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Top Gadget of 2006 — The HurriQuake Nail 279

eldavojohn writes "Popular Science is naming its Best of What's New of 2006 and the one at the top doesn't have much to do with circuitry or computers. Instead, it's a nail. Not your average nail though, the HurriQuake nail [flash] spent six years in development." From the article: "As the Bostitch team tweaked the head-to-shank ratio, Sutt and metallurgist Tom Stall worked on optimizing high-carbon alloys, trying to find the highest-strength trade-off between stiffness and pliability — the key to preventing snapped nails. 'Meanwhile,' Sutt says, 'we were focusing on how to keep the nail from pulling out.' The team machined a series of barbed rings that extend up the nail's shaft from its point, experimenting with the size and placement of the barbs. 'You want the rings to have maximum holding power,' he says, 'but if they go up too high, it creates a more brittle shank that shears more easily.'"
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Top Gadget of 2006 — The HurriQuake Nail

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  • Neat (Score:5, Funny)

    by merc ( 115854 ) <slashdot@upt.org> on Sunday November 26, 2006 @03:24PM (#16994234) Homepage
    I can't wait to use this in Quake.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rvw ( 755107 )
      I can't wait to use this in Duke Nuke Hurry Hurry!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Actually, this is a really good excuse to delay shipment! "We just wanted to have the best nailgun possible for gamers to play with!"
    • Great! (Score:5, Funny)

      by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @04:42PM (#16995018)
      So instead of your roofing blowing off, now your whole house blows away!
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        perfect for that trip to Oz
      • Re:Great! (Score:4, Informative)

        by NeilTheStupidHead ( 963719 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @07:02PM (#16996280) Journal
        I haven't seen too many concrete slabs or foundations blow away. Sill bolts are usually 1/2" or 5/8" tempered steel and a properly designed... or rather, a properly *built* house will have sufficient numbers of bolts to distribute the weight evenly and prevent pull out. And as the article states: Home owners will love the innovation and the marginal increase in cost but builders will hate it; not only because removing a nail will be ridiculously difficult, but also because homes that don't fall down don't have to be re-built. If you make your money building homes and you build homes that last forever, then you will eventually become obsolete. The trend since the 1950's has been to build homes using progressively cheaper materials with progressively shorter lifespans. It's called 'progress' because the cost of building homes decreases (subject to market pressures) and more and more people can 'afford' to live in the suburbs. In reality, this trend simply fosters a cycle of increasing consumer debt, both because you now need a car to drive the extra distance to work every day, and because your home is in a constant state of degradation and needs to be maintained. Add to that the idea of 'keeping up with the Joneses': that you have to have a car and home that are as nice or nicer than your neighbours' instead of living both within your means and within practicality and you have a culture that is ripe for widespread debt and economic stagnation. Or worse, you get stagflation where the economy stagnates but prices continue to increase, now your loaf of bread costs a dollar fifty instead of a dollar but you still have the same income so you've got to trim 50 cents from your budget somewhere else. It happened in the UK in the 60s and 70s and here in the US and Canada in the 70s and 80s and it'll happen again, sooner rather than later.
        • Re:Great! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @11:39PM (#16998090) Homepage
          but builders will hate it; not only because removing a nail will be ridiculously difficult, but also because homes that don't fall down don't have to be re-built. If you make your money building homes and you build homes that last forever, then you will eventually become obsolete. The trend since the 1950's has been to build homes using progressively cheaper materials with progressively shorter lifespans.
          Bollocks. Typical ridiculous conspiracy theory nonsense. Builders do not engage in "planned obsolescence". They don't necessarily even plan to still be in the business by the time a "planned obsolescent" house would fall down, much less plan to be the guy re-building it. Ten years later, when the crappiest built house starts to show its age, how did the crappy builder ensure that he would be the one the current owner would call? Furthermore, have you ever met any general contractors? It's hard enough to get a house built, much less play puppetmaster with the rough carpenters' materials in such a Machiavellian way as to make the house fall down just in time for them to show up offering to help. No, the notion is entirely absurd. The reason builders use cheap materials is very simply the obvious one: cheaper materials cost them less, which maximizes their profit on a fixed bid job.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Mal-2 ( 675116 )
          This only addresses one particular vulnerability in houses, which is external stress. This may make a house last two or three hurricanes instead of one (presuming the absence of a massive flood), and there will still be lots of rebuilding as the roof tears off or the drywall has to be patched after a quake. It's obvious that builders cannot keep up if a region is totally flattened, why would they NOT welcome this? Not to mention the mold that follows a flood or hurricane generates plenty of business without
  • A better nail (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Duncan3 ( 10537 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @03:26PM (#16994268) Homepage
    They are called screws, and they have been known for a few thousand years to be vastly better then nails. Most any floor that's nailed down squeaks for example. And if you want something really good, you use bolts.

