Videos That Show You How To Build FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 Retrofits

 It was my task to help the ICC 1300 committee analyze the  Chapter-4 of FEMA P-1100  and present my findings to the committee.  My main focus was to see if costs could be reduced by making the methods used more affordable. I concluded FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 seismic retrofit guideline would be  unaffordable unless some drastic measures were taken.  Here you will find~ 30 videos that contribute to its high expense.  Unfortunately, most of my recommendations were ignored.   I hope you learn some things, I know I did.

In my first correspondence with the FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 committee I noticed that they were not aware mudsills (the piece of wood that you bolt to the foundation) in old California houses were made of redwood dating back from the mid-197o’s when pressure treated wood became common to the early 1800’s.  This was remarkable because a house cannot be properly retrofitted if you do not know what it is made of and how redwood framing must be taken into consideration.  The 38 authors of FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300, hired for this effort because they are the leading specialists in the field, apparently were not aware of this.  This illustrates a common disconnect between engineers who theorize about crawl apace construction environments and those who work in them

The video below looks at the impact of wood species on fastener strength for common hardware. This is important because it means many of the FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 tables are wrong because they do not recognize the characteristics of redwood.  


The P-1100 committee also created a plan set.  A plan set contains practical instructions a contractor is supposed to use when applying FEMA P-1100 to a house. Here is a page from the plan set and tells us what it looks like, the names of the manufacturers, and the earthquake resistance in Douglas Fir even though this hardware attaches to redwood.  

The first thing I notice is that the TYPE C connectors is brand named as a Simpson StrongTie FRFP, even though it actual name is Simspon StrongTie FA6 or FA 8. This tells me the engineer who put this table together was not familiar with this product.  On the other hand this is understandable given, unbeknownst to the engineer in question, it was discontinued years ago.

 In addition KC Metals went out of business years ago and USP Structural Connectors are not sold in California except by special order.  The USP SFA8 product does not have an International Code Council testing reports.  This makes its uses illegal according to the building code. The ICC 1300 plan set will no longer list specific manufacturers, but it still contains the Type C connector is illegal and impossible to find.  I explained to the committee that this will cause a great of frustration for contractors looking for the product and once they discover you can’t even buy it, the will believe ICC 1300 was outdated on the first day of its publication.  







One Of Two Videos on FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 Retrofit’s High Cost. 

 FEMA P-1100 and ICC 1300  retrofits cost on average three times as much as a Standard Plan A retrofit based on the convincing date found on this webpage which is based on this  reaseach.


Why Were FEMA P-1100 and ICC 1300 Written?; Our Worrisome Geology

This 2 minute video is not part of my critique of FEMA P-1100 and ICC 1300 but I thought it best to start here because this is the whole reason why this guideline was written.  The historical geologic record does not bode well for the Bay Area.  Large earthquakes occur every 140 years or so and we have exceeded this time frame.

The Complete Guideline History From 1997 until FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300

The Evolution FEMA P-1100, ICC 1300 And Other Seismic Retrofit Guidelines

Retrofit guideline evolved from two separate branches.  The first branch was  started in 1994 with the publication of the Guidelines for Seismic Retrofitg of Existing Building (GSRB) and it is the source of most of the other guidelines.  A new branch was started when the chairperson of that GSRB committee, Jim Russel, told me he wanted to start over from scratch and asked that I be a member of another committee that came to write Standard Plan A.  The major drawback in this state of the art guideline is its high cost. 

FEMA P-1100 was supposed to be the last seismic retrofit guidelines because of its superiority compared to all the others.  In addition, unlike the other retrofit guidelines which were all developed by volunteers, this guideline was heavily funded by the Federal Emergency Agency.  Just guessing, the government paid at least $1,000,000 for something no one will use.  This video looks at the history and evolution of seismic retrofit guidelines from the 1997 Guidelines for the Seismic Retrofit of Existing Buildings until FEMA P-1100 and ICC 1300 came along.  

