NADRA Code Update

Here’s a run down of proposals likely to be submitted Jan. 7th with the combined support of nearly all the contributors of the Deck Code Coalition.  I am proud of NADRA for being a part of this support.

By Glenn Mathewson

At the annual meeting in October, it was announced that I was prepared to work for NADRA and the decking industry to represent them in the development of the 2021 International Residential Code.  I know it’s hard for most to wrap their heads around the idea of changing the 2018 code already, considering it doesn’t even have widespread adoption yet. That’s why you’ve hired me, and I’ve already gotten to work.  The best place to begin that work was to contribute to the Deck Code Coalition, an unofficial coalition of the most powerful interests in deck code. Organizations such as the NAHB, SMA and AWC are involved. Code officials from multiple ICC chapters, product manufacturers, engineering firms, and many other professionals from various backgrounds are also there.  Where is there? It’s an imaginary campfire with all interests sitting around together, sharing, talking, contributing, arguing at times, but yet no one has been thrown in the fire. This is how code should be developed, with the overall interest being the people…the end user. I believe the efforts thus far, thanks to those members that have financially contributed, have been more successful than I expected.  

Here’s a run down of proposals likely to be submitted Jan. 7th with the combined support of nearly all the contributors of the Deck Code Coalition.  I am proud of NADRA for being a part of this support.

Are you shocked by the new minimum14-inch diameter footing/pier required in the 2018 IRC?  If you haven’t heard, even the four footings under that small stair landing must be 14 inch.  We expressed our concerns of this to the DCC and the American Wood Council (AWC) agreed and re-engineered new minimum footing diameters for the table.   How does a minimum 8-inch diameter sound for those little landing? Well, that’s what is being proposed and supported by the DCC. Had NADRA not expressed our concerns, no one was going to address it.  The AWC deserves a big thank you for their engineering work.

The new beam, joist and post sizing tables first included in the 2015 IRC only handled regions with up to a 40 psf snow load.  Through significant effort from the AWC, new larger tables have been engineered to handle snow loads of 50, 60 , and 70 psf. This new code, if included in the IRC, won’t help out for all regions, but for the snowier regions that were left with nothing but job-specific engineering, this provides a much more affordable design option.

Poorly written code is hard to understand, makes the industry it addresses look ignorant, and lends itself to inconsistent interpretation.  Changes to the exceptions for footing sizes and frost protection were left pretty messy in the 2018 IRC. A proposal that reorganizes those provisions will make the code much easier to read and understand.  While this may not seem like a big deal to many, rest assured, it’s worthwhile work.

Guards and handrails are like peanut butter and jelly, they are completely different, but often end up in the same sandwich.  Guards along stairs may include a handrail feature at the top, or they may support a handrail at the side, but serve a different function and must resist different loads and load directions.  The IRC has always lumped these two features together in the load table that specifies the load and load directions they must resist. With recent testing and validation for guard strength, manufacturers and others have published many details for how to build guards.  NADRA has long stood that before work is done to design guards to resist the code-specified minimum loads, those loads should be re-evaluated. In my research of minimum guard loading over the last 5 decades, it’s clear to see that the target loads have been a “best guess”.  After attending a meeting with the American Society of Civil Engineers (the authority on design loads) and supporting efforts by the NAHB, we are proud that a proposal to separate guards and handrails in the load table and address the direction of loading for guards more specifically will be submitted by the DCC in January.

On the same subject of guard loading, we have worked diligently to help other interests in deck code understand what we understand about guard design.  It’s creative and unique and that’s what “the people” want. Reputable professionals have a strong motivation to see a specific guard post connection detail illustration with proprietary hardware devices in the pages of the IRC.  The intent is good natured and understandable. Inspectors have long had nothing but a push on guards as their measure of code compliance (safety), and that can leave anyone with that responsibility a little uneasy. They too see the news of the failing decks across our country.  This is respectable and understandable. However, builders are equally uneasy about another “picture” being put in the code that appears to universally require proprietary hardware and a specific method for post attachment. Remember the lateral load anchor? How can you forget? It’s false flag and illusion of a complete lateral load design have forever changed the industry, and still today, 10 years later, it’s only “permitted” not “required”.  A picture is worth a thousand words, and for many inspectors there’s no need to read the permissive words if the seemingly required picture is there. We can’t see this happen to guards the same way it happened to ledgers.

