Wall Bracing

Wall Bracing: Satisfy the code with strong, resilient, fully sheathed walls



On November 17, 2013, a devastating tornado outbreak of 73 individual twisters ripped through Illinois. APA's video, Wall Bracing, was shot on location in Washington, Illinois, where the most devastating of these tornadoes destroyed nearly 1,000 homes. Using real-world examples from the reconstruction of the town, the video explains key principles to creating strong, resilient, IRC-compliant walls.

Understanding Wall Bracing Code Requirements

A house must be built to safely resist the lateral loads that result from high-wind events and earthquakes. Wall studs alone can't resist the racking forces. Wall bracing helps keep walls square during wind and earthquakes.Understanding the IRC (International Residential Code) wall bracing requirements can be a challenge, but following them is of critical importance to a home's structural integrity. This content is intended to help building professionals design, build and enforces safe, durable and code-compliant walls.

Why Bracing?

The load from gravity is easy to understand and constant on every house. Lateral loads are just as constant, but they vary in force and are not as recognized. The most common and universal lateral load is wind, with design velocities that vary from 85 to 150 miles per hour across the United States. The strongest wind loads, tornados, are not predictable and randomly occur in every part of the country. While it is not affordable or reasonable to design structures to withstand the strongest tornados, experience has taught us how structures can be designed and built to resist wind speeds of up to 150 mph and protect not only the inhabitants but also the integrity of the structure. Similar experiences with seismic activity have also helped us learn how to design and build structures to better withstand earthquake forces.

When applied per building code requirements, prescriptive lateral wall bracing provisions help structures resist the lateral loads that result from wind and seismic events.

What are the Bracing Code Requirements?

Wall bracing is one of the most important structural elements of any house, but it can also be one of the most confusing. The International Residential Code (IRC) defines 16 bracing methods and defines minimum widths for wall bracing segments based on the type of bracing method and construction material specified. Fully sheathing a house with wood structural panels is the only IRC-approved way to reduce the width of bracing segments to as little as 16 inches. Most modern home designs feature narrower segments at garage, window and door openings, and it is important to follow the code requirements in these locations, including connection requirements to the foundation.

Getting Started

What do you need to know about wall bracing? Architects need to know how to achieve maximum design flexibility while maintaining the structural integrity of the home. Builders need to know how to build quality, cost-effective bracing solutions. Code Officials need to know how to recognize properly braced segments. Engineers need to know how to incorporate prescriptive bracing segments into an engineered design. Homeowners need to know why bracing is important for the security of the family.

APA offers a comprehensive set of services and tools for building design and construction professionals. If you’re looking for detailed product information, training material or technical assistance, APA can help.

Wall Bracing Webinar Series: APA and AIBD (American Institute of Building Design) have partnered to present a five-part webinar series on wall bracing. The series includes wall bracing history, theory and strategy; meeting code requirements with wall bracing; the simplified wall bracing method and bracing for higher seismic and wind zones. To view the recorded series, visit the Wall Bracing Webinar Series page.

For recommended APA publications (such as Introduction to Wall Bracing, Form F430, and Brace Walls with Wood, Form G440) refer to the Additional Resources page. APA also offers free training and consultation services on the proper specification and application of engineered wood products, including regional seminars and live online webinars that address wall bracing and related topics: contact an APA Engineered Wood Specialist for continuing education opportunities.

These resources will clarify International Residential Code (IRC) requirements and answer common questions about wall bracing. Detailed wall bracing information from APA is available for:

  • Architects
  • Builders
  • Code Officials
  • Engineers
  • Home Owners

For technical background information, view APA Technical Research.

APA Simplified Bracing Method Streamlines Design

This method provides an enhanced variation on the 2012 IRC simplified wall bracing provisions (Section R602.12) that delivers an affordable, streamlined approach to meeting code bracing requirements. Benefits include:

  • Saves design time and associated costs
  • Faster permitting and quicker plan review
  • Saves money on metal connectors and their installation
  • Increased design flexibility for windows and doors
  • Uses minimum 7/16" or thicker OSB or plywood sheathing for a strong, fully sheathed structure

Learn more about the APA Simplified Wall Bracing Method.

APA Delivers Confidence

When you see fully sheathed wood walls with APA’s stamp, you can be confident the home is built with the materials required to meet the most stringent bracing methods. Since the early fifties, APA has collaborated with code bodies to improve wall performance. This collaboration has included a significant evolution in the use of prescriptive wall bracing techniques specifying plywood and OSB. In high wind and seismic events, APA’s expertise is on display with products that meet the industry’s highest performance standards and wall bracing applications aimed at reducing the risk of catastrophic home failure. Learn more about APA.