Tag Archives: metal plate connected wood trusses

Under Construction Barn Collapse Close to Home

Under Construction Barn Collapse Close to Home

Summit, South Dakota is within an hour’s drive of Hansen Pole Buildings’ headquarters in Roberts County. In September 2022, this dairy barn (under construction) collapsed, sending 10 people to hospitals with injuries.

Many states, South Dakota included, allow agricultural buildings to be erected not only without being engineered, but also with no (or minimal) building permits being required.

I have previously authored articles regarding avoiding common building failures in the Post-Frame industry:

https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2014/04/nationwide/ and https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2014/04/nationwide-2/

Owners of a project with metal-plate-connected wood trusses spanning 60 feet and greater are now required to engage an RDP to design and inspect both temporary and permanent bracing for trusses (See International Building Code Sections 2303.4.1.3, 1704.6.2, and 1704)

Some industry professionals have weighed in upon this particular incident:

Jason Blenker (Drexel Building Supply):

Even if you did 1/2 of what BCSI describes you would avoid many of these incidents. Seems like it’s an “all or nothing” proposition for many installers. Too many successful installs without an issue. Sad to see these happen, people just don’t understand the true forces at work.”

Geordie Secord (Northern Truss; Barrie, Ontario):

“In 30+ years in the truss business I’ve seen a couple dozen cases of trusses collapsing. All but one was during construction. The other was a 20 year old building exposed to record snow fall and rain. In every case, EVERY case, bracing was completely missing, or ridiculously inadequate compared to industry recommendations that have been common place for as long as I’ve been in the industry.”

Ivan Filchev (Structural Engineer at Flight Timber Products, Ltd):

“I have studied the matter before and in my opinion, there are regional building standards which, in certain cases, overestimate the capacities of the bracing.
Nevertheless, I agree with Jason Blenker that stability should be dealt with seriously every time and that underestimation of the magnitudes of the forces is very common among professionals in our industry.”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru (Hansen Pole Buildings)

In my humble opinion, there is a very simple solution to minimization of failures in agricultural buildings – require them to be built from site-specific engineered plans, acquire building permits and be subject to structural inspections.

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”.

Having to Wait for Prefabricated Metal Plate Connected Wood Trusses?

Having to Wait For Prefabricated Metal Plate Connected Wood Trusses

nailing trussesLately I have read social media posts of people having to wait for as long as six months to get prefabricated metal plate connected wood trusses (MPCWT).

We received this notification from one of our major MPCWT providers:

“Our truss plate supplier has informed us that a worldwide steel shortage is severely impacting product availability,  shipping lead times and material costs. To review the letter from MiTek that explains the truss plate environment in detail (Letter is below in this article). You are receiving this communication to inform you of the latest supply chain shortage.

We anticipate the steel shortage will last through at least the next couple of quarters, if not longer, as demand for steel increases with economic improvement and the auto industry works through their backlog of orders caused by the semiconductor chip shortage.

The housing construction supply chain continues to be strained by material shortages, strong demand, transportation issues, and reluctance of manufacturers and mills to bring on more supply. We understand the challenges our builders are facing and we are urgently working to mitigate supply issues in any way we can. 

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts we anticipate the truss plate shortage will have some effect on our truss production capacity, lead times and design. Steps we will be taking to mitigate the steel shortage include diligently working to optimize available plate inventory when designing, prioritizing our truss production for existing customers, suspending DIY and one-off truss projects, and exploring other sourcing options.”

Here, at Hansen Pole Buildings, we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a month on MPCWT, so we do have a certain degree of priority over those who are DIYing it.

Below is Mitek’s letter:

April 29, 2021 

Dear Valued MiTek Customer, 

By now you have most likely spoken with your MiTek Sales Representing who would have explained the process MiTek has implemented to address the severe demand/supply imbalance the steel industry is experiencing. This letter is to give you clear visibility to the situation and to our approach to work through this with you. 