Why Will FEMA P-1100 Make The Contractor and The Public Sick?

FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 recommend a procedure that creates carcinogenic silica dust.  Exposing the public to this carcinogen is unavoidable when performing a retrofit as prescribed by FEMA P-1100.  This will be an indirect health cost along with the other high costs that are part of this guidelines. 

Who Cares About Vent Holes?

After you drill about thirty zillion of them as I have, you will!  Drilling vent holes in plywood as required by every other retrofit guidelines is a major pain in the ass and there is absolutely no reason for them.  The committee consulted with a ventilation expert before making the decision not to require them.   This reduced the cost of the already extremely expensive guideline. 

The Value Of Notching In Simpson L90 Connections. 

Here you will see the method FEMA P-1100 and ICC 1300 recommend for this tricky connection.    This is compared to a method developed by retrofit contractors who have made this connection as part of their daily work life for many years.  Research has shown as can seen by this webpage that FEMA P-1100 and ICC 1300 retrofits are expensive, very prone to miss-installation, and time consuming.  This is contrasted to the contractor method that is effective, easy to install, and affordable.  You will learn a lot about many types of hardware and connection methods from this video and the way retrofit contractors think.

                                                           FEMA P-1100 Is Afraid To Notch Floor Joists

This is an interesting video.  FEMA P-1100 code committee members were in an uncomfortable position.  Does one put public safety first by fudging on the building code a little bit to make a retrofit infinitely cheaper, or does one insist on following an insignificant section of the code (which is there to promote public safety) and make the retrofits unaffordable and thereby promote public danger?  You can’t have it bolt ways.

Textbook used in universities and engineering classes contain illustrations of foundations that are perfectly vertical, the framing is all 1 1/2″ thick and 3 1/2″ wide, the mudsills are not embedded in concrete, and they believe there is an army of little elves waiting to drag extremely heavy structural reinforcements under a house.  The reality is most foundations have a slight or radical slope, the framing is 2″ in depth and 4″ wide, the mudsills are embedded in concrete, and there are a serious elf shortage to drag a 75 pound structural reinforcement 50 feet under a house.

In a discussion with the chair of the FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 cripple wall sub-committee, who is a Ph.D. engineer, he pointed out that if the code violation were allowed the floor might sink an inch or so if a piano were placed on top of the code-defiant floor framing after 20 years.  His position was that because it would be “against the code” my suggestion should be rejected.  I wonder what the homeowner who lost his house would say.   This kind of thinking has a serious impact on cost making FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 unaffordable.  Watch the video and decide for yourself which option you would want to take.


FEMA P-1100 And The Simpson FRFP

FEMA P-1100 has numerous tables and connectors where the “Type B” connector is mentioned.  This hardware is the same as the Simpson FRFP.  This hardware is virtually unused in the seismic retrofit industry and was replaced with the Simpson URFP.  My issue with this hardware is that if no one is ever going to use it, why include it in the guideline?  To include it only makes the authors of the guideline appear to be out of touch with reality.  If an inexperienced contractor did try to use this guideline the cost of the retrofit would probably prevent him from retrofitting that house. 


FEMA P-1100’s and ICC 1300s Illegal Use Of The Simpson FRFP

Here we look at another FEMA P-1100 use of the the Simpson FRFP that violates the manufacturer’s installation requirements and thereby violates the building code.  The consequence of using this hardware as you will see would be hilarious if it did not lead contractors to waste a lot of time trying to do something that cannot be done and is against the building code.  In addition, it exposes the lack of experience the authors of FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 had.  It is one more reason FEMA P-1100-ICC 1300 retrofits are unaffordable. 

FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 Protects Houses From Damage That Never Happens.  

FEMA P-1100 contains a connection that you will not find in any of the other seismic retrofit guidelines.  The engineers who evaluated damage after the Northridge Earthquake did not see any failures of this type.   As is often the case, engineers I have worked with imagine potential damage rather than look for evidence that reveals weak connections.  This hardware shown here is a case in point.   This hardware not only adds greatly to the cost, but drains resources from retrofit strategies that will protect the house.



