About Minara El-Rahman

Minara El-Rahman

Minara El-Rahman is our Social Media Manager who has more than 6 years worth of experience working on blogs, social media and digital marketing. Since she is a DIY novice, she is our DIY project guinea pig and enjoys learning new things about DIY. When she is not blogging for work or for fun, she can be found chasing after her toddler and baking up a mean apple pie. While she is new at DIY, she does hope that her tips and tricks can work for anyone who wants to take up DIY projects around the house!

Minara El-Rahman's Posts:

8 Critical Deck Connections You Should Know

Posted: April 17, 2017


After a long drought in California, we are now experiencing a deluge of rain in Pleasanton. You know what that means: cabin fever! For some of us, a lot of time indoors means looking at Pinterest boards on décor, how to refresh our outdoor space and even BBQ recipes for when the weather warms up. While it is nice to think about how to dress up a deck, it’s important not to forget about deck safety. Since a deck is a place where kids love to be, don’t you want to make sure it’s as safe as the inside of your home?

A few weeks ago, I wrote Deck Safety: 5 Tips To Check Your Deck. One of the tips I shared was learning about critical deck connections. Critical deck connections are the connections on a deck that create a continuous load path. If your deck is built with a continuous load path, it will be better equipped to resist forces such as occupancy, wind, snow and earthquakes. Here are the 8 critical deck connections that you need to create a safe and secure deck:

Ledger Attachment

One of the most common causes of deck failure is a ledger that pulls away from the primary structure, resulting in complete collapse. It’s where the deck connects to the house and one of the most common failure points on a poorly built deck. It’s very important to use structural screws rather than nails to secure your deck ledger board to your home.

Joist to Ledger

This connection is required to provide bearing and in cantilever applications, resist uplift. Deck floor joists intersect into a beam or ledger board and must be properly secured to the framing of the house.

Joist to Beam

Beams must be secured to the joists that support the floor of the deck to resist lateral and uplift forces.

Beam to Post

At the point where a beam meets a post, it must be properly connected to the post in order to resist gravity, lateral and uplift loads.

Railing Post to Deck Framing

People often get injured due to weak or wobbly railings on a deck. Railings must be properly attached to the perimeter of the deck as well as the floor joists running underneath the deck.

Stair Stringer to Deck Framing

Stair stringers that run along each of the stair steps (or treads) must be secured to the deck framing.

Stair Tread to Stringer

Each stair step (or tread) must be properly connected to the stair stringers.

Post to Concrete

Post bases connect the post to the footing or concrete slab underneath your deck.

What do you do to get ready for deck season? Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for exciting upcoming contests and giveaways.

What Are the Components of a Strong Wooden Fence?

Posted: April 3, 2017


Spring is officially here and that means lots of outdoor entertaining. Is your outdoor space ready? While most homeowners focus on building a new deck or on deck maintenance, redoing your fence can transform your space. Do you know what the critical connections of a fence are? We will outline them here along with a sneak peek at our newest fence bracket, the FBFZ, just in time for spring.

Select the Right Wood

Since fences are exposed to the elements, using the right type of wood can make all the difference. Using woods like cedar, redwood or preservative treated lumber ensures that your fence lasts for years to come. Finishing with an exterior grade stain or paint is

Strong Fence Posts

It is essential to set your fence posts into the ground properly. This means for wood fences that are 6 feet tall, you need 2 feet of the post in the ground. It is also recommended that a 2’’ gap be maintained between the bottom of the fence and the ground to help prevent rot. We recommend that your fence posts be set in concrete for strength and durability.

Exterior Grade Hardware

Using connectors, screws and nails that are rated for exterior use will prevent rust and corrosion and ensure that your fence will last a long time. Using exterior-rated Simpson Strong-Tie connectors can save you on long-term costs by adding strength while minimizing repairs. The new patent-pending FBFZ flat fence bracket creates a simple and strong connection between the rails and posts. With a new flat-plate design, it is easy to install and creates a secure connection. It has a ZMAX galvanized coating for additional corrosion resistance, so you know you won’t have to worry about a rusty fence in a few years!

A well-built fence not only gives you some privacy, it gives you the peace of mind to know that your children and pets are out of danger’s way. Plus, who doesn’t love a nice picket fence? If you want to find out more about the FBFZ flat fence bracket, click here.





Build Your Own Chicken Coop With Free Building Plans

Posted: March 27, 2017


Growing up in a big city like New York, I didn’t see a live chicken until I went to visit my grandmother in Bangladesh. She had such an amazing connection with animals that they just naturally gravitated to her. On her daily early morning walk, she always had a line of chickens and chicks trailing behind her. I will never forget how delicious the eggs she cooked for us tasted. So when I realized how popular raising chickens in your own backyard was becoming even in urban cities, I got excited.

