The 2015 IRC is Complete, Glenn Mathewson

NADRA attended the Public Comment Hearings on October 4th, 2013 to serve and protect the decking industry in the development of the 2015 IRC.  I’m happy to say that we did that job well, and have little to fear in the new provisions now decided.  Here’s a review of the topics we spoke on.

RB6: Approved at first hearing and turned to disapproved at final hearing. 

Approved in the first hearing, this proposal would have removed the maximum 200 square foot area for low-­‐level decks to not require a permit, as well as allow them to be attached to houses. With deck codes so rapidly changing, this is not the time to reduce verification and put an economic gap between decks built correctly by professionals and those built by others. More importantly, the larger the deck, the more probable hazards there can be and the more our industry will be tarnished with “horror story” projects. We spoke against this deregulation that was approved in the first hearings and a 2/3 majority overturned it. We started the hearings out showing that we aren’t just in it for ourselves, but for our industry.

Read full recap HERE.

By: Glenn Mathewson, MCP

NADRA Technical Advisor

Your Future; This Week

October 1st, 2013

Your Future; This Week

As this hits your inbox, I’m likely in route to Atlantic City, New Jersey to represent, support and defend the decking industry.  This week, your future will be decided in the 2015 International Residential Code.  On my last day to prepare before leaving Colorado, I’m nervous, but excited.  Most of all, I’m proud.  I’m proud because we’ve achieved one of the most important aspects of code development…recognition.  The code development process is complicated, cumbersome, and difficult just at published face value, but there is also a professional, dare I say social, aspect to it.  Recognition, respect and trust are vital to this work.  Here is where I feel NADRA has succeeded, and this will be the foundation for all code development work now and into the future.  Every year this process occurs for different codes, and every three years for the IRC.

There’s a lot at stake this year in code development.  Will you be installing hold-downs on every guard post, or will you be free from installing them on every ledger?  Will all decks be outright prohibited from within 5 feet of property lines?  Will there finally be joist, beam and post sizing provisions available to ease design validation?

What won’t be at stake this year is NADRA.  We have demonstrated our commitment to our vision and mission statement for code development, and we have been appreciated for it.

Vision: Safe decks with well-thought-out engineering and a common sense practical approach to code requirements.

Code Mission Statement: To advance and protect industry interests in the code development arena and to promote member involvement; to promote governmental and agency reliance on NADRA as a voice for the industry; to create and maintain relationships with key government agencies and code officials; to be a forum for the discussion, study, and investigation of proposed and existing model code development, federal and state legislation and programs, and to report such findings to the Board of Directors and the Membership.

We have contributed heavily to an informal discussion group regarding deck codes and during the committee hearings in May.  We have worked with other professionals and organizations on shared proposals, and we have provided assistance to proposals of others.  We have made it clear that we are here, ready and willing to be a part of any discussion, work, or progress regarding the standards of the decking and railing industry.  We expect to be a part of it.

While we may not exactly know the course the decking industry is sailing, we are in the pilot’s cabin.  However the votes go on Thursday and Friday of this week, we know that we we’re heard and respected.  We ARE the voice of the decking industry, and we have been and will continue to speak.  However, we are also the ears of the industry, as we cannot speak for it without first listening the to all segments.  With no cards up our sleeves and no hidden agendas, we have opened ourselves up to listen and respond honestly to all that are willing to share their opinions, ideas, concerns and experiences.  We have asked for compromise and mutual understanding.  We have encouraged learning from each other and finding common ground.  We have respected the segments of the industry, all of which deserve such, and regardless of our agreement or not.

This has been a good year for NADRA in code development, and I am proud to have been at the heart of it.  Thank you, NADRA members and the industry at large, for your support of my work, our work.  Thank you for trusting me with this job.

I’ll do my best to keep you informed on hearings live through my Facebook and Twitter accounts, but you can certainly expect a full recap after the hearings…after a long nap.