A Short Look At Staples.

This 2 minute video shows a technician installing a stapled shear wall so that you can see how it is nearly impossible to split framing with staples.


More on Staples 

Staples are extremely helpful in seismic retrofit work.  When framing is dry and brittle they don’t split the wood.  When nails in the plywood have been overdriven the capacity of the shear wall is reduced.  It can be brought back to its intended capacity with staples.  This also means the plywood does not need to be removed and replace which goes a long way in reducing cost.  They can also make the plywood extremely stiff such that it can be added to the capacity of the stucco wall so that the capacity of the plywood .  On the other hand, nailed plywood is much more flexible than stucco such that the stucco will fail before the plywood fails. 


ICC 1300/FEMA P-1100 Refuses To Use Tested Staples


This 45 minute video was created with the help of the International Staple Tool and Nail Association (ISANTA) and looks at the use of staples from every possible angle.

This video fully convinced ISANTA but the ICC-1300 code committee voted down the use of staples because staples are not in the building code orwere not tested.  This is in spite of the fact stapled shear walls ARE in the building code and have been tested.  The results of these test can be see in the capacity tables found in the Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic.  These tables are based on testing done by the American Plywood Association in APA Research Report 154 and APA Research Report 138.  In short, there is plenty of testing to justify their use.

It was my believe that inclusion into the standard would promote public safety because according to APA Research Report 154 “the use of pneumatically driven staples showed that staples with a 7/16″ crown could be driven as close as 1″ o.c. without causing splitting, either at the time of driving or when the specimen was loaded in shear.”  APA Research Report 154 explicitly emphasizes their usefulness in seismic retrofit work ”  The use of staples as fasteners in shear walls is particularly useful to avoid any tendency to split the framing lumber in rehabilitation work where the lumber may be dry and existing fasteners may already be placed at minimum allowable spacing. “ In my own business I have found staples to be indispensable.  If they were allowed in ICC 1300/FEMA P-1100 the high cost of the standard would be greatly reduced. 

Watch the video and decide for yourself if staples are ok.


Balloon Framing: The Right Way and FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 Way. 

Balloon framing is a weird kind of framing that we see in houses built at the turn of the century and require very specialized retrofit techniques.  ICC 1300/FEMA P-1100 has a few details that address balloon framing.  In this video I compare the FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 methods with the methods contractors have developed after years of experience.  ICC 1300 decided to use the method developed by engineer.  This method is time consuming and adds to the cost of FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300.  Watch the video and decide for yourself which is best.


FEMA P-1100, ICC 1300Makes An Easy Connection Difficult

This is a framing configuration we see all the time.  The FEMA P-1100,ICC 1300 way of making this connection will work, but it is labor intensive and prone to mis-installation.  Over time contractors developed a method that is more effective and reduces cost.  If inefficiency such as what you see here were eliminated FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 would be affordable. 

FEMA P-1100, ICC 1300 Destroy a Shear Wall To Make It Better.

Sometimes the Simpson URFP hardware needs to be installed at short shear wall locations.  The most cost-effective way to do this is to put the plywood on top of the plywood.  On the other hand, FEMA P-1100 requires that 1 linear foot of plywood is removed in the middle of the plywood to make this connection.  This increases the cost and weakens the shear wall.  st.


What Planet Did This FEMA P-1100, ICC 1300 Detail Come From?

This detail is very revealing in that it shows how far removed the development committee members were from the tools and techniques contractors use everyday.  When contractors see how this connection is made they will only laugh when they see it.    See how contractors make this connection in literally 3 minutes opposed to the hours FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 demands.  I think you will enjoy this video, I know I did.  I needed to laugh to keep from crying.