The Current Situation 

Over the last two weeks disruptions in the global steel industry have continued to deepen, creating worst supply challenges in memory. Although there are varied and diverse aspects to this situation, here are just few of contributing factors:

Many industries, including steel producers, radically reduced inventory levels Q2 and Q3 of 2020 

Massive unexpected post-lockdown surges in demand from nearly all steel consuming industries and primary building materials (lumber, aluminum, roofing, etc.) 

The new automotive annual build rate is almost 17mm units, despite the widely reported microchip shortages. 

Residential construction is booming, with the SAAR for housing starts in March reaching 1.74mm units 

The merger of Cleveland Cliffs and ArcelorMittal USA further concentrated supply and pricing power in the hands of a few US companies who have publicly stated their intentions to maintain prices at elevated levels. 

Global demand and the excessive 232 tariffs have limited import opportunities 

Rail, truck, and ocean freight logistics are extremely challenging. 


These factors have combined to create the perfect storm. In early 2021 steel producers severely curtailed tonnage allocations – and lead times jumped from the typical 8 weeks to 4 to 5 months. At the same time, on-time delivery performance from the mills, hardly stellar in a normal market, has plummeted. By way of example, MiTek has received just 55% of committed steel deliveries from our supplier base through April. Once the late steel begins arriving (anticipated in mid to late May) it will quickly be applied against the growing backlog of connector plate orders stemming from incredible demand levels (see below). 

And of course, as with all primary materials, each month steel prices continue to rocket past historical records. The AMM Index for Hot Dipped Galvanized exceeded $85/cwt in mid-April, or nearly 90% higher than October 2020. 

Housing Market Demand 

On the demand side, much higher than anticipated starts, coupled with the start-up of additional planned component manufacturing capacity, has caused order entry and shipping rates from our CM partners to far exceed original projections. Annualized, shipments to our CM customers in the January through April 2021 time frame are very close to the annualized 2005 volume when 2.05mm units were started. Demand is intense, and order entry rates over the past two weeks suggest the pace may in fact be quickening. 

Our Approach 

As indicated in previous communications, when steel allocations tightened and lead times jumped out in January and early February, MiTek committed to forward purchases of substantial steel volumes for May, June, July and August at elevated prices. Assuming delivery of these orders takes place as near as possible to the original promise dates, we are hopeful the need to extend connector lead times and tightly control order entry may begin to abate towards the end of the summer. Our steel supply partners, both domestic and international, tell us they are “catching up” against huge backlogs, however recent delivery performance warrants a level of caution. 

Given these factors, we are now at a juncture where we must put in place a more formal order management process to ensure we can support as much of your product needs as possible. 

Effective April 27 we are implementing an order control process, with established monthly order entry targets, by customer, equivalent to, on average, approximately13-15% more than average monthly connector shipments in 2020. New connector orders will be entered with a four-week lead time. Specific customer order entry targets will be communicated by your MiTek Sales Representative. Lead times and target levels may need to be further adjusted – to more closely mirror rapidly changing demand/supply conditions. 

Current orders on hand, and new orders placed, in excess of monthly target levels will be committed for delivery in the following month and counted against that next month’s target level. 

We understand this situation is disruptive for our CM partners. Implementing these unprecedented measures was a last resort, and only came after many hours of analysis and consideration of the factors mentioned earlier. These steps are necessary in order to ensure a level of continuity of supply. 

MiTek’s commitment to our CM partners remains unwavering and we will continue to provide the highest level of transparency around the deepening supply chain disruptions. Through clear, frequent, and timely communication we will navigate the challenge together. 

Should you have any further questions please feel free to reach out to your MiTek sales representative. 

Thank you as always for your business. 

Best regards, 

Thomas J. Valvo President, Homebuilding Solutions

Hansen Pole Buildings regards our commitment to our clients and to providing “The Ultimate Post-Frame Building Experience” seriously. In my next article, I will address steps we are taking to ensure our clients receive their buildings and truss systems as expediently as possible and without sacrifice of structural integrity.