Doesn’t everyone want to enjoy wholesome nutritious eggs straight from their own backyard? We knew we were on to something, so we hatched a plan (no pun intended – ok yes it was) to share free building plans with you for a DIY chicken coop.

A while back, we shared a sneak peek at Steve Ziagos building a DIY chicken coop using Simpson Strong-Tie connectors and fasteners here.

Steve began to build the coop after his 8-hour workday about 2 years ago. A lot has happened between then and now: his wife went through a whole pregnancy and delivered a baby. Which makes Steve a new dad! When he finally came back from paternity leave (okay, it was really only a few weeks) he continued to build the hen house, making sure to include a spacious run for the chickens to scratch as well as a nesting area with nesting boxes.

After such a long wait, I’m sure you’re ready to raise your own chickens and have fresh eggs every morning! You can build this spacious chicken coop using the free DIY build plans here.

Unfortunately, Simpson Strong-Tie did not include the resources to purchase and raise a generation (or six) of chickens in the development plan of this coop. So we raffled it off to one lucky employee at our holiday luncheon instead. Fortunately, the winner recently bought a new home and she is planning to make the coop the centerpiece of her new urban farm backyard. Here is a picture of the DIY chicken coop with some modifications she made with her husband below.

She has six baby chicks that will eventually call this coop home. We will share a blog post update on how the chickens like their home. In the meantime, I can only hope (and drop many hints) that she brings in some fresh eggs to share with us when the chicks get bigger.


Q&A: Retrofitting Your Home for Earthquakes

Posted: March 13, 2017


Building resiliency has been a hot topic lately resulting in many discussions about seismic retrofitting vulnerable buildings and homes in many cities – and not just the ones on the West Coast.

Santa Monica recently passed the most extensive seismic retrofit ordinance that would require not only wood-frame and concrete buildings to be retrofitted, but also steel-frame structures too. Earthquake damage is not just a West Coast issue, the Los Angeles Times recently wrote of how Oklahoma now faces earthquake threats equal to California thanks to man-made temblors.

Keep reading for some frequently asked questions about seismic retrofits and earthquakes:

What is a seismic region?

How do you know if you live in a high seismic region?  FEMA’s website has more information about earthquake risk as well as U.S. seismic hazard maps. You can also call your local building department and ask if you live in Seismic Design Category D, E or F. These categories are classifications assigned to homes and buildings with a high to very high seismic risk.

What is a seismic retrofit?

If you are a homeowner, you are probably wondering what a seismic retrofit is and what it entails. A seismic retrofit is the modification of your home to make it more resistant to seismic activity (such as ground motion or soil failure).

If you are wondering if you need a seismic retrofit for your home, here is a helpful blog post with a checklist to see if your home may need to be retrofitted.

One of the first connections to check in an older home is whether the first-floor framing is anchored to the foundation. This attachment is what helps prevent a home from sliding off the foundation in an earthquake. Our URFP and FRFP retrofit foundation plates are specially designed for locations with limited vertical clearance, such as basement areas or crawl spaces, to anchor the mudsill to the foundation. For more information on the URFP and FRFP plates, click here.

What are the steps to retrofitting my home?

To make things easier for the DIY homeowner, we created a helpful seismic retrofit guide. Here are the main steps:

Evaluate: Inspect your home using the checklist to evaluate the structural integrity of your home. Determining whether you have cripple walls will also determine your retrofit plans.

Sketch a Plan: Sketching an outline of the perimeter wall of your house with indications of where the studs are along with the dimensions will help you determine how much hardware and plywood/OSB you will need.

Seek A Professional: Sometimes, you may need to hire a professional to complete your retrofit. Talking to a licensed structural engineer about design and retrofit solutions can help you

If you find out the region you live in is in Seismic Design Region D, E or F let us know – we have even more resources for you!

Deck Safety: 5 Tips To Check Your Deck

Posted: March 6, 2017


In the beginning of March, it can feel like these cold days will never end. The nice thing is that it is on the tail end of winter, so you know that barbecue weather is just around the corner. What better way is there to enjoy the great outdoors than to grill on a deck when the weather is nice?

I personally love being outside with my kids while my husband is grilling. My daughter loves taking her homework outside and doing it on our patio furniture while we wait for dinner to finish cooking on the grill.

Are you ready to enjoy your outdoor living space when the weather turns nice? It is important to check your main outdoor living space: your deck. Before you host any family gatherings, check your deck so that you can have the peace of mind of knowing it is safe, strong and sound. While we recommend getting a professional deck inspection, here are some deck safety tips that can help you get started:

Learn About Critical Deck Connections

If you are like me and not too handy with tools, you may not even know where to start when it comes to checking your deck. A great place to start is with the Simpson Strong-Tie Deck Connection and Fastening Guide.

We have a page on critical deck connections that will help you understand all of the key connections on a deck that create a continuous load path such as joist-to-beam, ledger attachment and others.

