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Thread: How were decks built before joist hangers were invented?

  1. #1

    How were decks built before joist hangers were invented?

    I've been researching building a deck (there's a post just down from this one), and the more I look into the effects of the new kind of PT lumber, the less I like the idea of using Hot-Dipped galvanized fasteners, hangers, etc., in the structure, no matter what the recommendations are. This means using stainless steel, which is much more expensive.

    So, I started thinking about maybe just buying stainless steel nails, then using more old-fashioned construction methods instead of using stainless steel fittings. It's probably more work, but time isn't money when you do it yourself.

    Any thoughts on this?

  2. #2
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    I'm assuming that they were built the way that I learned to frame houses, before joist hangers. Sill plate bolted to the foundation with rim joist nailed to the outer rim of the sill plate. Then the floor joist were set on the plate and nailed thru the rim joist to the floor joist. Floor joist were not as thick as the rim joist, so they had to be either notched to fit around the sill plate or were shimmed to be flush with the top of the rim joist (usually the case).

  3. #3
    Guy - The reason we have mechanical fasteners today is because the decks of old would litterally fall down. Mechanical fasteners can be an eye sore, and a deck can be built without them, but you would probably need to add more footings, posts, and "dropped headers". Plus you may need to provide additional engineering to your local building official. I know that in my area, the inspectors are going overboard with requests (demands) for mecanical fasteners. I believe it is the manufactures (ie. simpson, cant sag) putting a bug in there ears.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Ocel View Post
    Guy - The reason we have mechanical fasteners today is because the decks of old would litterally fall down. Mechanical fasteners can be an eye sore, and a deck can be built without them, but you would probably need to add more footings, posts, and "dropped headers". Plus you may need to provide additional engineering to your local building official. I know that in my area, the inspectors are going overboard with requests (demands) for mecanical fasteners. I believe it is the manufactures (ie. simpson, cant sag) putting a bug in there ears.
    Within the last few years, they are requiring some overbuilding due to some of the newsworthy collapses of decks, due in part to people overloading them (parties and such). It isn't like a deck has a sign that says (this deck is rated for), and cities have to worry themselves about liabillity.

  5. #5
    Randal - I understand and don't want to minimize the need to follow local building codes, But, For example, The overboard I'm talking about is a perticular inspector in my area that is now requesting a certian Simpson newel post mechanical fastener that can withstand 250 pounds of horizontal pressure. I have been building decks for over 20 years and have lag bolted my newel post to the deck rims and never have had a failure. Now some young hot shot inspector doesn't think that is good enough. This is one municipality in an area of approx. 50 that are the only ones asking for this. Believe me, I understand the importance of mechanical fasteners, and I use them religiosly and follow the manufactures nailing schedule to the tee. I would not think of building a deck with out them, and when I do build a deck it doesn't meet minnimum requirements it exceeds them.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Ocel View Post
    Randal - I understand and don't want to minimize the need to follow local building codes, But, For example, The overboard I'm talking about is a perticular inspector in my area that is now requesting a certian Simpson newel post mechanical fastener that can withstand 250 pounds of horizontal pressure.
    Sorry, wasn't directed at you, just to show that both inexperience (aka book smart, no field experience), payoffs (unfortunately does happen in the real world), and news events, ALL play a part.

  7. #7
    Roger that. No offense taken.

  8. #8
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    Aside from what has already been said on this subject...widespread building of "decks" as we know them is a more recent cultural phenomenon, but porches, etc., would have been attached using the same framing techniques that one would have used pre-steel hangers, including pre-assembly with fasteners in from the end as well as toe-nailing, etc. The hangers certainly add a bit of strength and a lot of convenience, however...
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  9. #9
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    Newsmaker.....

    Food for thought..... Pay me now (Stainless) or pay me later.....(Lawyer)

    http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/Midwest/0...pse/index.html

    Please don't take this wrong. Just something to think about. Your kids 5 years from now.

    AL

  10. #10

    Just follow applicable codes.

    Stainless? Just build it right in the first place and these things can be avoided.
    Please Read
    48 Hours also learned that all the porch’s floor beams were made with undersized lengths of wood, and the screws that ripped out of the wall during the collapse were shorter than they should have been.

    “This occurrence was 100 percent preventable,” says Ken Koranda, John and Rob’s father. He adds that the size of the party wasn’t the problem. “If the porch was properly constructed, these porches would have held double the amount of people that were there.”

