Among the hundreds of code provisions that dictate construction, wall bracing remains one of the most confusing and time-consuming. In fact, wall-bracing provisions take up about 30 pages of the 2009 and 2012 International Residential Code (IRC).
It’s an important topic, however, and understanding and following wall-bracing requirements is critical to a home’s structural integrity. A house must be built to resist the lateral loads that result from high-wind events and earthquakes. The amount, composition, correct placement, and proper attachment of the braced wall contribute to the structure’s ability to resist racking forces.
“Wall bracing codes are one of the biggest challenges we’ve run into,” says Chad Swetnam, CAD manager at Virginia Homes in Powell, Ohio. A semicustom builder, Virginia Homes has in-house base plans that are modified to the customer’s wishes. New updates on wall bracing that limit the number and position of windows are forcing the builder to potentially sacrifice signature design elements.
“We’re losing some of the aesthetics we are known for based on this code, which is written and meant for a perfectly square house with no windows,” Swetnam notes.
To solve the challenge, Swetnam has enlisted an engineer to provide verification of the homes’ bracing and performance with code officials, a move that costs money and time.
For dealers whose customers are facing similar challenges, there are several tools they can offer to help the builder navigate the wall bracing provisions, satisfy code provisions, and maintain the desired aesthetic while ensuring longterm performance.
Wall line bracing Calculator
Dealers can steer customers toward APA- The Engineered Wood Association’s Wall Line Bracing Calculator, which provides a real-time, automated approach to determining the amount and placement of wall bracing for an individual house plan. The online tool uses a straightforward, four-step process relying on basic user inputs and internal calculations. Builders enter project parameters, including house size, number of stories, wind speed, and seismic category; add wall line details from existing plans; and then follow system prompts to identify appropriate segments of each braced wall line.
Once all wall line information and wall line segment details have been entered, the user can review and verify all information and then generate a PDF and printed report that can be provided to the local code jurisdiction’s plan check department. The report also provides a checklist showing the type of bracing at each location, nail patterns, and any required metal straps and hold-downs.
The Wall Bracing Calculator can be accessed at http://www.apawood.org/wall-bracing-calculator-1 .