Look for Loose Deck Connections

Your deck’s important connections could weaken over time. Keep an eye out for loose stairs, wobbly railings and loose ledgers. All of these are warning signs of a dangerous deck.

Check the Wood On Your Deck

Wood can rot and decay over time due to exposure to the elements. Take a look and see if there is any decay in the wood. Rotted wood should be replaced. Look for wood that is cracked, spongy or feels soft. Use a poker to poke at your deck to find rotted wood. Rotted wood easily gives way to the tip.

Watch Out for Rust

Over time, the metal connectors and fasteners can corrode if a product with less corrosion resistance was installed in your deck. Outdoor environments are more corrosive to steel, so it is crucial to select corrosion resistant connectors and fasteners. Other sources of corrosion are chemicals from preservative-treated wood, fire retardants, fertilizers, acid rain and fumes.

Get a Professional Deck Inspection

While the tips above can help you get started, there is nothing like the peace of mind of getting a professional deck inspection. A professional can assess the safety of your deck based on location and the materials used to build your deck and make safety recommendations that you can feel secure about.


Free Building Plans for A DIY Computer Stand

Posted: February 27, 2017


How are you holding up with your New Year’s resolutions? While I am still holding on strong to healthier eating and fitness habits, one challenge I am struggling with is staying healthy at work. From snacks in the company kitchen to catered lunches, it is easy to have your healthy eating habits derailed.

Staying active is another challenge. It is also easy to sit in one spot for hours when you are working. One way to avoid being sedentary is to use a standing desk. While I am lucky enough to have an adjustable desk at my cubicle, my husband does not. So I actually built this DIY computer stand for him a while ago. In fact, this DIY Computer Stand build was part of a team building activity that Alyssa Espinola wrote about here.

It was such a quick and easy project that even I was confident enough to build it in a day. That is the beauty of Simpson Strong-Tie connectors and fasteners: they help you create strong joint connections quickly and easily. So even if you don’t have an adjustable desk, you can build this project too.

 And if a standing desk isn’t what you are looking for, this project is versatile enough to use as a tea tray or even a kids’ table. I am a big tea person and I love being able to drink tea in bed once in a while.

You can customize the tabletop and project with paint, varnish or stain. I really like the look of the wood grain showing through, so I prefer pickling. Pickling wood is a way to stain the wood with color, but allow the finish of the wood to shine through. It is a transparent color wood finish.

Whatever finish you choose, you can feel better knowing that you are doing something good for yourself by building this DIY project. Are you still holding on to your New Year’s resolution? What have you been doing to stay consistent? Let us know in the comments below.

A Deck Style for Every House

Posted: February 13, 2017


Editor’s Note: This post comes from our friends at Wood, Naturally, your one-stop shop for building and designing with softwood lumber in, on and around the home.

A deck is more than just a new outdoor space. When designing your next deck, consider a layout that works with the architectural style of your home. There is a deck style suited for every home – from a large mountain estate all the way down to a highly functional tiny house.

For a modern home with an open floor plan, consider a wood deck that feels like an extension of the interior flooring. This decking was laid out in the same direction as the interior wood flooring and stained in a complementary color tone. When the large sliding doors are open everything flows together as one.

In a more rustic look, this redwood deck was run in a V-shaped pattern to complement the large vaulted gable of the main living room.

For a multistory structure, an elevated space can be created to reduce the need for stairs. This pine deck was built on treated posts and extends off the middle story.

Also, consider ways to make your deck feel like its own outdoor retreat by building a pergola into the corner. Not only does this create another outdoor living zone but it also offers shade from the sun while the latticed walls provide some privacy.

Decks can be tailored to the lay of the land. In this case, a southern view of the lake called for a large elevated deck as the main space. Not only does the main deck and glass railing give expansive views of the lake, but also lower decks were well planned out and tucked underneath. These lower decks are shaded from the midday sun while not impeding the morning sunrise.

Just because your house is mobile, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have a great deck. By building the new pressure treated pine deck on porch blocks, this deck can also be moved anytime the house is relocated.

No matter what type of home you have, there is a deck for you. What type of deck do you have or want to build? Let us know in the comments below.



Free DIY Kitchen Island Build Plans

Posted: February 6, 2017


Do you love trying new recipes but find that you need more prep space to get everything together? I recently started using a meal plan service where they deliver all of the ingredients for a restaurant quality meal that you prepare in your own home. A dinner delivery service is definitely worth it if you want to save trips to the grocery store, but if you have a small kitchen, it can get messy quickly since the instructions often require a lot of prep spaces.

If you have a small kitchen or not enough prep space, one way you can create space is with a DIY kitchen island. If you cruise around online looking for rolling kitchen islands, they can range in pricing from $75 to $1,500.

