DIY Done Right Summer Schedule

Posted: July 10, 2017


If you follow our weekly blog, you may have wondered where we have been. Well, we’re officially on our summer schedule, which means we’ll be posting a couple times each month instead of our regular weekly posts. But don’t fret; we’ve got some great new projects coming up, including a backyard wood fence project by Jaime Costiglio from That’s My Letter.

We’re also very excited to be exhibiting at Haven in Atlanta next week. Whether this is your first time attending the conference or you’re a “Haven Maven,” we hope to see you at the Simpson Strong-Tie booth. We’re giving away some great prizes and sponsoring a class where you can build your own wooden drink caddy. You’ll be hearing more about Haven in a future post.

We hope you’re enjoying summer and working through your list of DIY projects.

How To Build a DIY Outdoor Table

Posted: June 12, 2017


Editor’s note: This post is part of an occasional series featuring guest bloggers who are Simpson Strong-Tie brand ambassadors. Today’s post is by Elisha Albretsen from Pneumatic Addict. She is a mom of twin boys and describes herself as an independent former hairstylist who loves to build. She built a beautiful custom DIY Outdoor Table with our new Outdoor Accents® decorative hardware line. Thank you, Elisha, for this post. 

Isn’t outdoor entertaining this time of year the best? Hanging out in the backyard is a comfortable way to spend a beautiful evening. After building my rolling grill island last year, we’ve been spending a lot more time outside — so I decided I needed to build us a cool outdoor dining table.

When looking for inspiration, I found all sorts of gorgeous DIY tables, but many of them were too large for my small patio and too rustic for my style. Then, while walking through the building materials section of Home Depot, I spotted tempered glass deck railing panels and came up with a design that matches my patio style. I built a glass-topped dining table and accented it with some gorgeous Outdoor Accents® decorative hardware from Simpson Strong-Tie. I love how it turned out!

Get the FREE building plans for this project HERE.

Materials List:
(2) 4 x 4 x 96″ redwood posts
(3) 2 x 4 x 96″ redwood boards
(4) 2 x 2 x 96″ redwood posts
(1) 43″ x 36-5/16″ x 1/4″ tempered glass panel
(8) Simpson Strong-Tie® Outdoor Accents APA4 90° angles
(16) Simpson Strong-Tie Outdoor Accents hex-head washers
(8) 3-1/2″ Simpson Strong-Tie Outdoor Accents structural wood screws
(8) #10 x 1-1/2″ Simpson Strong-Tie Outdoor Accents connector screws
(8) #10 flat washers
2-1/2″ pocket-hole screws

Tools Needed:

  • Miter saw or circular saw
  • Table saw
  • Power drill
  • Pocket-hole jig
  • 3/8″ drill bit
  • 3/16″ drill bit
  • 1/8″ drill bit
  • Wood glue

Cut List
(4) 4 x 4 post @ 28-1/2
(2) 2 x 4 board @ 31-15/16″
(2) 2 x 4 board @ 37-9/16″
(1) 2 x 4 board @ 41 9-16″
(2) 2 x 4 board @ 17-1/4″
(2) 2 x 2 post @ 42-1/8″
(2) 2 x 2 post @ 39-7/16″
(2) 2 x 2 post ripped to 1-1/4″ x 1-1/2″ @ 42-1/8″
(2) 2 x 2 post ripped to 1-1/4″ x 1-1/2″ @ 33-7/16″

1. Use a miter saw or circular saw to cut four 28-1/2″ legs from 4 x 4 posts.

  1. Cut two, 2 x 4 x 31-15/16″ aprons and drill two 1-1/2″ pocket holes on each end. Connect leg pairs together with aprons flush to the top and outside edges of the legs. Secure through pocket holes, using wood glue and 2-1/2″ pocket-hole screws.
  1. Attach 37-9/16″ aprons between panels. Secure in place using wood glue and 2-1/2″ screws driven through 1-1/2″ pocket holes.
  1. Drill two 1-1/2″ pocket holes on either end of the 2 x 4 x 41-9/16″ cross support. Find the center of the 37-9/16″ aprons. Align the cross support and secure in place using wood glue and 2-1/2″ pocket-hole screws.
  1. Center cross support sides on cross support. Attach using wood glue and 2-1/2″ screws, driven through 1-1/2″ pocket holes.
  1. Now assemble to top frame. Since the glass panel cannot be cut smaller, make sure to double check your measurements before cutting the frame pieces. If anything, err on the side of too large instead of too small.

Cut two 2 x 2 x 42-1/8″ posts and two 2 x 2 x 39-7/16″ posts. Attach longer frame pieces to shorter frame pieces through 1-1/2″ pocket holes, using wood glue and 2-1/2″ screws.

  1. To create a 1/4″ groove for the glass panel to sit in, the 2 x 2 sub-frame pieces need to be cut down lengthwise or “ripped” to 1-1/4″ x 1-1/2″. Cut two 42-1/8″-long pieces and two 33-7/16″-long pieces.

Align longer sub-frame pieces inside the tabletop frame. Use a 1/8″ drill bit to predrill holes every 8″ horizontally through the sub-frame and into the outer frame. Secure the sub-frame in place using wood glue and 2-1/2″ screws.

  1. Place the top frame on the table base and allow a 1/4″ overhang on each side. Countersink three 3/8″ x 2″ holes on the bottom side of each apron. Predrill into the underside of the top frame, using a 1/8″ drill bit. Secure top in place using 2-1/2″ screws.


At this point, apply any stain or finish you plan on using. Although redwood holds up extremely well outdoors, I highly recommend using an oil-based paint or clear coat to protect the wood from the elements.

