Let-in bracing has been a viable option for bracing of conventional construction for many years. Recent testing conducted by Home Innovation Research Labs under conditions of both full and partial restraint reconfirmed that let-in bracing continues to be an acceptable method of bracing. The renewed interest in let-in bracing is triggered by the increasing demand from builders for cost-effective energy-efficient construction. Technological barriers to the use of let-in bracing include (1) the limitations on the flexibility of placing of doors and windows where a let-in brace is installed because of the requirements for a wide uninterrupted wall and (2) the need for notching of studs. In addition, the 2009 IRC bracing provisions increased the required amounts of diagonal bracing. For these reasons, the utility of traditional let-in braces and similar alternative bracing methods have become challenged and are in need of innovation to meet the demands of current code provisions.
The objective of this research effort was to conduct exploratory testing to determine the performance of several innovative residential wall bracing options that provide improved strength and versatility over conventional let-in bracing methods or that expand builder choice. The focus of the testing was on wind bracing solutions in low seismic areas. Performance results are evaluated against baseline test results1 as well as the upper bound wind bracing strength2 used in the 2009 International Residential Code for One and Two Family Dwellings (IRC) for panel bracing methods other than gypsum board. The results of this testing program are expected to provide the basis for the selection and further qualification testing of a small number of these wall bracing options.