Yikes! It is far more reasonable to build your kitchen island than to break the bank buying one. So, we teamed up with Jamie Schmitt to create this rolling DIY kitchen island with free building plans here.

Jamie Schmitt designed this DIY kitchen island on casters so that it can be moved easily to anywhere prep space or extra storage is needed and it is useful and versatile. This project can easily be used for entertaining purposes like a bar cart too.

For this DIY kitchen island, Jamie used RTC2Z connectors which make this a project that even a beginner DIYer can complete from start to finish. Simpson Strong-Tie RTC2Z connectors allow DIYers to connect wood pieces to form a rock solid 90-degree angle quickly and easily. You can leave the connectors in the original ZMAX finish for extra corrosion resistance, or you can paint them. We used Rustoleum spray paint in Satin Black for this project.

The nice thing about this DIY kitchen island is that it is easy to build, easy on the eyes and easy on your wallet. Get the free building plans here! How often do you (or would you) use a kitchen island? Let us know in the comments below.

Essential Tools Needed to Build a DIY Doghouse

Posted: January 30, 2017


We know you love your pets and love to shower them with gifts even more. From playtime, snack time and cozy nap time, the opportunities are endless. So, what can be better than a custom-built doghouse? I mean just look at how proud Jen Woodhouse’s dog Watson is relaxing in his new doghouse! Here are free build plans for a DIY doghouse that we worked with Jen Woodhouse on just for you:

Before you get started on your DIY doghouse build make sure you have all of the tools you need nearby. Here is a helpful list:

Exterior Grade Wood

Since this is a sizeable doghouse, this is intended for outdoor use. Make sure you use an exterior-grade wood like redwood and cedar. You can also use untreated pinewood, but make sure to add an exterior-grade finish to the wood so that it can withstand the wear and tear of the elements. 

Simpson Strong-Tie Hardware

For this build, you will need Simpson Strong-Tie® RTA2Z Connectors, 2 ½-inch Simpson Strong-Tie Deck-Drive™ DSV Exterior Grade Wood Screws and 1 ¼-inch Simpson Strong-Tie Deck-Drive™ DSV Exterior Grade Wood Screws. All of this hardware is finished with an exterior grade finish, so you don’t have to worry about rusting.

Power Tools

A DIY doghouse of this size means that you need the right power tools. Since there are angled cuts, we recommend using a compound miter saw.

You will also need a jig saw to make some notches for the center truss pieces.

DIY Essentials

No DIYer should be without a power drill, tape measure, speed square, pencil and eye protection. We recommend that you have these on hand for any of your builds. What are your top DIY must-haves? Let us know in the comments below for a chance to win a t-shirt from us!


Top Three Storage DIY Projects

Posted: January 23, 2017


In January, most of us like to start with a clean slate. The only way I can start with a clean slate is to find a place for all of my clutter. We all know that finding free space can sometimes be a limited resource, so what do you do if you don’t have storage space? Start by looking at which rooms have the most clutter and then build DIY storage pieces that help to organize your things. Here are our top five storage DIY projects for your January build list: 

Heavy-Duty Shelving for Your Garage

Start tackling the clutter in your most cluttered space. For me, it is my garage. What started off as a lounge space for my kids is now a place for home repair items, paint cans and more. Building a heavy-duty shelf like this one using our RTC2Z connectors and connector screws from our Workbench/Shelving Kit can help you get a jump-start on storing those holiday decorations.

Mobile Kitchen Island

Another place that gets cluttered quickly is the kitchen. When I lived in a very small apartment in San Francisco, one clever way I created storage was with a wheeled kitchen island. Inspired by small kitchen carts, the free building plans for this DIY mobile kitchen island is ideal for anyone with a smaller kitchen who needs a storage cart and can serve double duty as an entertainment cart. For this project, you will need Rigid Tie® RTC2Z connectors, a box of Simpson Strong-Tie® SD #8 x 1 1/4″ wafer-head screws, Simpson Strong-Tie A21 connectors and 1 lb. box 2″ Deck-Drive™ DSV Wood screws (DSVT2R1LB).

DIY Linen Closet by Pneumatic Addict

How many times have you had piles of towels fall on top of your head when you open your linen closet? Wouldn’t it be easier to build a stylish closet with easy to reach shelves that are tightly organized with your linens instead?

Last year, we partnered up with Elisha Albretsen from Pneumatic Addict to share free building plans for this cleverly disguised DIY linen closet. It looks like a vintage printer’s cabinet, but instead of drawers for sheaths of paper, you have a generously sized storage space. Elisha used a box of Simpson Strong-Tie® SD #8 x 1 1/4″ wafer-head screws and Simpson Strong-Tie A21 connectors for this project.

Whatever storage project you choose to DIY first, we have the connectors and fasteners for your project. Where do you want more storage space? Let us know in the comments below to win a DIY pack this week!