Allowable Loads for Top Mount Hangers Installed on Wood Nailers

MiTek top mount hangers have been tested and installed to various nailers. Wood nailers may be installed to the top of steel beams, concrete and masonry walls. For allowable loads, it’s important to use a correct hanger attachment with a nailer, and to ensure that the nailer is sized correctly.

Correct Attachment and Sizing

Incorrect Attachment and Sizing

For more information on the allowable loads for common top mount hangers installed on 2x, 2-ply 2x, 3x and 4x nailers, please review this technical bulletin.

Time for a Change: Making the Move From Custom to Production

Many custom builders would love to add the profits of production building to their business. However the road from custom to production isn’t an easy one, and will require many readjustments to your thinking and processes along the way. It’s not as simple as scaling up your current operations. Scott Sedam for Pro Builder recently broke down the steps to becoming a production builder.


                1. Change your strategy.


You can’t build production homes with a custom mindset. This will require deep commitment from every member of your team. Everyone will have to be brought into a new way of thinking and doing things. In Sedam’s words, you can’t be “the builder who loves to say, ‘Sure we can do that. We can build anything’” anymore.


As a production builder, you will have to set limits around personalization and options. You may need to stand firm around dates for selecting options.


               2. Change your product and design philosophy.


Your business will have to learn to build with an eye towards efficiency and replicability. The options you create for your customers need to be like interchangeable parts. Imagine building mass-market furniture— if your legs are all the same height, you can still build tables in a wide variety of sizes.


               3. Change your purchasing habits.


You also have to change your buying habits. Repricing and rebidding are now much less tenable, and certain tradesmen may not be able to adapt to production building either.


              4. Change your scheduling.


Perhaps the most important change you will make as you shift to production is scheduling. As a custom builder you allowed the buyer to drive the process. With production building, their needs, while still important, take a backseat to the building process as a whole. Staying on schedule is more important than ever as a production builder.


Every aspect of your process must enable your schedule to run smoothly—from getting accurate bid packages in place, to creating an orderly options and selection process, to maintaining strong relationships with suppliers and trades.


             5. Change your field management philosophy.


You will have to fine-tune relationships with labor crews, so they better understand what is expected. Since your jobsites must be more appealing to potential customers, waste management will take on greater importance.


            6. Change your approach to sales.


Salespeople must be trained to “sell what we have”—and resist the temptation to offer changes, upgrades, and alterations for every customer who walks in the door.


           7. Change your land and lot policies.


Only when you have reworked your business from the ground up can you address what’s below the soil—land and lots. Buying lots becomes easier when you have a retinue of plans and materials you usually use for your homes.



Switching from custom to production will require a commitment from your entire team and affect all of your business processes. You may not be able to continue building custom homes on the side once you commit to production building schedules. Writing for Pro Builder, Scott Sedam urges those who wish to make to switch to first invest time into thinking about how to simplify your existing processes. Simplicity is at the heart of the production building mentality.


For those who do manage to grow their businesses, they can say goodbye to razor-thin margins and embrace the greater predictability that comes with production building.

The Price of Low Inventory: Buyers Not Optimistic about Availability

Buyer optimism from the last half of 2017 is eroding, driven by concerns about low inventory.


According to an NAHB survey, 15% of prospective buyers thought it would get easier to find a home in the coming months, down from the 27% in the fourth quarter of 2017. Slightly more buyers (8%) also thought the market would get harder to navigate, or remain the same, in the last half of 2018. The age breakdown was as you’d expect: with the youngest respondents as the most optimistic buyers and the “seniors” as the least optimistic.


Survey Question: Do You Expect House Search to Get Easier/Harder in Months Ahead?


Closely linked to buyer perceptions of the market is another key metric: availability.


Just 24% of surveyed buyers in 2018 indicated that they saw more homes on the market. 64% reported they saw the number of homes for sale staying about the same, or even dwindling. This corresponds to concerns about low inventory, which hampered the 2017 market and appears to have hit the 2018 market just as hard. In fact, the problems created by inventory may have gotten worse. 34% of prospective buyers in the last quarter of 2017 felt that there was more inventory available—by 2018 that number dropped by ten percent.


Survey Question: Do You See More/Fewer Homes For-Sale in Your Market (vs. 3 months earlier)?


Less than a third of respondents across all generations of prospective home buyers reported growth in inventory for their desired price range. This is an indication that the problem impacts the entire market, not just first-time buyers—making low inventory a big problem for builders.

Thanks to the Labor Shortage, Construction Jobs Drive Recovery

The construction labor shortage might be a crisis for builders and contractors, but in the eyes of economists, it’s a sign of a healthy, thriving economy with many job opportunities.


In March, CNBC reported that construction easily led job creation in February, creating 60,000 jobs in that month alone.



The sudden bump in construction jobs coincided with a strong overall February jobs report. In March, job creation slowed for many industries including construction. Yet construction jobs rebounded in April as the industry added another 17,000 jobs.