The will to address poorly built deck guards in the IRC is strong and has made two attempts at guard structural design code in the last two editions.  To do this work respectably, no one should have everything their way. While NADRA has incredible experience with boots on the ground, we don’t know it all.  If we appreciate the experience from other professionals when we agree, then we must also respect their experiences when we disagree. With this humble philosophy comes respectable code.  Code that was carried to the hearings in many loving arms is far greater than code pushed in with singular, selfish power. Compromise has to be made by all, so NADRA took the first step. To respect the concerns of others and hope they return it with respect for ours, we entertained new code language to prohibit some of the notoriously insufficient guard designs.  Minimum 4×4 posts for guards will eliminate some shoddy 2×4 posts that can be found. Notching of 4×4 posts in guard construction has been done for all of time, and though it works in some rare cases, it generally does not. Research has been done on this subject, and the proof is pretty clear. To help show our willingness to address this common mode of guard failure, NADRA has thus far agreed to support a prohibition of notching 4×4 guard posts.  Other proposed code language includes clear instruction that the guard posts must be secured to adjacent joists and transfer the loads into the whole deck, not just the rim joist. We were careful this language didn’t specify “blocking” that could interfere with deck drainage systems. We also made sure to exclude any mention of proprietary hardware.

It was our hope that by taking the first step to compromise and draft code language to address guard safety we would encourage others of the same teamwork and they would withdrawal their proposal for a “picture”.  Unfortunately…we were unsuccessful. Though the DCC was able to agree on 6 proposals, including the one we compromised in, select members have announced they will still propose the “picture” and we must battle it out at the hearings.  To say I’m disappointed is an understatement, and to say I didn’t lose a little respect for those professionals would be a lie. The code must represent all professional experiences and be the best mix of them all. Period. The professionals contributing to the DCC bring enough experience and spent enough time sharing it together, that any proposal that could not be agreed upon by all, is a proposal unfit for the hearing and for the code.  Period. No exceptions. In bringing the voice of the decking industry to the code development process, we must do it with as much respect and understanding as possible, and we can only hope to receive it in return. Alas, NADRA will need to take that message to the hearing and be sure the attendance knows that the guard picture proposed next year is lacking the support of many professionals.

Now for the bad news… Helping with these 6 proposals is only a slice of the work to be done.  They are simply the proposals we could contribute to before the hearings. On January 7th of next year, thousands of pages of proposals will be submitted and they will likely contain many deck-related proposals we have yet to know anything about.  NADRA must be prepared to comb through these proposals when they are published in March. I’ve heard some rumors of two proposals to expect. One to require the same additional load on deck boards that stair treads must resist.  Notice how with most plastic composite lumber you can’t span as far on stair treads as you can for deck boards? A max 16-inch span for decking is often reduced to 12 inches on stairs, but not if that proposal wins. Of course every single max span you have come to know could change with this next one.  A proposal from a powerful proponent is likely to be submitted, one that would raise the minimum design live load of 40 psf to 60 psf, but just for decks. Not the floor inside the house.

Did you hear those last two?  Ready to change all your design norms?  Ready to retest all your manufactured decking?  Are you ready for singular powers that don’t manufacture, sell, or build decks to tell you how to do it? When was the last time you had a deck built to 40 psf collapse under load? Not due to some construction flaw.

These last few months of 2018 have proven the necessity for NADRA to have funding to represent the industry in code, but the work has hardly begun. Much is still needed of the membership if NADRA is to continue contributing to this work. Your help is needed.

To support NADRA’s important Code initiative, please visit and share our code fundraising page and consider contributing today. 

Thank you for your support! 

Choosing the correct wood for your outdoor project

Choosing the correct wood for your outdoor project, by: Lonza Wood Protection

This past year the wood preserving industry took a bold stance on quality when the American Wood Protection Association (AWPA) voted to require higher amounts of preservative for wood used in many applications. The AWPA, an organization comprised of individuals from all facets of the wood protection industry that sets standards for wood preservation and treated wood, updated its standards to require wood treated to Ground Contact retentions be used in many physically above-ground applications, including when:

  • soil or other debris may build up and stay in contact with the wood
  • insufficient ventilation does not allow air circulation around wood
  • material is installed <6 inches above the ground on permeable building materials
  • material is installed in contact with non-durable untreated or older construction with evidence of decay
  • wood is subject to frequent or recurring wetting
  • located in tropical climates
  • the wood is both:

— difficult to maintain, repair or replace and

— critical to the performance and safety of the entire system

Building codes require that preserved wood comply with these standards and the installer must decide if these conditions are present, select, and install the correct material for the project.  The wood preserving industry and many retailers have helped implement these standards by switching inventories of lumber in sizes commonly used for structural parts of decks to Ground Contact retentions. Some retailers have switched all lumber, including decking and railing, to Ground Contact retentions. These changes benefit builders and consumers by removing the guesswork from the decision process. Buyers can focus on their project rather than deciding if they need to purchase Ground Contact wood.