    And their "patent pending" features you'll find on most all the masonry nails in the hardware store.
    • Re:A better nail (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 26, 2006 @03:37PM (#16994392)
      Somebody missed the point. These new nails bridge the gap between traditional nails and screws yet cost less than screws. Screws add more time for installation and labor as holes need to be pre-drilled if you want them to be straight and you can't use anything as quick as a nailgun. These can be used in normal nailguns and add only $15 to the cost of constructing a house with them compared to traditional nails.
      • Re:A better nail (Score:4, Informative)

        by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @04:10PM (#16994708) Journal
        Screws add more time for installation and labor as holes need to be pre-drilled if you want them to be straight and you can't use anything as quick as a nailgun.
        Sounds like you've never heard of a Screw Gun + self tapping screws.

        But, not everyone has a screw gun. OTOH, even though nail guns are wildly popular, they might not be able to handle the oversize head on those nails.
        • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot.kadin@[ ]y.net ['xox' in gap]> on Sunday November 26, 2006 @04:40PM (#16994984) Homepage Journal
          Even a screw gun / power driver with self-tapping screws takes a lot longer to drive each fastener, than a pneumatic nail gun. I don't think there's any way that you can drive a threaded fastener with anywhere near the speed that you can drive in a nail. In the time a person can drive in a screw, you can put in a handful of nails.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by marol ( 734015 )
            If paying the hours of Joe the nail driving roof guy is a major cost factor when building a house, the house is probably too cheap and won't stand a hurricane anyway. Joe can probably use fewer screws further apart and still get a better result than this alleged super-nail at roughly the same price, only increasing costs of wages.
            • The real problem is that stick-building houses is fundamentally stupid. It's slow and labor-intensive, and both of those aspects contribute to a lower-quality end product (building slow is bad because the structure is exposed to the weather -- water-saturated plywood, for example, is a Bad Thing). A much better idea, which oddly enough was in Popular Science (or was it Mechanics?) last month or so, was about factory-building "modules" (e.g., complete walls with preinstalled wiring and plumbing) in a standar

              • by abradsn ( 542213 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @07:29PM (#16996464) Homepage
                I knew that someone would bring this point up.

                It seems to make sense right?

                Unfortunately, the fact is that manufactured/modular homes are of the worst quality made almsot entirely by people who are not carpenters.

                I should group tract homes into this category too, but I don't want to waste a lot of time on slashdot explaining why.

                Basically, there are two kinds of buildings. Those built by idiots/ built for profit, and those buildings that are built custom to live in or to be directly used by the person paying for the construction. Guess which building type turns out to be of higher quality almost every time.

                Though, let me not miss the point. I do agree with the main part of your post. Building stick frame homes is slow, and perhaps stupid. I'm just pointing out that it is the quality of construction that matters more than anything. Building with Logs, bricks, cement, glass, steele can be great, or it can be dumb too. It might depend on the climate. Sometimes, ice is a great resource for building material. Context is important.

