Better Bonding Through Science

Every time a serious hurricane heads our way, it seems we’re looking to hold it together in more ways than one. HurriQuake nails – named the 2006 Popular Science Innovation of the Year – have the potential to strike at least one major item off your list. They were specifically designed by Bostitch engineer Ed Sutt to save a house from the harshest disasters it faces over a (hopefully) long life.

During hurricanes, most nail failures happen in one of two ways – withdrawal or pull-through. High winds create an uplift, or vacuum, effect that either draw the nail out of the rafter entirely (withdrawal) or pull the plywood off over the head of the nail (pull-through). HurriQuake nails overcome both of these shortcomings with patented designs of the nail head and shank. A HurriQuake nail has 25% more effective nail head area than a standard nail. The shank has barbed rings for gripping power, a smooth midsection to resist high shear stresses and a slight twist near the top to lock it in place. According to the Bostitch website, this fastener is rated for hurricane wind conditions and gusts up to 170 mph. By their estimation, a 2,000 square-foot house requires 8,000 sheathing nails which retail for approximately $50-60. The use of HurriQuake nails adds only $30 to this expense.

Although it may seem like a no-brainer to anyone who ever built their own treehouse or fort, poor fasteners can ruin a project. That fact was not lost on engineer Ed Sutt when he first started sifting through wreckage after 1995’s Hurricane Marilyn for clues about the causes of structural failure. The following excerpts are from the Popular Science article spotlighting Dr. Sutt’s work on the HurriQuake nail:

For more than two centuries, nails have been the fastener of choice for wood-frame structures. But for all that is riding on nails, they have been the focus of precious little R&D. Nails have evolved into a grab-whatever’s-cheapest commodity, taken for granted by contractors and engineers.
…Sutt discovered that the most effective way to strengthen a house was to improve its fasteners, especially the nails that hold the roof and wall sheathing to the frame. “I began to see that the engineers and building-code writers had been missing the point. Everyone had always just accepted that a nail is a nail. No one was focusing on what we could do to make the connection better.”
Tests conducted by researchers at Florida International University and the International Code Council—the independent building-safety standards organization—confirmed that the HurriQuake has more than twice the “uplift capacity” of standard power-driven nails. Other independent tests showed that the HurriQuake can double a typical home’s resistance to high winds and add up to 50 percent more resistance to earthquakes.
“This is a major innovation,” says Tim Reinhold, director of engineering for the Institute for Business and Home Safety, an insurance-industry research group. “And in places that are affected by high winds and earthquakes, it looks like it’s going to make a big difference.”
“Homeowners and insurance companies are going to love these nails,” [Dr. Schiff of Clemson University] says. “But contractors are going to hate them, because when they make mistakes, it’s not a trivial thing to remove them. Once you nail something together, it’s going to stay together.
“To us, that’s a good thing.”

Click here for some great interactive slides on the HurriQuake nail by Bostitch.

Click this link to see the full the Popular Science Articleon the HurriQuake Nail as the 2006 Innovation of the Year.

“HurriQuake Disaster Resistant Fasteners.” Innovation Spotlight. Bostitch. 10 Sept. 2008 http://www.bostitch.com/xhtml/interactive_hurriquake/hurriquake_show.html

Clynes, Tom. “Pop Sci Innovator: Dr. Nail vs. The Monster.” Popular Science. 2006. 10 Sept. 2008 .

This blog was written for Paul LaGrange’s BuildWrite website and was originally posted on September 13, 2008.

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