Glenn Mathewson, MCP

NADRA Technical Advisor

When There’s No Public Comment

September 18th, 2013

When There’s No Public Comment

NADRA Technical Advisor – Glenn Mathewson

 

If a proposal in the IRC code development process doesn’t receive a public comment, the vote from the first hearing is generally the final result.  With the recent publishing of the public comments, we can now see what the 2015 IRC is starting to look like.  It’s been a lot of work keeping up with the high-profile deck code proposals on the table this summer, like the monstrous 268 with a depth of un-agreed-upon prescriptive code provisions that would rock the industry or the one that already has…the lateral load anchor.  Those most certainly received public comment, but there were other less glamorous proposals regarding our industry that did not.

NADRA had a simple proposal, RB 58, suggesting to change all wording of “guardrail” to “guard”, to seek consistency with the IRC defined term “guard”.  The definition for guard allows any assembly that meets the performance and geometric requirements.  This proposal was approved by the committee and received no public comment to challenge it.  With this code modification, no safety to deck guards was compromised and the cost to construction did not increase.  However, a more clear description of the architectural playing field was provided.  A win for all, and “rails” for those that want them.

NADRA was asked to support proposal RB 145 from the Colorado Chapter of the International Code Council, seeking to remove the requirement for measuring guard height from fixed seating.  We gave great testimony in support during the hearings, as did the Minnesota Building Officials Chapter.  All proponents agreed that deck safety and backyard freedom must be balanced on the scale, and this regulation was too far a reach for a building code.  The committee agreed, and no one challenged it.  Should the bulk vote go as it always does at the final hearing, built-in bench seats will no longer affect guard height.  Developing IRC provisions (minimum standards of construction) is different than developing best practices or appropriately accommodating your clients.  Take care to evaluate the needs of your client and help them find the level of safety that’s right for them.  If their kids are jumping on the couch while your designing their deck…maybe don’t suggest those benches.

Even if NADRA’s proposal for deck and joist span tables, RB 264, is not approved at the final hearing, the flexibility it provided for blocking at dropped beams will still be accommodated by the NAHB’s proposal RB 247.  With no public comment, the first approval will likely stand, and blocks between joists cantilevered no more than two feet will no longer be required.  This may be very helpful for deck drainage systems and for minimizing locations for trapped water and decay.  Keep in mind that without blocking, the material connected to the top and bottom of the joist is what resists the rotational force the joist is subjected to.  Be sure you’ve got good connections to the beam below, and be careful about using a concealed fastening system for the decking that only relies on friction.  The blocking served a purpose; the argument for the code modification is that in short cantilevers these connections can do the job.

The proposal RB 253, which would have prohibited supporting joists from the bottom half of another member, was turned down, and did not receive comment.  While perhaps a rare design necessity, this proposal would have restricted opportunity for some deck design, but without clear evidence of the benefit.  However, coming from the American Wood Council, there’s certainly an engineering basis for their proposal.  Though a short-spanning 2×6 likely won’t rip the bottom half of a 2×12 beam apart, I’m sure a creative designer could come up with a loading condition that could be questionable.

RB 260 proposed that the “permitted” hold down anchors for lateral loads must be installed at the outer 24 inches of the ledger.  This proposal was approved and received no direct public comment.  However, in light of the recent research from Washington State University, NADRA submitted a public comment modification to remove this anchor detail altogether.  If you haven’t seen the video, take a look.  It will be worth your 13.5 minutes.  Click HERE to view.  If not successful, at least the new location for the permitted anchors, at the ends of the ledger, would be at the highest point of load concentration per the WSU testing.  One small bit of real science to a detail not otherwise scientifically justified.

There is a lot to be learned in the code modification process.  While we may not all agree on every proposal, they usually all have a justification reasonable to someone or some group.  Don’t take that lightly.  Take what can be learned from ideas and experiences of professionals looking to increase the minimum standard…and use it to increase the knowledge behind your best standard.

Never forget the difference between minimum standard and best standard, and the freedom and the market that thrive on the distinction.

