Hansen) and were getting started. Our mistake, but we have learned so much from your blog.

My question is around the “illusive” commercial girts aka Bookshelf girts. When I say illusive, it is because, there are only about 2 internet postings about them, both belonging to you. We put standard 2×4 girts on the outside with Housewrap then metal. Now we are working on starting the interior and are going to go with 2×8 commercial girts inside. My question is running exterior wall things such as some plumbing, Gas lines etc. I do understand the electrical can run down the face of the post and has a 1 1/2 channel to do such, but what about those other things for rough-in.

We have taken a lot of pictures, and hope to post more information about our current build so that others can hopefully gleam information too.

Thanks Matt”

Matt’s kind words are of course much appreciated. The Hansen Pole Buildings’ “Ultimate Post Frame Building Experience™” is crafted with the idea of delivering the best value post frame building kit package to best meet with the ultimate needs of the client. In the case of Matt, it sounds as though his particular supplier may not have asked enough questions to have truly given to him the best design solution.

I will surmise Matt’s building has 6×6 columns with 2×4 “flat” girts placed on the exterior of the wall columns. As the bookshelf girts are being used to provide a surface for interior finishing only, it is possible a girt size as minimal as 2×4 could be used, holding the girt flush to the inside of the columns. Not only would this prove to be a greater cost savings, it also eliminates the transfer of heat and cold through girts which would touch both the exterior and interior finish surfaces. This type of interior commercial girt only needs to be stiff enough to resist undue deflection of the gypsum wallboard. This deflection limitation is to prevent taped joints from cracking.

As much as possible plumbing should not be run through exterior walls, especially in climates where freezing is possible during winter months.

The are some Building Code limitations as to the size of holes which can be drilled through sawn lumber, this excerpt is from the IRC (International Residential Code):

IRC R802.7.1 Sawn lumber.

“Notches in solid lumber joists, rafters and beams shall not exceed one-sixth of the depth of the member, shall not be longer than one-third of the depth of the member and shall not be located in the middle one-third of the span. Notches at the ends of the member shall not exceed one-fourth the depth of the member. The tension side of members 4 inches (102 mm) or greater in nominal thickness shall not be notched except at the ends of the members. The diameter of the holes bored or cut into members shall not exceed one-third the depth of the member. Holes shall not be closer than 2 inches (51mm) to the top or bottom of the member, or to any other hole located in the member. Where the member is also notched, the hole shall not be closer than 2 inches (51 mm) to the notch.”

This would allow for a hole of up to 1-13/16 inches to be bored through a 6×6 column, without adversely affecting the strength of the column.

Planning on climate controlling your new post frame building? Discuss the options with your Hansen Pole Buildings’ Designer to arrive at design decisions which will best meet your needs today, as well as in the future.

Pole Barn Decks

A Decked Out Lesson

I keep telling people after over forty years in the construction industry I am still learning new things each and every day.

Today being no exception, I found out things I did not know about decks.

I’ve spent most of my building career immersed in post frame buildings, which (until the past few years) were rarely used as residences. And, even when they were designed to be dwellings, rarely were they designed with attached decks.

Then along comes the rise of the barndominium.  Read more about barndominiums here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2016/04/the-rise-of-the-barndominium/

My lovely bride and I happen to live in a post frame building. It has no decks at this point in time. However, the idea has been bandied about in regards to perhaps someday having one which would be located off our living room.

In the 1980’s I had a business located on Highway 99E in Clackamas County, Oregon. With this personal history, it was not surprising to me to find myself being schooled by this county’s Building Department. This happens to be the very same county which was responsible for the creation of “Arborvitae Green” tree paint (the somewhat comical story is available to peruse here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2015/06/painting-steel-siding/).

Chapter 16 of the 2014 Oregon Structural Specialty Code gives us this:

“1604.8.3 Decks. Where supported by attachment to an exterior wall, decks shall be positively anchored to the primary structure and designed for both vertical and lateral loads as applicable. Such attachment shall not be accomplished by the use of toenails or nails subject to withdrawal. Where positive connection to the primary building structure cannot be verified during inspection, decks shall be self-supporting.”

The International Residential Code (IRC) does not apply to post frame buildings. But because it is a prescriptive code, and does not even mention post frame, it does address the deck to building connection.

The section from the International Residential Code (R502.2.2) says decks have to be designed for both vertical and lateral loads. This part has been on the books for years and is meant to keep the deck from pulling away from the house. But the 2009 IRC does have a new provision which gets specific about what’s required to support a lateral load.

The new code section (R502.2.2.3) states “hold-down tension devices” be installed in at least two locations per deck. Whether you are attaching a deck 3 or 30 feet long, it is required to use the hold-down tension devices in two locations.

Each hold-down device must “have an allowable stress capacity of not less than 1500 lb.” The hold-down devices might be tough to find, though, because right now, only Simpson’s DTT2Z Deck Tension Tie (www.strongtie.com) meets the design-load requirements.

All non-cantilevered Hansen Pole Buildings’ deck designs now include the above mentioned deck tension ties.

Oh, by the way, the plans reviewer did happen to note (in regards to our engineer’s deck attachment), “I’m sure his calculations are correct”!