The spring’s job boom follows a year of strong job growth in 2017. As Paul R. LaMonica for CNN Money observed, “2017 was a great year to be employed in the construction and manufacturing sectors.”


The rest of the year is likely going to continue to see strong job growth.


The labor shortage has been keenly felt by many builders. About 22% of the labor force left the industry in the years following the recession.  “Every month there are literally 100,000 jobs in construction that are advertised and vacant,” said NAHB executive director Jerry Howard.  “We just don’t have the bodies.”


For those who return or enter the field for the first time, a job change could be very profitable. After all, they are virtually guaranteed a position.

A Sustainable Skyscraper, Powered by BIM: Tianjin Chow Tai Fook Financial Center

Skyscrapers aren’t exactly the picture of sustainability. But one firm– China Construction Eighth Engineering Division Corp., Ltd.– intends to change that. Their most recent project, Tianjin Chow Tai Fook Financial Center, brings together businesses, retail, luxury apartments, and a five-star hotel—and makes it all sustainable.


Designing Tianjin Chow Tai Fook Financial Center was an epic undertaking. Standing about 1,739 feet tall, 103 stories high, the skyscraper also features complex design details like a curved façade. It took 100 BIM designers to accomplish the task.


The usual approaches, says, project manager Su Yawu, had to be thrown out the window. “Before, we used a traditional construction approach by joining Excel files and the project files with other components for the project planning,” he says.


However, BIM quickly replaced that approach, making it easier to communicate with stakeholders, and share and alter models faster and with fewer errors.


In a team whose membership spans continents, working from one platform prevents misunderstandings. Of course, with a project at this dizzying level of complexity, “one platform” sounds simple—much simpler than it has been for the stakeholders. During the design process, the team created 1000 BIM models, with a total of 184,504 components.


Engineers also used BIM to design the prefabricated components that came together to produce the superstructure. The designs called for 2000 materials—but with BIM, they were able to cut waste before construction even began.


VR technology was put to work in safety training for workers. Plus, designers also used virtual reality to visualize the final product.


According to Su, BIM technology—supplemented by VR technology—“will change the way people build buildings and skyscrapers in China and around the world.”


Tianjin Chow Tai Fook Financial Center is scheduled to be completed in fall of 2019 but has already caught the imaginations of designers and design aficionados around the world. It recently won first place in Autodesk’s 2017 AEC Excellence Awards.


The project is in the running for some of China’s top design awards, including the Luban Prize and the Zhan Tianyou Prize. The project is also pursuing LEED Gold Certification standards.


Housing Affordability on the Rise: Rising Wages and Lower Prices Offset Challenges in Q1

New homes were more affordable in the first quarter of 2018, thanks to higher wages.


“Continued job growthrising wages and strong consumer confidence are fueling housing demand,” said NAHB chairman Randy Noel. “In turn, this should lead to more buyers entering the housing market in the coming months.”


How strong is housing affordability? 61.6% of all homes sold in the first three months of the year were within reach for families making $71,900—the national median income in Q1 of 2018. Median income in Q1 was almost 6% higher than it was last year, softening the effects of other factors in the marketplace.


That is not to say builders will not face challenges in meeting buyers’ demands. Noel also predicts continued chronic labor and lot shortages,” as well as increasingly expensive materials and ramped-up regulation. Trade negotiations with Canada restricted the flow of affordable lumber into the market in the first quarter of 2018.


Mortgage rates have been another barrier to affordability. Rates rose by almost 30 basis points, up from 4.06% to 4.34%, in the first quarter.


Despite these obstacles, the combined effect of age growth and more moderate prices led to improved affordability.


Of course, the effects varied across markets. 167 markets moved up from last year in affordability; 68 markets moved down the rankings. Continued best bets for affordability are Indianapolis, Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Toledo, and Harrisburg, PA. Coastal markets have struggled to offer buyers affordable homes. Last quarter was no exception as San Francisco was the least affordable housing market in the country for both Q4 of 2017 and Q1 of 2018.  Los Angeles, Irvine, San Jose, and San Diego were not far behind.

Strong Signs of Growth: Private Residential Spending Up as Builder Confidence Grows

2017 closed out with strong growth for the construction industry, particularly in residential construction. Builder confidence also remained high.



The results may not be visible yet, but spending rose this fall according to NAHB analysis of Census data.  In November spending went up by 1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $530.8 billion. It follows a clear upward trend: in November, spending also reached the highest level it’s been since 2007. This represented an almost 8% over last year.


Private nonresidential construction didn’t fare as well, falling 3.1% from last year.


The struggles of the nonresidential market aside, this could be a sign of a healthy market. Single-family housing starts were up last fall, and builder confidence along with them.


Together, these indicators seem to be setting the stage for a healthier housing market in the rest of 2018.

Smaller House, Bigger Life? Buyers Embrace Less Square Footage

The “tiny house” craze may have been short-lived but it left a big imprint on the market.