Doing It The Wrong FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 Way

A critical connection in every retrofit is the connection between the plywood and the bolts.  If this connection is weak the retrofit may fail.  This video compares the method recommended by FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 with three other methods contractors use on a daily basis.  Yo will see a letter from the leading shear wall  shear wall testing laboratory in the world confirming this. This testing laboratory evaluated 4 different methods from the most preferred to the least preferred.  ICC 1300/FEMA P-1100 uses the least preferred.  This again that once something finds its way into a retrofit standard, no matter what it is, you can never get rid of it.

Wedge Anchors:  Why Don’t They Work In ICC 1300/FEMA P-1100 Retrofits?

There are 3 types of bolts.  Commonly known as wedge anchors, screw anchors, and epoxy anchors.  FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 decided to disallow wedge anchors because one of its authors heard from one contractor that the wedges at the base of the wedge anchor breaks out the side of foundations when it is tightened.  My company has literally installed tens of thousands of wedge anchors in the past 25 and this has never happened.  For some reason 50,000 tests were no match for one incident of hearsay and wedge anchors remain banned.  It should also be remembered that all the other guidelines preceding FEMA P-1100,ICC 1300 allowed wedge anchors.  Somehow the members the FEMA P-1100 committee believe knew more than the scores of authors of the previous guidelines.  Wedge anchor have also been tested.  Wedge anchors are also the cheapest type of bolt to install.  Disallowing makes ICC 1300/FEMA P-1100 unaffordable.  Watch the video and decide for yourself if their decision makes sense.



Why Does FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 Ignore Existing Earthquake Resistance?

Houses have a great deal of earthquake resistance even if they are not retrofitted.  Government statistics show that at most 8% of the houses in the highest shaking zones will suffer enough damage to make them uninhabitable. When FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 was conceived it assumed that existing homes have zero earthquake resistance unless they are retrofitted.  It is my opinion that FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 is installing far more retrofit components than it needs to and was thereby making it unaffordable.  It is especially remarkable that it requires more retrofit components for houses with stucco siding than it does for houses with wood siding.  This is in spite of empirical evidence that proves the opposite approach should be used.  Decide for yourself if it makes more sense to be ultra-careful and create something no one will use because it costs too much, or assume a house already has a lot of earthquake resistance and develop a standard that is affordable.


Deviating from Standard Plan A: How FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 Got It Right

The earthquake resistance of plywood depends on the number of nails on the outer edges of the plywood: the top, bottom,  and both sides.  This nailing is called edge nailing.   The further apart the nails are the weaker the plywood connection.  When Standard Plan A was revised (I was not there) the edge nailing was reduced from nailing being 4″ apart on the edges to 8″ apart on the edges.  This nail spacing has never been tested.  The retrofit guideline that came after Standard Plan A had the same problem.  FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 almost had the same problem but fortunately it was changed so the nails on the outside edges are from 2″ to 4″ apart.   This cut the high cost in half. 

Replacing Missing Top Plates: Why Do FEMA P-1100 And ICC 1300 Do It The Hard Way

Many houses do not have top plates on the cripple walls that are parallel to the foundation.  This is a very common problem. FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 developed what I believe is the most expensive convoluted way of addressing this problem.  The purpose of this video us to show you and the ICC 1300 development committee far easier and cheaper methods that have been developed over the years by contractors.   The committee decided to use the more expensive option.  Watch the video and decided for yourself which method you think is best.

The Unique Blocks In FEMA P-1100, Will They Do Anything?

FEMA P-1100 promotes some unusual retrofit strategies.  One of them being the installation of expensive blocks that seemingly serve no purpose.  I have asked several engineers to explain to me what their purpose was and they never gave me a logical answer.  Maybe you can find one.  This sort of thing makes ICC 1300/FEMA P-1100 more expensive than it needs to be. 

How Close Can Nails Be In FEMA P-1100?

