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Anchor Rods
Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.

By Dan Swiatek and Emily Whitbeck with contributions from Victor Shneur, P.E.

Many common anchor rod problems are easier to avoid than you think!
n life there are a few things that are some guidelines on how you can prevent common challenges and easy solutions

I necessary evils, and anchor rods and

column base plate connections seem to
be one of them. These connections
have caused problems on many build-
ing projects, but by looking at the chal-
lenges that others have faced and show-
ing how these challenge have been
common problems in the design of
anchor rods and base plate connections,
and will help the designer to avoid
expensive field repairs and schedule
delays. Specifications and design guides
are already in place to aid in the design of
these connections for strength, but issues
for how to improve everyday anchor rod
and column base plate connection appli-
Dan Swiatek is a senior civil engineering
student at University of Illinois-Urbana-
Champaign and a former AISC intern. Emily
Whitbeck is a senior architectural engineering
successfully overcome, perhaps we can of constructability should be considered student at Penn State University and a for-
make the use of these important connec- on every project, to ease the construction mer AISC intern. Victor Shneur is chief engi-
tions more bearable. This article will give process. The following chart offers some neer with LeJeune Steel Co., Minneapolis.

Solutions to 17 Common Anchor Rod and Base Plate Dilemmas

Common Mistakes Easy Solutions

Specifying ASTM A325 or A490 anchor rods

Standard ASTM A325 and A490 bolts include Specify ASTM F1554 anchor rods
defined threaded length and heading require- This standard covers anchor rods with yield
1 ments and must be special ordered when strengths of 36, 55, and 105-ksi, in hooked,
their lengths exceed 9½ in. This can take up headed, and threaded/nutted options.
to four months.

Contact a local fabricator for availability

Even though most fabricators don’t make
Assuming that all material are available their own anchor rods, they will still know
It is possible that materials of different types about material availability or possible substi-
2 and sizes will not be readily available for your tutions. It will save money and time on your
project. project. If it is impossible to contact your fab-
ricator, ASTM F1554 grade 36 anchor rods
may be specified as a fail-safe option.

Reduce the variety of anchor rod settings

Specifying many different anchor rod set-
Specify one anchor rod setting and base plate
for all exterior columns, and one for all inte-
Specifying a different anchor rod setting pat-
3 tern and base plate for every column size will
rior columns, based on the largest size. This
will be conservative for lighter columns, but it
end up leading to complications.
will greatly simplify detailing and installation.

Limit anchor rod sizes to one or two

Specifying many different anchor rod sizes This will be conservative in some cases but
Similarly to specifying settings, specifying will reduce installation mistakes. Try to make
4 many different sizes can lead to complica- sure the two sizes differ enough to avoid con-
tions. fusion and mistakes (at least 1/2-in. difference
in diameter).

December 2004 • Modern Steel Construction

Solutions to 17 Common Anchor Rod and Base Plate Dilemmas (cont’d.)
Common Mistakes Easy Solutions

Specify doubly symmetric settings

Specifying odd anchor rod settings Keep it simple by making anchor rod settings
Don’t specify settings that are seldom used if and base plates doubly symmetric about col-
5 you don’t have to. umn centerlines. Simplicity prevents prob-

Provide sufficient plan dimensions

Specifying base plates that are too small
This will allow for oversized holes and clear-
This provides no room for errors that are
6 likely to occur.
ances. Field fixes to enlarge holes or to add
plate washers will also be possible.

Use AISC anchor rod and base plate hole

Specifying standard oversized holes for
anchor rods
Use the recommended hole sizes for base
Foundation inaccuracies are common. Often,
plates shown in AISC Design Guide 1, or in
7 the standard oversized hole dimensions used
Table 14-2 of the 3rd Edition Manual. This will
for bolts are not sufficient because there is
allow for even more tolerance in the founda-
not enough tolerance available.
tion for anchor rod placement. Make sure to
use a heavy plate washer over the hole.

Only provide grout holes with large plates

Specifying grout holes in small base plates If more than one hole is required, grout holes
If the smaller dimension is less than 24 in., need to be spaced approximately 18 in. apart.
8 do not specify grout holes. Grout holes should be 2 in. to 3 in. in diame-

Using anchor rods to transfer substantial Consider a shear key or an embedded plate
shear A shear key or embedded plate with welded
Anchor rods cannot be expected to transfer side plates can be used to transfer a large
9 shear forces due to their larger holes and the horizontal shear force from the column base
use of grout. to the foundation.

Welding all around the column and base Use one-sided fillet welds for gravity
plate columns
Column web-to-flange fillets provide very little A typical gravity column only requires a fillet
strength and may cause fabrication problems. weld at the flange. Columns in framing sys-
10 Welding that wraps around the flange toes for tems that experience uplift and shear will
a column and base plate connection creates require fillet welds on both sides of the flange
unwanted stress concentrations. and web.

Specifying a CJP groove weld

Specify a fillet weld if possible
If a simple fillet weld can resist uplift or shear,
Use a fillet weld on both sides of a joint than
then using a complete-joint-penetration
a CJP groove weld, if possible. Remember
11 groove weld for the connection between the that the fillet weld will benefit from the direc-
column and base plate is unnecessary and
tional strength increase factor.

Modern Steel Construction • December 2004

Solutions to 17 Common Anchor Rod and Base Plate Dilemmas (cont’d.)
Common Mistakes Easy Solutions

Always using brackets at base plates

If the column is subjected to uplift, specifying Use thicker base plates
brackets or stiffener plates are not always This can eliminate the need for brackets or
12 necessary. These measures are not only stiffeners at base plates and will result in
expensive but also make field corrections much less labor to fabricate the columns.

Specifying hooked anchor rods for axial

Use anchor rods that are headed or
threaded at the end for axial loads
Because a hook can straighten and pull out,
Use rods that are headed or threaded at the
hooked rods should not be used for axial
13 loads. Exceptions include using them to pre- end with a nut for anchorage. Because of the
bigger shear cone, these have a greater pull-
vent overturning caused by erection loads or
out strength.
collisions during erection.

Tack weld this nut at the bottom

Welding the anchorage nut all around Since the only purpose of this weld is to keep
This includes both sides and the top. Welding the rod from turning while the top nut is tight-
14 the top can reduce the assembly strength. ened, a tack weld is more than sufficient. You
can also use a jamb nut.

Know the tolerances for anchor rod place-

Assuming precise placement per design
The placement of both the concrete and the
ACI tolerances for anchorage are very liberal.
anchor rods cannot guarantee perfect eleva-
15 tion according to the design or erection Consider specifying the more stringent AISC
Code of Standard Practice tolerances for use
by the concrete contractor.

Assuming anchor rods were installed per-

fectly Consider hiring a surveyor
It is very common for an anchor rod to be It might be a good idea to hire someone to
16 installed incorrectly. It is even more common inspect anchor rod installation, especially in a
for them to be damaged after installation by complicated or tightly-scheduled job.
other construction work.

Construction sequence should be specified

Assuming that walls will not be constructed
If there is a chance that the columns might be
It is very possible that walls or other con-
installed after a wall, make sure the correct
17 straints will be built before the column is order is specified before you design the
anchor rods and base plates.

December 2004 • Modern Steel Construction