After leveling off or decreasing slightly for years prior, the average size of a new home fell in 2017. This remarkable development seems to indicate the start of a new trend.


Though the average square footage of a new home fell during the Recession as many downsized, it also jumped as the higher end of the market became the fastest segment to recover.


NAHB analysts identified this as the usual pattern of home building throughout a recession, as builders tighten budgets and then chase buyers. This pattern lasted longer than usual, however, because of the restraints on first-time buyers entering the marketplace.


The size of new homes is now out of its recession pattern, which indicates that the reduced square footage seen in many new homes does form a genuine trend. Houzz recently conducted a survey of homeowners who live in “1,000 square feet or less” to find out how they felt about their decision to purchase a small home. Homeowners reported their smaller homes were more “relaxing” (58% of small home owners) and easier to clean (42%). Many cited affordability as their motivation in seeking out a smaller home. The only downsides included less storage and reduced space for entertaining and hosting visitors.


New multifamily units are also trending smaller on average, especially in the for-sale multifamily market, a segment which faces stiff competition from the booming rental market.

3 Benefits of Technology in the Contractor-Subcontractor Relationship

Trust is a vital ingredient of any business relationship.

In the days before BIM, contractors and subcontractors couldn’t virtually model their projects. They couldn’t always foresee complications that could make a project less successful. Therefore their partnership, like a trust fall, required each to tolerate a certain amount of ambiguity. Today that’s still the case—but the modeling capability afforded by BIM makes the process a little smoother.

Resolving Conflicts Before They Start

As Randall Natsch, director of virtual design and construction at McCarthy Building Companies, says, “The easiest way to describe it [BIM-based collaboration] is that visualization helps invite more response earlier in the building process and elevates issues to the appropriate decision makers.”

Structural and engineering problems can be caught earlier in the process, before they lead to the sort of breakdown that used to torpedo projects.

Natsch recently witnessed an instance of technology resolving potential conflict when he worked on Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, California with Peterson Mechanical. As the design was modeled in Autodesk Navisworks, it became clear a ceiling needed to be lowered. Says Greg Marks, plumbing piping manager for Peterson: “When field construction got to that point, the physical items would have been installed in conflict with the ceiling.” He estimated fixing the error would have cost them an extra 20 to 80 man hours.

Photo via McCarthy Building Companies

Keep Costs Under Control

“Mistakes in the real world, in terms of labor and manpower, are a lot more expensive than mistakes in the virtual world,” says Michael Mutto, BIM lead at contracting firm Pan-Pacific Mechanical.

When McCarthy was tasked with building a 3-story, 200,000 square foot aquarium in Arizona, they turned to 3D tools and reduced the project time by 35 percent and reduced their labor needs by 17,000 hours. All of these savings have a tangible impact on the budget.

Maintain Accountability

“We’re slowly moving toward a uniform file structure and seeing with each project greater transparency: who’s drawing what, when they’re drawing it, and if they’re meeting their dates,” Michael Mutto says. When something doesn’t add up or go as planned, the team can find out who is responsible.

“If the dimension is off… the party that deviates that half inch from the digital model is responsible to fix that clash/conflict in the real world,” he adds. It’s not about laying blame, but about preventing mistakes from snowballing before they threaten the ultimate goal: the real-world success of the project, which will be shared by all involved.

Construction may never be a seamless process, but with good communication between contractors and subcontractors, a team can overcome almost any obstacle. Now achieving that level of trust is easier than before, thanks to a collaborative building process based on BIM modeling and technology.

The Case for Smaller Crews: Efficiency and Time Management

How many workers do you assign to a jobsite? According to Tim Faller, probably too many.


Tim Faller has spent 15 years teaching and speaking about the lead carpenter system. The premise of the lead carpenter system is simple: it’s a one-person crew. Through years of experience, he discovered that you don’t get more production per dollar through adding additional labor.  In fact, productivity often goes down when an additional worker is added.


Here’s why.


First, an additional worker may need coaching on certain aspects of the job or simply not know where to find materials. Regardless of how necessary conversation may be, it slows you down.


Unnecessary labor also creates the problem of how to fill time. “Making work” for someone is a distraction from the real work to be done.


Innovation also suffers. When you have an extra set of hands, why bother developing tools to hold the end of a board, for instance, or learn the technology that would make a given task easier?


How to Create Efficiency Without Using a One-Man Crew          

If you can’t use a one-man crew, there are ways to make a small crew act more efficiently. Here are Faller’s recommendations:

  1. When you assign tasks, two people should not be assigned to the same project.
  2. If a situation arises that does require additional help, it’s more productive to take breaks. Focusing on different aspects of the job allows more work to get done.
  3. End before the end of your schedule.

As you know, finding ways to reduce the labor on the jobsite is a key factor in keeping costs down. The lead-carpenter system is one way to make projects more profitable.