Steel Bars and Connectors:
Metal that adds strength without bulk

Steel might seem unlikely in residential framing, but it's being used more and more to add strength where wood meets wood—especially when the job calls for major support in a tight space.

Steel has tensile strength, which makes it an excellent material for joists or carrying beams when paired with lumber in a "flitch" beam. A mere 1/2-inch-thick plate of steel bolted between two planks of wood can carry much bigger loads than wood alone, and thus the whole beam can be sized smaller. "Sometimes every inch counts," says Tom, who may use a flitch beam to eke out more headroom in a low-ceilinged space. In addition to flitches, steel is also used to make support posts and I-shaped beams (I-beams).

On a smaller scale, steel ties—joist hangers, rafter ties, and flat connectors—make for tight, strong joints between two framing members. In fact, many local codes now mandate using hurricane-rated ties to provide security against high winds or earthquakes. But even outside of the areas threatened by such disasters, high-tech ties—combined with the best framing materials for any given application—make for a solid house, built to last for generations.

Where to Find It

Will Ruhl, AIA
Boston, MA

Engineered Lumber:
Georgia-Pacific Corp.
Atlanta, GA

Metal Connectors:
Simpson Strong Tie
Simpson Manufacturing
Dublin, CA

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