BUILDING CODE OR PRODUCT CATALOG?

August 21, 2013 – Glenn Mathewson, NADRA Technical Advisor

How many hold-down anchors does it take to build a deck?

The development of the 2015 IRC is halfway through, and there’s likely going to be some new regulations for the construction industry to adjust to.  For the decking industry, there’s lobbying working to create new building codes around specific product lines.  We’ve already seen the costly results of including “permitted” details in the code depicting specific products.  The lateral load anchor detail, that was published this way in the 2009 IRC, is quickly read as “required” by many building departments.  Now, as new research is revealing that ledgers fair quite well without lateral anchors, there is a proposal seeking to “permit” the use of anchors on every guard post in the 2015 IRC.  Will history be repeated and this also be read as “required”?

Proposals like this risk turning a standards document into something that looks more like a product catalog.  More importantly, this lobbying, if successful, adds significant time and cost to deck installations in an increasingly competitive industry, while at the same time limiting design options and architectural freedom.

There’s a lot on the table this year in the development of the 2015 IRC.  NADRA has submitted a public comment modification that reveals new information about ledger connection performance and seeks to remove the 1500 lb. lateral-load anchor detail from the IRC.  At the same time, NADRA is fighting against proposal 268 that seeks to include new requirements for guard construction, complete with pictures of specific hardware.

LATERAL LOAD REQUIREMENTS-RB263

Proposal 263 seeks to include an exception to the lateral-load anchor for decks that are less than 30” above grade.  While sensible, an exception to something merely “permitted” does not make much sense, and implies that what is permitted is actually required.

 With new and exciting test results from Washington State University, NADRA’s public comment to RB263 attempts to remove the lateral-load anchor not only for low-level decks, but completely from the IRC.  It turns out…people can only generate so much lateral load, and lag screwed ledgers can resist a whole lot more…four times more, and the test was stopped before the ledger ever failed.  With a force four times greater than humans could generate, deflecting the deck 17 inches to the side, ripping the joists down the center…the ledger with nothing but lag screws held.  The rim joist in the house held.  The necessity of a 1500 lb. anchor clearly serves questionable value.

Does this detail belong as a minimum standard of deck construction now that the performance of a lag-screwed deck ledger is known to be quite sufficient?

Read Full Article HERE

See  RB 268 details HERE

GIVING VOICE TO NADRA MEMBERS

 If the issues of increased costs, inflexible design, and heavy-handed industry regulation with no material benefit matters to you, consider joining me at the code hearing in Atlantic City NJ on October 3 and 4th.  Your presence, your voice, your attention and your passion will make a difference…after all…it is YOUR industry.  Stand up and fight for it, but don’t do it alone.  If you want to know more or get more involved, please contact me at glennmathewson@nadra.org.  Together we can bring truth and insight to the development of the building codes.

Code Question from a NADRA Builder

The below inquiry came in from a NADRA Maryland Deck Builder. With permission from Dave, we opted to post this publicly so we could accept replies from fellow members and industry leaders. Please reply in the comments section. There will be an approval process, so give us a day or two to post your comments. Thank you!
  1. What does code require in regards to wood rail post attachment……outside of RB61-13
  2. Why are some jurisdictions mandating the Simpson or USP bracket…..???
  3. What is testing results of 2 thru bolts and blocking??
  4. Can the  “FRANK”  VT  testing be published or accessible for use by all jurisdictions or is it only for sale to those who benefit????  Seems to be yet another PRIME example of how code is more a for profit industry and not for the public good
  5. Why are we being forced to spend on average $200.+ on hardware and 3 hours of time + to install this crap when EVERYONE BUT code officials and testers know that 2 bolts and proper blocking would meet the  code requirements of RB61-13  ????
Thanks,
David Lombardo

Recap of 2013 Group B Committee Action Hearing

Recap of 2013 Group B Committee Action Hearing (Dallas, TX) 

Last week the IRC code hearings were held in Dallas, TX. NADRA’s Technical Advisor, Glenn Mathewson represented the association on numerous proposals. This work is just beginning & your support is NEEDED on key issues that WILL effect your businesses and will effect this industry.  Your support is encouraged so these efforts can continue on behalf of the membership and industry the association serves. NADRA Headquarters and the entire board would like to personally thank Glenn Mathewson for his time and efforts at these hearings.