“It is important,” says, Jay Hilsenbeck, chemist and residential product specialist from Lonza Wood Protection, “to educate builders, contractors, and DIYers so they know what wood to choose for their project. During Deck Safety Month® we focus on deck inspections, but we should also focus on quality and proper construction practices before construction begins. The builder should consider the deck surroundings. For a deck built close to the ground, for example, Ground Contact retentions would be required under the new AWPA guidelines.”

The contractor should also consider what parts of the deck (joists, beams, ledger boards, posts) are important to sustain the structure and are more expensive or time-consuming to repair after the project is complete. The contractor and homeowner should work together to discuss the environmental conditions such as if the deck will be subject to constant wetting from a pool or sprinklers or if there will be debris build-up.

With that knowledge, contractors and homeowners can have peace-of-mind that they have chosen the appropriate preserved wood for the project. Contractors can offer their clients the confidence that they are providing a durable outdoor living space for their homeowner clients to enjoy for many years.

Each May, during Deck Safety Month®, homeowners can focus on evaluating the items in the deck safety checklist, knowing their deck was built using the right preserved wood.

Learn more

 

Viance’s, Chris Kollwitz talks about AWPA Modifications

We wanted to thank the entire NADRA organization for the opportunity to meet with some of the leading deck builders in the industry, at NADRA’s regional meeting in Atlanta.

As beautiful custom wood framed decks and outdoor projects are constructed by NADRA members, they should be guided by the latest, most accurate information available.

Recent updates to the 2016 American Wood Protection Association (AWPA) Use Category System for treated wood, which include modifications to the section that outlines proper applications of Above Ground (UC3B) and Ground Contact (UC4A) treated wood, are causing some confusion in the industry.

Unfortunately, some retailers and wood treatment companies have misinterpreted the language to mean that only ground contact lumber meets the updated AWPA Use Category System standard for deck framing applications. That is not the case.

When it comes to residential decks projects, here’s what you need to know.

  • Despite what some in the industry are communicating, the AWPA U1 Use Category System (UCS), and the IRC® and IBC® building codes continue to allow Above Ground (UC3B) treated wood for common deck applications.
  • There is NO requirement to use Ground Contact materials for ALL Above Ground decks.
  • Above Ground (UC3B) wood treated under the AWPA U1 standards remains Code Compliant for deck framing, joists, beams, decking surfaces and railing systems, while using the appropriate amount of preservatives required to protect the wood from decay and termite attack.
  • Look for the CheckMark® on treated wood end tags. Only wood treated to the AWPA standards is third-party inspected and bears the CheckMark® of quality on end tags. Be sure to use products endorsed with the CheckMark logo.
  • Viance has reaffirmed its warranty coverage on treated wood products, and will continue to extend the terms of its Lifetime Limited Warranty for Above Ground (UC3B) treated wood products when used properly.
  • The preservative levels required to meet the AWPA UC4A ground contact standard not only increases the likelihood of higher project expense through more expensive wood, it also increases the chemical needed to complete projects. Above ground treated wood remains code compliant for most common decking applications while using the appropriate amount of preservative to ensure performance. Why use more chemicals than necessary?

To learn more about the revisions to the AWPA-UCS standard and why Above Ground treatments are still the best choice in treated wood, visit www.treatedwood.com/options. Viance is an ICC Preferred Education Provider and offers an accredited Continuing Education Course (CEU) course: Code Compliant Treated Wood for Residential Deck Construction

We are happy to review any questions you may have, email them to codequestions@viance.net.

Thank you

Chris Kollwitz

Christopher Kollwitz

Viance – Treated Wood Solutions

Director of Marketing

NADRA member since 2009

Contact Info:

Email: ckollwitz@viance.net

Office: 800-421-8661

 Over 30 Years Building Products Sales and Marketing with a focus on process improvement, product training, merchandising, events and business development programs.

  • 8 Years with Hechinger Co. in Washington DC
  • 14 years with Georgia-Pacific Building Products
  • 8 years with Viance – Treated Wood Solutions.
  • Currently responsible for the development and management of Viance marketing initiatives and execution.

Send Us Your Local Codes

July 10, 2012 | Quality products take time and effort to produce.  They take research, preparations and planning.  One such quality product on the horizon for NADRA is a “NADRA Deck Construction Standard”, or some sort of similar title.  With so much information available online for deck construction, it’s hard to know what sources are legitimate and reputable.  There’s quite a mix of opinions online and in practice.  As the nation’s only association for professionals in the deck and railing industry, maybe we should work to produce a new standard…a NADRA standard.  Together, our membership spans the entire industry and can provide the best foundation for our country to build the next generation of decks on.  It’s going to take knowledge from all parts of the industry to truly represent the industry.  We have that knowledge.