The committee was very worried about wood splitting because nails might split the framing.  The building code cautions against nails being installed closer than 2″ apart, this video proves that nails can be 1″ apart on the same grain line.  When reality contradicts theories the scientists on the FEMA P-1100 committee chose to follow theories rather than evidence.  Wood quality varies considerably, even in old houses made of select grade lumber.  It is my suggest to shoot some nails into the framing before nailing up plywood to see how close nails can be before the framing splits.  This will determine how close the nails can be.  These short words of advice should have been part of P-1100.   The future of any effective seismic retrofit guideline should be based on evidence rather than theory.

The Best Bolting Hardware In FEMA P=1100

The  Simpson URFP (known as the Type A Connector in FEMA P-1100) is the most versatile and effective hardware in FEMA P-1100.  The application shown here has helped us in many seismic retrofits and I suggested its use in the guideline.  That is the only new practical detail that made its way into FEMA P-1100.  This technique should save you a lot of money.

This Is A Cursory At FEMA P-1100’s Construction Details.

Ignoring Porches May Make FEMA P-1100-ICC 1300 Worthless

Neither FEMA P-1100 – ICC 1300 or any of the other guidelines addresses the problem created by porches.  Around 10% of the houses we work on have porches. Porches are a serious problem when it comes to effective seismic retrofits.  Here you will see how to deal with this problem.  The FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 development committee decided to ignore this problem even after becoming aware of it such that 10% of the retrofits that use FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 retrofits will be a waste of money.  Here you will see the cheapest and most effective way to deal with porches so that your retrofit performs as it should.

Connecting Top Plates:  FEMA P-1100-ICC 1300 Does It The Hard Way.

Breaks in the upper top plates are a serous problem that must be addressed in every seismic retrofit.  FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 addresses this with steel straps as does every engineer I have worked with.   Steel straps are a very expensive way to accomplish this task compared to the one developed by contractors that only requires a few nails and was far less expensive.  This video also shows how this can be done when the top plates have been cut in half. If this were part of ICC 1300-FEMA P-1100 it would be more affordable. 

Bolt Placement In FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300

Bolts that are attached to the plywood are the only bolts that do anything.  FEMA P-1100-ICC 1300 tried to do this but did so in such a confusing way even I do not understand it. This video was created to point out how critical it is to apply a simple engineering principle to create a cost-effective retrofit.

Tie Down Hardware In FEMA P-1100-ICC 1300

This 12 minute video analyzes old concrete and how it can effect the performance of tie-downs (known as tie-downs in P-1100 and Holdowns in ICC 1300).  This hardware must be installed in old existing concrete using epoxy so it is important to know how the old concrete and epoxy will react. After numerous consultations with the two main epoxy manufacture’s the consensus was that the capacity of the tie-downs is anyone’s guess, except to say it will be less than FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 claims.

This is a shorter version of the video.  It goes straight to the conclusion without looking at all the research that is behind its conclusion.  This is all you need to know if you don’t want to spend too much time looking a FEMA P-1100.

Are Holdowns Even Necessary?

FEMA P-1100-ICC 1300 is a great proponent of holdowns.  These are called tie-downs in P-1100 and holdowns in ICC 1300.  Apparently some research labs see this kind of damage.  This video shows an experiment on a shake table that proves holdowns may not be necessary.  Holdowns are very expensive and their excessive use increases the cost and makes FEMA P-1100 much less affordable.

Weird screw construction detail in FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300A construction detail in FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 that cannot be builtAnother Weird Construction Detail Using Screws in FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300


In these 3 FEMA P-1100/ICC 1300 construction details the red arrows point to construction screws.  They do not tell the size of the screws.  Visually they look like 1/4″ self tapping Heavy Duty SDS screws made by Simpson Strong Tie but I can’t be sure.  We use 1/4″ screws all the time.  These video illustrates how best to install them.  

Here you will learn how lag screws can be installed perfectly every time with a special jig.

Here you will see why it is impossible to install Simpson Heavy Duty Connector Screws without a jig.