Recap of 2013 Group B Committee Action Hearing (Dallas) – By NADRA Technical Advisor, Glenn Mathewson:

Take Action: Now that the ICC Committee Action Hearings are over, be sure to follow the link about the public comment hearings. The first recap of an approved proposal is a good example of WHY we need your support so we can continue to be heard at these hearings! 

Here is a recap of proposed changes due to NADRA’s efforts at the hearings: 

On Monday,  April 22nd, the proposals to the pool and spa code were heard.  SP47-13 was disapproved.  Here was the proposal: “Walking surfaces of decks within 4 feet of a pool or spa that are not equivalent in the strength, durability and slip resistance of the surface of a concrete deck shall be prohibited.  Wooden walking surfaces and carpeted walking surfaces shall not be placed within 4 feet of a pool.”
RB143-13, proposing to return to measuring the height of a deck at the very edge of the deck (for determining if guards are required) was defeated with the help of NADRA.  Our professionals stood by the actual hazard and the current code that requires that height to be measured at a point three feet horizontally from the deck edge.  We know where our customers will hit the ground if they fall, and it is not directly at the edge of the deck.  With integrity for our industry and an understanding of the actual determination of hazard, we stood, we spoke and we were heard.”

RB145-13 proposing to eliminate the requirement to measure guard height from a fixed bench seat was approved.  This requirement in the 2009 and 2012 IRC effectively put an end to bench seating.  While some with small children may prefer not to have a bench against guards, the majority of our membership believe that is an individual choice, not a minimum standard.  The architectural liberties of our customers are one step closer to returning to them.  Other professional associations had helpful testimony to this goal, but our intimate perspective of how this affected our industry came only from us.  This approval supports a balance between minimum design and safety, the latter of which can always be improved by the personal choice of the homeowner or builder.”


RB75-13 proposed that all decks, detached or attached, ground level or upper level, regardless of materials, would be prohibited from being less than five feet from property lines to prohibit fire spread.  NADRA stood and shared the reality that many noncombustible decking and framing materials are available.  We explained that low level decks have different dynamics of fire spread than upper level decks.  We described how this proposal would unnecessarily put the decking market at an unfair disadvantage to patio pavers and flagstone for ground level decks.  The committee heard our sole voice on these concerns and unanimously disapproved the proposal.  NADRA made it clear that work is needed to figure out how decks contribute to fire spread and how to regulate it in the code, but not to do it without us in the conversation.  We plan to work with these proponents during the public comment period so we can get this issue figured out the right way.”


RB74-13 proposed some serious consequences to the decking industry regarding placement of stairs.  While well intentioned for other purposes, it was dangerously flawed.  Imagine a deck connecting between a house and a detached garage.  This proposal would have prohibited any stairs within five feet of the garage.  Huh?  No wide steps from house to garage on one side of the deck, even for a few steps to the backyard.  NADRA stood against this proposal and the committee unanimously agreed and disapproved the proposal.”


“NADRA’S proposal, RB58-13, for replacing all use of the term “guardrails” for the IRC defined term “guard” has been approved as submitted unanimously by the committee.  This simple change secures architectural freedom for guards, and that they don’t have to have a “rail”.  On with the custom work of kitchens counters, planters, benches or whatever other feature that can be built to the requirements of a guard.”


 “RB6-13 was approved.  The size limit of 200sf for requiring a permit on low level decks was approved.  This will allow more under bid decks to be built poorly, putting our professionals (who build right regardless of permits) at an unfair disadvantage.  I encourage our members to support a public comment to disapprove this at final action.”

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