A Case for Minimum Post Frame Truss Loads

A Case for Minimum Post Frame Truss Loads

Portions of this article were written specifically for Component Advertiser, a monthly truss industry publication. However I feel strongly enough about this subject to use my column to pitch it to both my employers and other post frame building kit suppliers and contractors.

In my career I have done about everything imaginable when it comes to post frame (pole) building trusses. I have been blessed to have been able to spend a better portion of over two decades working within or owning prefabricated MPCWT (metal plate connected wood trusses) manufacturing facilities. I have designed, engineered, fabricated and delivered trusses. As a builder, I raised my first set of post frame trusses nearly 40 years ago and many more have followed.

I have also been a provider of post frame building kit packages across most of my adult life. Our industry (post frame buildings) is one where low price, rather than service and quality, drives most sellers and buyers. Sellers, more often than not, have not learned well how to convey value of benefits they offer – instead they live in fear of being a five-spot more than their competitors when it comes to price.

For nearly seven years I have been writing a weekly advice column, “Ask the Pole Barn Guru™”, where I answer post frame building oriented questions from anyone. One repeatedly asked question is in regards to adding ceilings to existing post frame buildings. Most roof trusses for these buildings were not designed to support ceiling loads, generally due to a fear of increasing building price.

Many post frame buildings are constructed in areas where pole buildings are exempt from building permits, or there are little or no structural plans reviews done. This contributes to an attitude of “make it cheap” by encouraging use of minimal loads for trusses.

A great majority of post frame buildings are used as residential accessory buildings – garages, shops, RV parking, man caves, she sheds, etc. Nearly all of these buildings have truss spans of 40 feet or less, so my proposal for voluntary minimum loading requirements for post frame buildings will be directed towards these structures.

Why not apply these minimums to larger span structures? Many wider span buildings are going to be used as horse riding arenas or equipment storage for farming and are never going to have ceilings in them. Costs to design for greater loads, for spans of 50 feet and greater could result in some significant costs. Wide span buildings being used for more humanly occupied (and therefore more critical in protection of human life) purposes are likely to have a Registered Design Professional (architect or engineer) involved, who will specify roof loads based upon building use and function.

In areas of minimal or no snow, with Pg (ground snow load) values of under 20 psf (pounds per square foot) Top Chord Live Load (TCLL) should be fixed using a minimum of 20. For areas where white stuff has a greater possibility of occurrence 25 psf appears to be a reasonable minimum.

Most post frame buildings have light gauge steel roofing over purlins. Hopefully they also have some sort of minimal weight material between these to minimize or prevent condensation issues. In most instances, total dead loads required in order to support truss weight, condensation control, purlins and roofing will be less than 2.5 psf. There are folks who have ideas not always shared with truss designers – like using OSB or plywood sheathing between purlins and roofing. Also, rooftop solar panels are becoming more and more popular and find their way onto more than a few roofs not designed to support their weight.

My proposal (again for buildings of 40 foot spans and less) would be for a minimum TCDL (Top Chord Dead Load) of five psf. While this does not solve every possible case, it does allow for greater end user flexibility.

Traditionally, most post frame buildings did not have ceilings installed, so a very minimal BCDL (Bottom Chord Dead Load) has been used. Most typically a one psf loading will be selected, more than covering bottom chord lateral bracing and limited lighting. However, as post frame have moved from farms to suburbia, more buildings are getting interior finishes – meaning ceilings. I like to use 10 psf, in cases where I am designing for a drywall covered ceiling with insulation above, however even five psf would handle most ceiling loads.

Load duration – no snow, I am good with 1.25, snow areas 1.15. However, in my humble opinion, if TCLL exceeds 50 psf, chances are snow will be piled on top of these trusses for more than two months across structure’s lifetime and a DOL (Duration of Load) of 1.0 will be most appropriate.