                By the way, you might want to check out metal buildings. They can be built quickly, and by a couple of people. Same thing with cement buildings. Same thing with simple rectangular stick frame buildings.
                • If you want to see houses that fly up in a very short time, yet are built damn sturdy, check the Ft Myers/Cape Coral area of Florida. The house I lived in there took 3 months to build, but survived the 130+ MPH winds of Hurricane Charley and didn't even lose a single roof tile.

                  Check for "Concrete, Brick, Stucco" constructions.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by joto ( 134244 )

              If paying the hours of Joe the nail driving roof guy is a major cost factor when building a house, the house is probably too cheap and won't stand a hurricane anyway. Joe can probably use fewer screws further apart and still get a better result than this alleged super-nail at roughly the same price, only increasing costs of wages.

              According to TFA the cost of nails in a new house is $50-$60. The additional cost if you decide to use HurriQuake, is $15. You can argue all you want, but with a minimum wage sal

          • by Khyber ( 864651 )
            Nails, faster?

            Pneumatic-powered air-ratchet. Set torque, add screwdriver bit adapter.

            I just blew thru a box of screws faster than you could pick up a nail, a hammer, position it, tap-tap-tap it int the wood, with elss chance of bending a nail or screwing it up.

            I spend lots of time making subwoofer boxes - nails? No-way, Jose. Too time-consuming.
        • by Flendon ( 857337 )
          OTOH, even though nail guns are wildly popular, they might not be able to handle the oversize head on those nails.
          If you had RTFA you would know that the version described in the summary, the HurriQuake 1, was specifically designed to fit in a standard nail gun.
        • Screw guns aren't all that good. They're rather hard to use, and the screw isn't driven right for about 1/5 screws. When it messes up, it takes a while to fix it. Beyond that, they aren't very fast. You can do 500 nails in the time it takes to do 50 screws.

          Nailgun:
          poppoppoppoppoppoppopopop
          Screwgun:
          brrrrrrrrrrrrrpopbrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrpopbrrrrrrrrrrr rrrpopbrrrrrrasdfasdfasdfGrabdrilldriverandfinisht hescrewbrrrrrrrpopbrrrrrrrrrpop
    • Re:A better nail (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cooldev ( 204270 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @03:47PM (#16994500)
      In other words, you're saying that Bostitch's team of researchers spent six years researching and designing a product and accidentally overlooked the screw? And in naming it a "Best of What's New", PopSci also must have also overlooked that very subtle and mostly unknown but perfectly viable alternative: the screw?

      And of course, for the patent pending features I'm sure they never thought to go to a hardware store and look at other nails. It's clear that your 20 seconds of thought is superior to their six years of research.

      It's so typical of Slashdot readers to waaay underestimate and devalue real research & development and the seemingly minor innovations that come out of it, but fall short of completely revolutionary turn-the-world-upside-down grand-scale innovations -- like building a time machine and teleporter (that's also portable and inexpensive, of course!).

      However, looking at your home page, as a researcher it's surprising that you're one of these people.
      • by Duncan3 ( 10537 )
        "In other words, you're saying that Bostitch's team of researchers spent six years researching and designing a product and accidentally overlooked the screw?"

        Yes, they were designing a nail, why would they be looking at screws?

        And I assure you I've used more nails and screws then you, or probably 99.99% of /. (I'm sure there are a couple of GC's here). Nice of you to judge with no information tho.

        Oh wait, you thought I would put information about myself on the internet ;)
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cooldev ( 204270 )
          Yes, they were designing a nail, why would they be looking at screws?

          No, they were looking for a practical way to lessen the devastating affects of hurricanes and earthquakes and you completely dismissed their research and development with your "duh, screws" comment.

    • Re:A better nail (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cowscows ( 103644 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @03:50PM (#16994528) Journal
      Your average screw won't pull out easily, but fails to sheer stress much sooner than a framing nail. I'd imagine it's possible to design a screw that resists sheer forces as well as a framing nail, but it'd likely be large and expensive, or else someone would've done it already and they'd be in wide use.