Proposed Building Code Change to Add to Construction Costs

During each 3-year-cycle of the International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC), there exists an opportunity to propose modifications and improve the codes to recognize new and innovative construction.  During the final two weeks in April, the code proposal hearings were held in Louisville, Kentucky where several hundred proposals were discussed and considered for inclusion in the code.

large-span-trusses-150x150While post-frame construction is typically used in agricultural applications which are often (and in my humble opinion sadly) considered exempt from code compliance, more and more post-frame construction is either residential housing (IRC) or commercial (IBC) in nature.  In these cases, changes which impact the code may have an effect on how post-frame buildings are constructed.

Eight proposals were identified by NFBA (National Frame Building Association) staff as having a potential impact on post-frame construction.  While the majority of these proposals were defeated, the following action should be noted:

S138-16: Submitted by the Structural Engineers Association, this proposal was approved and will require special inspection for wood trusses with a clear span of 60 feet or greater or an overall height of 60 inches or greater.  While the clear span is not a major issue, the 60 inch height may impact a number of projects creating new cost/scheduling issues.  This change is scheduled to be included in the 2018 IBC.

Having spent my entire adult life installing, designing, selling, building, delivering and purchasing wood trusses, it would seem ludicrous to require a special inspection for wood trusses with an overall height of 60 inches or greater. This would add an extra layer of inspection to nearly every building (not only post frame) project, with seemingly no apparent rationale other than the employment of a large number of people to perform these inspections (most likely the same structural engineers who made this proposal).

Trusses spanning 60 feet or more, are already required to have special inspections, under the IBC: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2013/12/wide-span-trusses/.

What can you do? Contact your local Building Official today and ask them to vote to repeal this costly measure which does little or nothing to improve the safety of buildings.

Prefabricated Roof Trusses Part One

Prefabricated Roof Trusses – They can Make You or Break You

This article (written by yours truly) was published in the May 2016 Rural Builder magazine (https://media2.fwpublications.com.s3.amazonaws.com/CNM/RB_20160501e.pdf and begins on Page 26). Although the article is written towards post frame (pole) building contractors, it gives a perspective as to the challenges of ordering something as apparently simple as a set of prefabricated roof trusses:

I worked for, managed or owned roof truss manufacturing facilities from 1977 until 1999 – so we only ever had to operate under the pre-International Building Codes, which made our lives easy. Regardless of roof slope, exposure to wind, roofing material, whether a building was heated or unheated, the top chord live load (or roof snow load) was the same within any localized geographic region, with the exception of differences in snow load caused primarily by elevation changes.

When a client brought in a set of plans, we took on the responsibility to insure the quantity of trusses, roof and ceiling profiles, etc., were correct. We looked upon ourselves as being the experts – rather than the builder or building owner who was purchasing the trusses.

Walk in the door of a truss company today with a set of plans for a truss quote and the expectation is the purchaser has to be “in the know”, which I personally find counter intuitive, but it is the current reality.

As a broad generalization, today’s truss manufacturers are looking out for one entity, and it is not the person writing the check to pay for their product.

I am going to share some secrets which should both increase your bottom line as well as allow you to sleep soundly at night.

First – do not assume the truss company is going to do it right. It is better to take the more realistic position of, they will do it wrong. Wrong can result in an increase in the probability of a catastrophic failure, having to pay more than one should, or both.

Secondly – if you are shopping various vendors, the best price on the truss order might not be the best buy for your building.

A little sharing into how to make sure the trusses you order actually meet the required load conditions.

I am going to put in a plug here for Registered Design Professionals or RDPs. If you are constructing post frame buildings, or providing post frame building kit packages, and are not using originally RDP sealed plans, which are specific to the address where the building is being erected, you are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and the light is a speeding train.

Maybe you have built or provided hundreds or even thousands of buildings and never had a failure. Trust me, the failure is going to come, and may have nothing to do with how the building was designed, but if an RDP did not design it you are placing yourself and your business at a tremendous risk.

On to important stuff, the Building Codes.

The IRC (International Residential Code) is a prescriptive code for stick frame buildings within limited parameters of snow and wind loads. It does not address post frame construction therefore all post frame buildings should be designed using the IBC (International Building Code).

The International Building Code (IBC) identifies the appropriate Ground Snow Load (Pg) to use on a building based upon its location. When jurisdictions adopt the IBC, they should also be designating the Pg value or values within their area of coverage. Some Building Officials are still rooted in the 1900’s and (contrary to the current Code) designate a Roof Snow Load, which often defies the Laws of Physics.

A case in point, not too many years ago, we provided the post frame building kit package for the Nature Center at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Building Department gave the ground snow load as 27 psf (pounds per square foot), yet wanted 40 psf as the roof snow load. When our engineer called the Building Department to discuss this, the explanation given was, “The snow is just different here!”

Hmmm, ‘the snow is just different here’. Sounds pretty scientific. How about I give you some guidance as to what to really pay attention to, so your building is not only designed correctly to stay up but also how to save you some money. Sound good? Well, come back tomorrow to read Part II and get those answers… and a whole lot more.