A hidden side benefit to establishing these voluntary minimums will be stronger trusses able to withstand more abuse in handling. Some lumber members will be larger dimension or higher grade material and steel connector plates will increase in size. All of these factors increase probabilities of reduced truss damage.

Hansen VisionNow, I believe, time has come to stop selling price to post frame building clients and sell benefits. Safety becomes easiest to sell – no one wants to live with a fear of their building collapsing and injuring them, their loved ones, or destroying their valued possessions. Flexibility in future use – also an easy sell, if a future building owner decides they want to add a ceiling they can safely do so.

Minimum post frame truss loading benefits all, by raising the overall quality of finished buildings  with a negligible investment.

An Advance Article Preview for The Advertiser

Besides being a semi-regular contributor to Rural Builder magazine, I have also had articles published in several other lumber and wood truss periodicals. I’ve been asked to write an article for The Advertiser (https://www.componentadvertiser.com/), which I share with you below:

Increase Your Post Frame Sales

Nearly every U.S. and Canadian metal plate connected wood truss manufacturer has one or more clients who either construct pole barns or sell kit packages. Not much excitement though in dealing with typical orders of usually anywhere from four to 10 trusses per building.

Money can certainly be made in post frame industry sales. My 1990’s truss plant, based in Spokane, Washington, almost exclusively built pole barn trusses. It was not unusual for us to have backlogs of weeks and when it came to post frame trusses. We dominated Northwest U.S.

How we did it.

We tailored our inventory to best build to our client’s needs. By having 2×6 2850msr and 2400msr in wider widths, we could provide smaller dimension chords than our competitors, with lighter trusses. Considering jobsite manhandling involved, lighter weight trusses are an advantage! And let’s face it – those high grades have very few visual defects, resulting in some very pretty trusses!

Also in our inventory, for web stock, was msr 2×3. Many truss webs can be higher grade 2×3, rather than 2×4. Again, much 2×3 msr was much prettier wood than 2×4 visually graded material others were using, not to mention saving truss weight.



Webs requiring lateral bracing were checked to see if a larger dimension or higher grade would eliminate bracing. Installing job site bracing take both material and labor, reducing braces for a minimal investment makes for happy clients.

Be a Consultant.

Being able to be different in the post frame industry gives one a leg up, where virtually everyone does things alike. When a truss client can say, “I do things just like everyone else and also provide….” to their potential customer, it gives them an advantage.

Most post frame roof trusses will be 40 foot spans or less. Point out very small price differences to add five or 10 pounds per square foot (psf) of load to top chords. Many post frame trusses are designed with a bottom chord dead load of one or two psf. One of my most asked questions of my Ask The Pole Barn Guru™ advice column – is how to add a ceiling to post frame buildings. A five psf bottom chord dead load would solve this dilemma. Both of these are points your client can use to sell why he has a better building than Brand X.

Offer More Stuff.

Your delivery truck starts spinning dollar signs an instant a key gets close to an ignition switch. Since you are going to make a jobsite trip, why not add more product?

True glu-laminated post frame building columns are a wonderful thing – strong, light weight and straight. In most instances a product of 1650f three ply 2×6 glulam will replace 6×6, 6×8 and in some cases 6×10. Downside of glu-lams – current lack of distribution, as manufacturers are primarily in South Dakota, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Work with a manufacturer to bring in ¼ or ½ of a truckload of 14 to 24 foot lengths, they might even help to floor some inventory. Once builders start using them, they will never go back to solid sawn columns. This provides another differentiation for your client and it helps to tie them to you as their supplier.

Sell them msr lumber.

With 2×6 1650 msr being over 40% stronger than best commonly used visually graded #2, you can do your client some favors in helping to point out strength and quality benefits. Side benefit for you – quicker inventory turns. Buy more lumber get better negotiating power with wholesalers and mills.

Glu-lam column and selling lumber margins are not going to be as high as your truss margins, expect maybe 20%, however consider this a bonus profit you would never have otherwise had. I always felt 20% of something beat 100% of nothing every day.