      Bolts are nice, but expensive and time consuming.
    • Re:A better nail (Score:5, Insightful)

      by greginterrupted ( 1025818 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @04:04PM (#16994656)
      They are called screws, and they have been known for a few thousand years to be vastly better then nails. Most any floor that's nailed down squeaks for example. And if you want something really good, you use bolts. And their "patent pending" features you'll find on most all the masonry nails in the hardware store.


      All of the comments I have read so far are about shooting down this guy's invention. I guess there are more computer programmers than framers or contractors on Slashdot.

      The example of squeaky floors is something that is directly addressed in the article. The nails have a twist towards the head of the nail to make them less likely to back out. It works under normal conditions, too - it doesn't have to be used in only hurricane prone areas.

      Patent pending features? I've build many structures and worked at a few hardware stores, and the only thing that masonry nails have going for them is that they are thick, slightly harder than common nails, and they have a twist. They will still pull out of wood in a hurricane and probably will squeak if used incorrectly in a wooden floor instead of driving them into concrete.

      The guy in this article put ring shanks on the nail, gave it a twist so it wouldn't back out, and put on a larger head. I've never seen a nail like that before. He ALSO re engineered the material because he wanted an alloy that was hard enough to function as a nail, but soft enough so that it would not snap under stress. It took hundreds of prototypes to create this nail, and the article says that this technology will only add $15 to the building cost of a house. I think that's quite an accomplishment.

      Also, the screws they use in construction are WEAK. They're cheap steel (or a cheap alloy) and are galvanized. Sure, they work for decking, but are NOT suitable for use in framing, while these nails are. The screws you are thinking of have a countersunk head on them and they will also pull through a board easily. I've snapped these screws off using a cheap 12v electric drill.

      What have you invented lately?
      • by Duncan3 ( 10537 )
        the only thing that masonry nails have going for them is that they are thick, slightly harder than common nails, and they have a twist. They will still pull out of wood

        Well I wouldn't use them in wood either, but you can find nails with the "new" features this guy is claiming anywhere.

        "The guy in this article put ring shanks on the nail, gave it a twist so it wouldn't back out, and put on a larger head. I've never seen a nail like that before."

        I have, and I think a couple other posters have already put up l
      • >The example of squeaky floors is something that is directly addressed in the article. The nails have a twist towards the head of the nail to make them less likely to back out. It works under normal conditions

        That wasn't new in itself. There are already flooring nails that fit into a nailgun but have a slight twist to give them some screw-like resistance to being pulled out. There's even a variety that has a drop of solid glue which melts under the friction heat of being driven in and then resolidifies t
    • Well, there is one important difference between these and screws. Screws can un-screw. That is an advantage, but also a disadvantage if you are stricly concerned with longevity.

      Disclaimer: IANAGC

    • You have never had something put together by professional carpenters then. My dad and I, not professional, nailed up porches on the front and back of my house. After a few years the nails are working lose and the front one squeaks. It took us 3 days to do it.

      When they put up the deck around my pool, at least 4 times as much work as what my dad an I done. Four men that knew what they where doing showed up about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Using nail guns they put the deck up in 4 hours and the fucker

    • No. You *totally* don't understand!

      Even a screw fails under shearing stress.

      Though it solves the pulling-out problem, usually, a screw does not solve the shearing problem at all.

      And screws are not necessarily harder to pull out because often they are over-driven which means that the wood surrounding the screw is not solid, but is now sawdust.
    • by fermion ( 181285 ) *
      From my limited work with bolts, they have issues. First, it seems you have to be more skilled/careful to use bolts. The area on the head of the joining surface is greater, so they can apply more stress to the material, and more stress to the bolt. To apply a bolt properly, one really should use a torque wrench. This means that on each bolt you start with a pneumatic power driver and end with a manual torque check. Two tools. The added torque also leads to bow. Of course if one is talking a bolt/nut
  • Building codes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 26, 2006 @03:33PM (#16994356)
    The issue is not that the structures can't handle the winds. It is that the construction codes are not being followed by the builders. Construction is so poor because of cost-cutting by contractors and/or unskilled labor and cutting corners. This was true with Andrew (Miami) and continues to be true. If contractors built to the code and inspectors held them to it, alot of the damage seen would not occur. I have a house that was only 5 miles from the eye of Hurricane Charlie (140+ mph winds) and suffered minimal damage (a few pieces of soffet blown off, no shingles or other damage). But ... we watched the contractors and ensured that they did everything by the book. Neighbors saw their (oftern much more expensive) homes literally blown to the ground. Older structures (60's/70's) also saw little damage.