    “It was built in a reckless fashion, that showed the lack of caring for the safety of the people that would be on this porch,” says lawyer David Kupets, who represents one of the accident victims.

    How much weight should each deck have been able to hold?

    “If you take, for example, the entire Chicago Bears team and you put them on that top deck, and then you take the entire Green Bay Packers, and you put them on that top deck,” says Kupets. “That porch system should have been able to hold both teams on each level.”

    Plus, the porch was built illegally without a building permit. As a result, it was 50 percent bigger than allowed.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Ocel View Post
    Stainless? Just build it right in the first place and these things can be avoided.
    Please Read
    48 Hours also learned that all the porch’s floor beams were made with undersized lengths of wood, and the screws that ripped out of the wall during the collapse were shorter than they should have been.

    “This occurrence was 100 percent preventable,” says Ken Koranda, John and Rob’s father. He adds that the size of the party wasn’t the problem. “If the porch was properly constructed, these porches would have held double the amount of people that were there.”

    “It was built in a reckless fashion, that showed the lack of caring for the safety of the people that would be on this porch,” says lawyer David Kupets, who represents one of the accident victims.

    How much weight should each deck have been able to hold?

    “If you take, for example, the entire Chicago Bears team and you put them on that top deck, and then you take the entire Green Bay Packers, and you put them on that top deck,” says Kupets. “That porch system should have been able to hold both teams on each level.”

    Plus, the porch was built illegally without a building permit. As a result, it was 50 percent bigger than allowed.
    A big reason why inspectors seem to be requiring too much is that many hack builders and homeowners take on the "it's just a deck... how hard can it be to build?" attitude. I used to build decks myself a while ago. I've helped a couple of neighbors their decks and I've gotten the same response from both; "Man, there's a lot more to it than I thought!"

    I believe in the deck collapse you're referring to, Matt, the builders used wedge anchors to fasten the deck plate to the brick wall, which, as you know is not safe at all. When I built decks, this practice was allowed if the deck was less than 24" off the ground. I don't think it's even allowed today. The plate needs to be bolted to the rim joist.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Lester View Post
    ... So, I started thinking about maybe just buying stainless steel nails, then using more old-fashioned construction methods ...
    My first question for you is what type of wood or decking are you planning on using? Are you going to use a composite or something like ipe or teak? I guess I am trying to ask what you would like the useful life of the deck to be. If you want something to last 100+ years then SS fasteners and hangers would be wise with any type of support lumber and decking. If you want the deck to be useful, safe, and last a decent lifetime you could use the new zmax hangers from simpson. I am sure there are other manufacturers offering the same type of hanger.

    There are many ways to skin a cat and joist hangers are just one way to support joists. Without too many more support posts, foundations etc. you could create a support network below the deck. If you run beams across the foundations and then run another set of beams perp. on top of the first set at your 16" o.c. you will be able to put your deck down. It will create a bit more height and you will still have to utilize some fasteners to tie down to the foundation but it would eliminate a lot of the joist hangers. Of course you would have to get all of the support beams sized up but that should be done anyways. I would also use blocking between the upper set of joists.

    Another option would be to just nail through the ends but I have never liked that as it only counts on the shear of the nails.

    Think outside the box. If you have any engineering questions PM me and I will try to help or try to point you in the right direction.

    Greg

  13. #13
    Thanks to all of you for commenting.

    I decided to go with the "joists-on-top-of-beam" design, which doesn't use connectors at all. Thanks Mr. Cuetara for confirming my choice.

    I have done a lot of research into the ACQ/fastener corrosion issue, and all I've really learned is that it's still up in the air. Lots of test have been performed, and it is agreed that ACQ is more corrosive, but none of the info is translatable into actual field conditions and results. Questions like: "Does a fastener that lasts twice as long in the test last twice as long in the field?", and "How does the corrosion rate in the test translate into translate into corrosion rate int he field?" haven't really been addressed.

    That's why I chose to forego using connectors. Even though some of the tests results showed the heavier HDG coatings doing okay, I don't really want to take the chance, and going the stainless steel route is just too expensive.

    Actually, another big reason is that not using joist hangers saves a helluva lotta work. Just setting a full-length piece of lumber on top of several beams and toe-nailing it in is very attractive compared to having to get the connectors at exactly the right height, getting them nailed in place without shifting, and doing that twice for every joist in between every beam.

    Thanks again to all.

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