Expand your post frame building industry view and increase your bottom line!

Impact of Weather on Metal Plate Connected Wood Trusses

Impact of Weather on Metal Plate Connected Wood Trusses

Proper jobsite storage of trusses has always been near top of my personal list. If in doubt, I recommend erring towards caution’s side. Hansen Pole Buildings’ Construction Manual addresses proper truss handling and storage:

“Trusses store best when standing upright.  

Shore and brace standing trusses well to keep from toppling. Trusses not stored in a vertical position can and will warp, and become difficult to use.  

Store trusses with “tails” (overhangs) so truss weight does not rest on tails.

Unload trusses in bundles and store on level ground, but never in direct contact with ground (to avoid collecting moisture from ground). Allow for good drainage at truss storage location in event rain occurs before installation. Protect trusses from damage resulting from on-site activities, environmental conditions or elements. Exercise care at all times to avoid damage to trusses due to careless handling during delivery, unloading, storage, and installation.

In warm, rainy weather, moisture regain in unprotected trusses can result in fungal staining. Wetting lumber also results in swelling. Subsequent shrinkage of framing may contribute to structural distortions.

To store trusses not being used immediately, cover with a water repellant opaque tarp for protection. Plastic may be an acceptable alternative, provided there are side openings to allow air flow. Handle trusses in such a way as to prevent toppling when removing banding from bundles. Trusses stored on black top or other impervious surfaces and continuously moved around construction site are subject to damage when they are slid along surface with equipment. As a result, galvanized coating on connector plates may be removed, allowing plates to rust and possibly reduce plate thickness.”

(Portions of this article, below, are from an August 7, 2018 article by Sean Shields and Kirk Grundahl, P.E. published in SBC Magazine)

In 2000 and 2004 Alpine (Alpine manufactures steel connector plates for trusses https://alpineitw.com/ ) undertook a weathering study entitled Durability of Plates, R&D #90-07 dated January 3, 2000 and January 22, 2004. Mr. Stu Lewis provided this report to SBCA (Structural Building Components Association) to aid SBCA with background information regarding a common notion truss plates back away from lumber under short term (i.e. less than nine months of outside storage) weather exposure. Key concepts from this report, given an Orlando exposure condition from July 1998 to December 1998 follows:


  1. No particular plate type in this study showed markedly different back-out performance or retained tooth holding capacity than other plates tested.  
    1. For all plates, storage under cover, even if it was just another joint, was better than direct exposure. 
  2. No excessive corrosion was noted of any type of truss plates, nor were tooth holding reductions considered significant with respect to their magnitude..
    1. …it appears some exposures, specifically top plate on horizontally oriented truss joint fully exposed to weather, experiences an average loss in tooth holding strength of about 14 percent in a 5-6 month exposure in severe central Florida climate of this study
      1. this is likely due to occurrence of plate back-out due to repeated wood shrinkage and swelling. 
  3. Typical practice of permitting trusses to be exposed to environment for a short period of weeks or even months after truss fabrication and before closing in structure is confirmed as not resulting in an excessive loss in strength and is therefore acceptable with respect to joint strength…….. 

Alpine results point us in a right direction, even though this is a limited study of truss plate performance due to weathering. However, all truss weathering studies to date have been performed on truss plates and truss plate joints, but never on finished trusses as stored at truss plant or on job site

Typical practice of permitting trusses to be exposed to environment for a short period of weeks or even months after truss fabrication and before closing in structure is confirmed as not resulting in an excessive loss in strength and therefore acceptable with respect to joint strength… 

Our (SBCA) goal is to take all background information we can find, along with our SBCA weathering testing program findings, and create a set of best practices to help maintain good truss performance during their entire service life (ideally if we can, it would be nice to see consistent trends, predictable and can be modeled)

From this work we believe SBCA will be able to provide best practice counsel with respect to storage, truss plate performance and, most importantly, define any effect on overall truss performance post-installation.