    So ... just make sure the builders build to the code. Adding a better nail won't cure sloppy cost-cutting construction.
    • by Psiren ( 6145 )
      Could somebody explain to me why so many US houses seem to be built of wood? Why not use concrete, mortar, brick and tile, like we do over here in the UK? Is this a cost thing? Lack of resources? Everytime I see hurricanes on the news I'm still baffled why you keep putting glorified sheds (shacks) bang smack in the way of mother nature. It just seems dumb.
      • by Gorobei ( 127755 )
        Largely because Americans only consider average houses to have a lifespan of 30 years or so (i.e. shorter than Britain, longer than Japan.) Obviously, we can and do build houses with much longer expected lifespans, but the typical house is essentially obsolete within 30 years: ceilings too low, rooms too small, underpowered electricity, no intranet, ugly layout due to incremental expansion, etc. The next thirty years may see a new obsolesence: energy wastage, too big, etc.

        So, its mostly a cost thing com
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) *

        Because houses here are built as cheaply as possible, often even using unskilled illegal-immigrant labor (not that the lazy white hicks that would be the alternative around here would be any better...). Also, we don't have the benefit of comparison to 1000 year old examples of (apparently) good construction to shame the builders into good behavior, as you do over there. In other words, our structures suck because everyone is either too lazy (workers), greedy (builders), or stupid (owners) to care.

      • by mspohr ( 589790 )
        Wood is cheap in the US and expensive in the UK. That's why we have wood houses and you have brick/cement/etc.

        In California, wood is better for earthquakes (flexible) whereas brick just falls down.

  • Beavis and Butthead would be having a field day with that summary
  • by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @03:36PM (#16994376)

    They patented the fat head technology. I'm sure many people in Hollywood or Washington D.C. could claim prior art on this one

  • by Miertam ( 980774 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @03:36PM (#16994384)
    And the construction industry will beat a path to your door. Yes screws are a better fastener but they take much longer to install driving the labor costs up. This is a case where they applied complex tech to the design of something simple and improved it.
    • you had screws you could hammer in and screw out if needed?
    • If you can't be bothered to install a screw instead of a nail, then screw you. ;)

      Seriously, these objects usually have a very large time-to-install : time-being-in-place ratio. Why not do it right if it only takes a little longer, but most likely someone ends up living with the solution for years?
      • Have you ever worked construction? No you haven't.

        Take the few seconds saved for each fastener, multiply that across all the fasteners in a house, then all the houses in a subdivision. Construction labour isn't cheap. You've just save tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in a notoriously low margin and cutthroat industry.
        • Have you ever worked construction? No you haven't.

          Don't state something when you don't know it for sure. As a matter of fact, my father owns a small construction company that specialises in building houses for families.

          I have to say, they use thousands of nails in the construction of a single house. For the temporary scaffoldings, etc. The current nails just do perfectly fine for that purpose. In Hungary it is extremely rare that someone builds a wooden house. 99.9% of the residential homes are brick an

        • Not if you charge more for the superior construction techniques.
    • by Programmer_Errant ( 1004370 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @03:55PM (#16994572)
      I don't think any house is built to standard these days. If the standard says 3 nails per stud, you're lucky to get two nails per. The resulting house is so flimsy that you can literally grab a house by the corner post after the framing in done and wobble the entire structure back and forth. Sometimes even after the sheathing in put on. Sheathing isn't supposed to be the main factor in structural stability, it's there for insulation. Housing inspectors aren't a help here. They're incredibily corrupt.