To develop a NADRA standard we need to compare our practices to the various local deck construction requirements across our nation and be sure we’re ahead.  The International Residential Code is often amended locally before adoption.  Double this with the difficulty of relating many IRC provisions to deck construction, and you’ve got little “standard” to work from.  To soften this issue, many local building departments have developed their own guides for deck construction.  We need to review them.  Being in the “research” stage of this lofty goal, your association needs your help.  Send us a link or pdf to any and all local deck construction guides you can find.  We need to have the opportunity to see what other ideas there are in our nation about deck construction minimum standards long before we create our own.

We need to do our homework.

Members…send us your local standards and guides so we can start to prepare. Email Info@NADRA.org

Glenn Mathewson

Technical Advisor

Contracts and Building Permits

 by: John Paulin of Tailor Decks, Inc.

June 18, 2012 | I have been building decks in Atlanta for more than 20 years and have seen so many changes over the years.  I can’t imagine starting my business today in this industry with all the changes and demands.  It use to be so simple.  No one was getting building permits, or even thought about it. Heck, I even remember selling projects and never having contracts. Could you imagine doing that today?!

Building permits and contracts are the most important part to any successful businesses nowadays. Pulling building permits and working with inspectors can be a pain at first, but once you push through it, it becomes habit and not so bad.  I use to think contracts were insulting, and that two people should be able to work together with a hand shake.  Well, that part may be true, but that is not what a contract is about.

A contract outlines the scope of work to be performed by the contractor and what the contractor expects from the purchaser.  When I meet with the purchaser, there are so many different items discussed and so many different options, who could ever keep up with all of them?  The more descriptive the contract is, the smoother the project runs.  When a disagreement arises between the contractor and purchaser, the contract is there to fall back on.

My contract today is 8 pages long and is very descriptive. It outlines the scope of work, the payment schedule, the warranty, and discusses all unexpected items that may come up and cost involved. I have been working on my companies contract for over two years now and still adding an item here and there when something new comes up.  I don’t know if it will ever be finished.  For the first 17 years of Tailor Decks, my contract was only 1 page with an attachment which briefly described the work to be performed.

I was recently talking with some contractors that have been in the construction industry longer than I have, and they all felt the longer the contract is, the purchaser perceives the builder to be more professional.  I think this has a lot of truth to it and I may be on the right path.

What do you think? Feel free to send comments or start discussions. I would love to hear from some fellow NADRA members.

ICC’s Backyard Safety

May 15, 2012 | There’s a lot of information out there on the web about backyard safety, from those aimed at providing “parenting advice” to medical websites aimed at keeping bandages on the shelf.  Another such source is the International Code Council (ICC), the publisher of our nations leading model construction codes. In the big scheme of things, decks are a small part of our built environment.  With ICC providing codes and standards for large commercial complexes, like hotels and retail centers, it’s nice when our industry of backyard decks gets some attention…and not just in new code provisions.  For Building Safety Month, May of every year, ICC is focusing attention on decks and outdoor living…a good sign that our industry is vibrant, growing and important to our culture.

The article behind this link provides a nice call to owners and property managers that decks don’t last forever, or may have been built substandard to begin with.  Too many of our fellow Americans don’t realize the need to regularly maintain and inspect their decks…and that means more than a swipe of a staining rag.  They often dismiss the very real hazards that backyard decks, grills and pools inadvertently create for us.  Public services messages like this, from non-profit organizations, are there for our benefit and our neighbor’s benefit.  Take a read, get ideas, get inspired and share this message.  Just forward the link.

http://www.iccsafe.org/safety/Pages/Backyard.aspx

 

What’s Your Story?

April 24, 2012 | No happy thoughts for me this week about harmony in the codes for all.  I want the worst of it, your worst story about codes, inspectors, permits and the like.  Come on, take me down; knock me out.  You know I used to be an inspector…now I just review your plans and decide how long it takes you to get a permit, he, he, he.*  Give me your rant!

*[Cynical, diabolical laugh]

All kidding aside, I want to hear about how things are going for you with codes and their enforcement in your area, and not just the bad stuff.  I’d like to hear your good experiences too and if you’re working well with your building department.  Give me your pulse of how the building code industry is affecting your business.  Help me understand where it is I can help NADRA…and help you.

“I had an inspector require me to pull a nail out of a hanger to verify if it was the correct nail.  Nope…it was a short hanger nail used in a double joist hanger.  The manufacturer called for 3-inch nails.  The inspector was correct, but in the big scheme of things, the load limits for the hanger’s correct installation was ten fold what I used it for.  It was a double joist used as a nailer for a change in decking direction.  It wasn’t going anywhere as it stood, but alas, it had the wrong nails, and it cost me the inspection that day.  Always kept the hardware catalog and instructions with me after that.”

-Glenn

What does it mean to me to be an advisor to NADRA?

April 23, 2012 | It means I am here to help.  I am here to share insight into a different industry, the building code industry.  The code industry is going through some growing pains.  The electric code, energy and green codes, and fire sprinkler mandate, for example, have created some worry amongst professionals.  The IRC for residential keeps growing larger, while the IBC for commercial is referring more to other costly standards…

But I’m already boring you…  Decks are your business, not codes.

I would agree it’s not your worry, if we were back in 2006, or if you’re working under the 06 IRC.  That was before decks and codes really collided.  The code industry is way ahead of you though and decks are plenty included.  In nine month…NINE MONTHS…the deadlines for the 2015 IRC are due…alas…here I go again on a code rant…

It means I am here to stay ahead of the codes for you, or at least in front.  It means I can be your representative in the code industry.  I can listen to your current experiences and concerns about the industry.  It also means I can help connect the membership in an informed and sensible compromise of ideals such that the industry can flourish together…ahhh…

To do this we need to connect.  Find me on LinkedIn or Twitter, find my messages in the weekly newsletter, visit the blog page, or send me an email.  Help me work on your behalf and not my guess of it.  I can’t advise or represent the association in the code industry if I’m not connected to the membership.

Hey! I only said “code” eleven times.  Not bad.

-Glenn

 

Lateral Load Language Lesson: 2012 IRC

April 23, 2012 | A subtle change in the 2012 IRC makes the application of the lateral load anchor connection figure more understandable.  Under the 2009 IRC, Section R502.2.2.3 confused some readers by its statement that the lateral load figure, “shall be permitted”, only to later state that “devices shall be installed in not less than two locations”.  The first statement is clear that the connection is merely allowed by code, but not permitted.  However the latter seems to require the use of two or more.

In the 2012 IRC the original intent of the language was clarified, with clear direction. It is only when the connection detail is voluntarily chosen that there must be at least two devices installed.  It is merely a design option.

Overall, this is a good win for the industry.  Success is had when the language of the code can be made clearer.  The more consistently the code is interpreted, the more of a “standard” it can be.

-Glenn

Ask NADRA: Deck Ventilation Requirements

April 30, 2011 | Ken from Orangeburg, SC asks:

“I am wondering is there a minimum height requirement for a
deck to allow for adequate ventilation under the deck. Is this
measured to the top or bottom of the decking timber?”

Glenn Mathewson, NADRA’s Technical Advisor, responds:

Hello Mr. Panitt.

Thank you for turning to NADRA with your questions about the Decking and Railing Industry. We are certainly happy to provide you guidance. The International Residential Code (IRC) and International Building Code (IBC) do not specifically regulate the ventilation of areas underneath exterior decks. IRC Section R408.1 describes the ventilation requirements for under floor spaces, including the minimum net free area, but it is in reference to areas under buildings that are enclosed by foundation walls. While it would certainly be good practice to maintain moisture control under decks that are very low to the ground, its not part of the minimum standard set forth by the IRC. However, in the case of manufactured decking or other products, the installation requirements of the manufacturer are essentially part of the code. This may be from a direct reference to, such as section R317.4.1 in the 09 IRC for wood/plastic composites or through approval as an “alternative”.
I know at least two prominent tongue-and-groove composite decking products that require a minimum height above grade to make up for the lack of air flow between the boards. In both cases the distance was 12 inches of vertical space beneath the bottom of the framing, though the percentage of perimeter where it was required varied. You must always adhere to manufacturer’s installation instructions, not only for good practice, but also for code compliance.
For spaced deck boards, the gaps would likely suffice for ventilation. They may be narrow, but they’re evenly dispersed. One thing to consider, however, is the size of the gaps and the material used. If swelling of wood, expansion of thermoplastics, proximity to heavy autumn leaf fall, long snow coverage or poor maintenance/cleaning is likely, the gaps may close. In that case, additional ventilation openings or greater clearance to grade would be a good plan.

I hope this information is of assistance to you and the visitors of the NADRA blog.

Sincerely,

Glenn Mathewson, MCP