  1. Align an Outdoor AccentsAPA4 90° angle on each inside corner of where cross supports meet. Predrill through each hole, using a 1/8″ drill bit. Attach APA4s using  #10 x 1-1/2″ Outdoor Accents connector screws,  #10 washers and Outdoor Accents® hex-head washers.

The holes of the APA4s are in different locations on each side, so make sure to alternate their orientation so the screws on adjoining sides don’t hit each other.

  1. Align an Outdoor Accents APA4 90° angle on the outside of each leg, directly below the tabletop. Predrill through each hole, using a 3/16″ drill bit.

For each hole, slide an Outdoor Accents structural wood screw through an Outdoor Accents hex-head washer and drive the screws till snug.

  1. Carefully lower the tempered glass panel into the groove of the top frame.

That’s it! I placed my new outdoor table on the patio beneath my DIY solar chandelier, and I’m ready to entertain in style.

The view through the glass panel is definitely my favorite. The interesting supports and Outdoor Accents decorative hardware pieces look so cool in the center!

The smooth glass top also makes cleaning up spills a piece of cake; a pretty handy quality in a home with two messy boys.

The APA4 angles and hex-head washers are absolutely stunning! They are substantial and give my table a finished look. I used them decoratively for this project, but they are actually heavy-duty connectors and fasteners. They are a perfect solution for creating beautiful outdoor structures.

I love our new glass-top table and I’m excited to spend our summer evenings outside!

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.

How to Make Your DIY Chicken Coop Cozy

Posted: April 10, 2017


Editor’s Note: This week’s DIY Done Right blog post comes from Lydia Poulsen, Product Manager for National Accounts. Thank you Lydia, for this week’s post. 

Pinterest has captured a new style trend: farmhouse. Farmhouse style has become a downright obsession these days. Whether it’s mason jars or wood signs, barn doors or old furniture, you can’t help but be inspired by some kind of DIY project everywhere you go, and bringing this trend outside is no different.

Whether you live on an actual farm, or just in a residential housing tract (like me), everyone seems to want a piece of that farmhouse life. At least I do, which is why when we bought our new house last November, getting some chickens was at the top of the honey-do list. You can’t get any more farmhouse than raising your own chickens! Not only did we want farm-fresh eggs like Minara talked about in her last post, but we knew that our kids (ages 7 and 9) would be thrilled to have their very own chickens.

We started by spending countless hours on Pinterest researching chicken coop ideas and how to raise chickens. I should mention now that when I say “we,” I really mean my handy hubby. I consider myself a professional when it comes to pinning things on Pinterest, but he’s the one who makes the projects happen. Plus, if I didn’t give credit where it is due, I probably wouldn’t get fed (yes, he cooks, too). Now don’t get me wrong, I definitely consider myself a DIYer — I just like to stick to simple projects like refurbished furniture or crafty décor projects while he handles all the heavy lifting.

Build/Buy a Chicken Coop

So we looked at many ideas and found some pre-made chicken coop options available. Unfortunately, they were all pretty small and expensive. Since I work for Simpson Strong-Tie, however, it made sense that we consider building our own chicken coop, and one lucky day I came across a chicken coop that our Senior Testing R&D Lab Technician, Steve Ziagos, had built for the DIY hen house cut sheet that you may recall from a few weeks ago. Does this look familiar?

I saw it sitting there, all alone, just waiting to be used. So I asked the lab whether the DIY chicken coop needed a home. And just like that, I became the proud owner of my very own chicken coop.

I arranged for the hubby to pick it up (like I said, he makes the things happen) and, before I knew it, I had a DIY chicken coop in the backyard. And a weekend later, he was already working on “the additions.” The coop was great as is, but he’s not one to keep things basic. He wanted to make sure that the chicken coop was as cozy as possible for our new chickens.

Customize Your Coop with Additions

He worked his magic by adding a divided nesting area (a chick needs her privacy) with a drop-down door to let us easily grab those farm-fresh eggs. Throw in a splash of “barn-red” paint, and of course, no chicken coop would be complete without some wood border accents and white trim. Here is a list of our chicken coop additions:


  • Plywood — one sheet of 4ʹ x 8ʹ, ½” or thicker
  • Hinges (for drop-down)
  • 24″ of chain (12″ for each side)
  • Latches (we used one for each side)
  • Roof tiles
  • Red barn paint
  • White paint
  • 1×2 lumber (about 6ʹ total for the hen house), extra for the wood border
  • Various screws

He didn’t stop there. He added a nice shingled roof to keep the residents dry and protected. We plan to add some stick-and-peel tiles to the nesting area as well for easy cleanup (that will be the kid’s job).

Select Your Chickens

Now that the coop was ready, it was time to get some chickens. Since raising chickens is all the rage right now, it wasn’t too hard to find some free, egg-laying chickens. We headed down to the local feed store with adult chickens in mind. I figured it would be a $25 bag of feed and we’d be on our way, but that would be much too easy. When the kids (okay, and me, too) heard the baby chicks cheeping, we were sold. Five baby chicks later, along with the entire starter kit to keep them alive and two very “egg-cited” kids, we were finally ready to head home.

Even though we have to wait five months before they start laying eggs, it seems worth it. I mean, how could you not want to take these adorable fluffy things home?

Enjoy Your Chicken Coop

So there it is. We have officially brought some country living to the city life. Speaking of city, it’s probably smart to check with your city chicken ordinance before you go falling in love with any chicks. My city doesn’t allow roosters and has a ten-hen limit, and they require that the living area is three square feet per bird. They require a permit as well. (See I did my homework.)

Next on the honey-do list are some raised planter boxes, which are already in the works. Wood has already been cut, and I just received my shipment of the ML26Zs for some added support. Our tiny farm is well on its way and we should be enjoying it all by this fall. Sounds to me like I can officially hang a well-deserved “Farmhouse” sign in my kitchen. Now that’s a project I can handle on my own!

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.