      IIRC, a lot of the damage from hurricanes was to houses not built to existing code. So unless they use these nails on the builders themselves, I don't think they'll do that much good.
      • by voidptr ( 609 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @04:36PM (#16994948) Homepage Journal
        Sheathing isn't supposed to be the main factor in structural stability, it's there for insulation.


        One of the primary purposes of sheathing is to brace the wall against sheer forces. A square plate and stud wall has no strength against sheer forces unless it's braced diagonally corner to corner. Plywood sheathing properly attached acts as that diagonal brace. Otherwise the top and bottom plates are free to slide parallel to each other and turn the wall into a parallelogram.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by w3woody ( 44457 )
        If a house is built to substandard specifications it's because the building inspectors in your municipality aren't doing their job. The standard job of a building inspector is to verify at each state of construction that the house is built properly and to specification; if the house is not built to spec, the building inspector has the power to demand that the house be torn down and rebuilt.

        My parents are in the construction industry and I've seen a few times where building inspectors demanded a foundation b
    • It depends on the application. Screws are more brittle and the heads can shear off.

  • Was probably a more efficient way to make hurricanes and earthquakes.
  • by dsci ( 658278 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @03:48PM (#16994508) Homepage
    The team machined a series of barbed rings that extend up the nail's shaft from its point

    Boat Nails [stainless-fasteners.com] have been around quite a while; barbs on nails is not new.

    disclaimer: no affiliation with linked-to company in any way; just using as a reference.
    • The team machined a series of barbed rings that extend up the nail's shaft from its point

      Boat Nails have been around quite a while; barbs on nails is not new.

      Duh. Virtually none of the features on the HurriQuake nail are new. The innovation in this instance comes of 'nailing together two things in such a way as they have never been nailed before'. (Pardon the pun and a tip of the hat to the George Carlin.) I.E. it's the combination of individual features that make this nail 'new'.

      The OP's co

  • What about a nail that slips right into its target, opening barbs to prevent it sliding out, holding everything together with only tensile strength?

    A nanofiber nail that's a single atom at the point, and maybe only a few hundred atoms across, braided to keep it straight as it's pushed from behind. Micrometer-long whips pointing back along the shaft for barbs, a flat back for pressing that twists off exactly flush with the surface into which the nail is driven. Bonus points for an electromagnetic effect that
    • by Dahamma ( 304068 )
      At that point our houses will be grown instead of constructed, so there won't be a need to fasten things together in the first place :)
      • Who says it's for nailing houses, or even wood? With the EM retraction, I could staple together big nuggets of GM game I bag in the field outside my cloud dome :).
  • by KonoWatakushi ( 910213 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @04:14PM (#16994740)
    They are marketing these nails as superior fasteners that will withstand a high wind environment. However, they are only fasteners, and the rest of the structure is still just as vulnerable to threats such as fire, water, termites, and so forth. For a truly robust, energy efficient, and long-lasting structure, the obvious solution is concrete.

    Insulating Concrete Forms [wikipedia.org] are basically like Legos made out of an insulating foam. You stack them together, insert rebar, and fill with concrete. The cost is estimated at 5% more than standard wood frame houses, and are superior in every way.

    As the earth warms, storms will continue to become stronger and stronger. "An Inconvenient Truth" goes into more detail, and if you haven't seen it, you really should. In any case, it is about time that we started building more durable structures.
  • Wooden houses (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Maimun ( 631984 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @04:26PM (#16994846)
    As a European, I was very surprised to find out that most houses in Canada and the States are made of woode. Actually, I should have noticed that before, having seen numerous American films. It is so obvious in them the houses are wooden once you pay attention. To me, a house is something made of concrete and bricks.

    I am not trying to annoy anyone here with this comment, just sharing an opinion. A house made of wood feels somehow un-solid (and unsafe, given the strictly positive probability of a fire that is always present). Plus, immediately after arriving in Canada (my first encounter with N. America), I was struck by the fact that all houses I visited (I was looking for a room to rent in Victoria, BC, Canada, and visited quite a few houses in my first several days there) had a strong, pungent, "chemical" smell. First I thought it has to be some commonly used cleaning substance. Later I decided that it has to be some chemicals that the wood had been treated with, probably to repel wood-eating insects or to prevent the wood from decaying. Interestingly, after having lived there for months I stopped feeling the smell -- but going back to my homeland for a vacation and then back to Canada, I would be struck by the peculiar smell again.

    I realise wooden houses are cheaper and faster to build, but, IMHO, they are a poor substitute for brick-and-concrete ones.

    • I have to agree with what you're saying.

      I think housing in Europe is built to last longer, to withstand more. Most likely that's why they are more expensive and slower to build.

      I was quite suprised to hear the talk about profit margins and labor costs in relation to nails for this reason. Yeah, construction is supposed to progress, but in our family business we never had to worry about using nails vs. screws to save time. I guess the general viewpoint and demand here is rather to be slower, but make it
      • Well, Europe's been around longer, and they've got fewer trees to work with.

        The poorly-constructed buildings are gone after a generation or two, while the well-made ones last virtually forever, as is the case in much of Europe. After awhile, you're left with a ton of very old, very solidly-made buildings. Think of it as architectural darwinism.

        Also, wood is cheap, and people these days generally don't plan 75-100 years into the future.

        I've noticed that in recent years, even steel and concrete construction
    • Re:Wooden houses (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mschuyler ( 197441 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @05:37PM (#16995504) Homepage Journal
      Let's do a test. (We may actually be able to do this with historical data.) Take the average European city with houses made of stones, bricks, etc. Take a similar US/Canadian city with houses made of wood. Apply a 7.9 Richter scale quake. Measure resulting destruction. Would you rather be in a 17th century English brick house on the historical register with no changes allowed? Or in a modern American wood house building-code compliant? Would you rather have a tile roof in such a situation? or maybe composition?

      FYI Re: Building code compliance. I've just participated in building a few houses. The new codes are really putting the screws to earthquake construction, literally. The new braces required between foundation and joists are really incredible. Zillions of nails in each brace and every hole must be filled. Contractors amy not want to do it, but they MUST use the new techniques or they don't pass inspection. The codes are evolutionary, but hey do keep getting tougher.

      FYI: Wood houses. Seattle, for example, is only 150 years old. Tere are still lots of forests here, lots of wood. Great Britain, for example, ran out of oak to build the Royal Navy ships, so one of the admirals under Lord Nelson planted a bunch of oak trees on his property in hopes there would be enough oak for the Royal Navy to build ships in 1900.
    • The fire problem (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The thing that burns in a house fire is the contents. It doesn't really matter if the house is fireproof or not, the contents will burn just as well. If the occupants aren't prepared, they will die just as well in a fireproof house. In urban areas, most house fires don't result in irreperable damage to the structure.

      Most municipalities have laws that require smoke detectors in every dwelling. It is also standard to require construction that prevents a burning house from igniting its neighbor. The resul
    • Re:Wooden houses (Score:4, Interesting)

      by repvik ( 96666 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @05:53PM (#16995698)
      "As a European, I was very surprised to find out that most houses in Canada and the States are made of woode. Actually, I should have noticed that before, having seen numerous American films. It is so obvious in them the houses are wooden once you pay attention. To me, a house is something made of concrete and bricks."

      As an European, *I* was very surprised to find out that houses in e.g. Ireland was mainly concrete and bricks. To me, a house is something made of wood. I'm from Scandinavia though, where we've build with wood since the dawn of time. Here, the extreme temperatures require wood, since it's far better to insulate than concrete/bricks. It also "lives" and breathes. In the houses/buildings I've stayed in over a longer period of time, I've noticed that the air inside concrete/brick buildings isn't by far as good as that in wood.
    • There are many possible sources of odor in a new house, treated lumber should not be one of them. The lumber used in framing houses is not normally treated, lumber on decks and some other outside parts of a house are treated to prevent insect damage and rot. Chemical adhesives are used in making plywood and particle board, both of which are common in new houses. Adhesive is also used in the construction of houses. One major item in new houses that contribute to the odor is the carpet. Many interior fin
    • I'm from Scotland and moved to the US.

      Most british construction from the last 30 years is timber-framed with the bricks added afterwards. I believe the bricks provide some support, but the main weight of the roof is supported by the frame.

      The biggest difference that I see in construction is in the roofing materials. My house in colorado has composite shingles that have virtually no weight to them. You can reroof a house easily in a day. My parents house has clay tiles and many houses in britain use slate -
    • by joto ( 134244 )

      As a european, I'm very surprised to find out that another european doesn't think wood is a great building material. Obviously building techniques differ with climate. I've noticed that some africans believe walls are overrated, and that a roof is sufficient. In Norway we obviously don't agree with that. Wood is a better insulator than stone, and that's the end of story as far as we are concerned. Of course, wood has other advantages too, it's easier to manufacture into suitable building materials (all you

    • Most so-called houses in North America are more like wooden tents. There's the frame, and then some fairly thin covering (it hasn't been plywood in decades) that helps hold the frame together and keep the wind and moisture out (mostly). Sounds like a tent to me. You could cut a hole in the wall -- even an exterior wall -- with a good knife.

      The chemical smell you noted may have been from the glue used to hold the pieces of wood together in the particle board used these days. Most new construction isn't
  • Sweet Jesus! How many people that you know would spend $525 for a desk lamp [popsci.com]? Maybe I can apply for a government grant or something.
  • I can just picture it now... President Bush delivering a speech in New Orleans to the flood victims proclaiming his administration successfully found a solution to the problem thanks to good old fashioned American ingenuity. Of course, during this time military aircraft will do overhead drops of "Freedom Hammers" and "Salvation Nails". Pound it in the name of freedom, baby.
    • "Freedom Hammers"

      RTFA -- one of the other things that won an award is the "FUBAR," a hammer that's been redesigned for destruction because builders don't actually use hammers to drive nails anymore.

  • by Catmeat ( 20653 ) <[mtm] [at] [sys.uea.ac.uk]> on Sunday November 26, 2006 @04:43PM (#16995022)
    The average contractor's response won't be "Great, I'll be buildinding something twice as strong". It will be "Great, I can use half the number of nails."

    So the buildings will still fall down when a hurricane hits.
  • So we aren't considering using the earthquake brick [imdb.com]?
  • Okay, I know the pitch they're going for here is a nature-resistant nail that can withstand powerful storms and regular tremors... But I hope I'm not the first person who thought of a certain nail-gun from a certain game when I heard the name of this product.

    Hurriquake nails - nails for real gamers.
  • I saw a pic on that site showing a twist in a nail with "patent pending" on it. Come on. I mean, really? You're really going to try and patent a twist in a nail? Hell, ANY and I mean ANY blacksmith could show you where he did the same thing just for fun. I so very much call prior art and loser company.
  • by M0b1u5 ( 569472 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @07:21PM (#16996414) Homepage
    What idiot dreamed up the name "HurriQuake"? That is amazingly poor.

    How about something builders won't feel like a homosexual saying out loud? The less syllables the better.

    Permafix
    NailBolt
    PermaNail
    Relianail
    SureNail
    Safe-T-nail
    SaferNail
    SafeNails
    PosiNail
    FirmaNail
    StrongNail
    XtraNail
    XtremeNails
    TuffNail
    OMG WTF LMAO BBQ nail
    Schwarzenail
    Nailinator
    Securinail
    SecuraNail
    PermaFix
    PermaHold
    EQnail
    S-Nails
    T-Nails

    There are lots more too.
  • Patents? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by trawg ( 308495 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @09:10PM (#16997220) