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Building For Florida – Trusses and Hurricane Straps

by SandStar on December 8, 2010

Over the years, we’ve done hundreds of projects for clients from other parts of the country and they are often surprised to see some real differences in the way houses are constructed here in Southwest Florida.

Pre-built and Engineered Roof Trusses

Trusses allow large open interior spaces.

One of the most significant differences is often the use of pre-made roof trusses. In most northern regions, roofs are built using conventional framing (sometimes referred to as “stick-built”). In conventional framing, the roof is built on-site one board at a time and there are usually a number of interior points in the house that carry part of the load. These might be posts and beams, or load-bearing interior walls.

Using pre-manufactured roof trusses is a construction method that involves a truss system that is designed and engineered to rest mostly on the exterior walls of the house. The trusses are assembled off-site at a facility built for that sole purpose and are brought to the job-site by truck and usually lifted into place using a crane.

There are a number of advantages to truss construction. A few key points are:

  • Very few, if any, interior load bearing structural elements – allows large open rooms and freedom to easily move walls when remodeling.
  • Greatly improved structural strength without the use of large and expensive wood timbers – trusses are ideal for areas such as Florida with potential for hurricanes.
  • Faster construction – trusses can be generally set in one day, often cutting weeks or months from the construction process.

Steel Hurricane Connectors

Typical Tie-Down Strap Installation

Building for hurricanes can sometimes be a little bit counter-intuitive. Whereas traditional construction is concerned with holding everything up, we have to also consider holding things down in high wind situations.

Hurricane Strap

The photo above and the drawing to the right show one of the key tools we use in building for hurricanes, the hurricane strap.

These heavy steel straps are embedded into the concrete wall and then wrapped over the truss. They are then nailed to the truss using a dozen or more nails designed specifically for this purpose. (the nails are thick and designed to resist breaking off or pulling out under stress)

The size and thickness of the straps, as well as the number of nails required is all determined prior to construction by the structural engineer. Factors such as wind-speed requirements, the overall span of the trusses, and the other elements of the building shell (also called ‘envelope’) all come into play.

Trusses and Hurricane Straps together equal very strong roof structures.

These are just a couple of examples of the many unique and important steps we take to make sure that the projects we build are built to last.

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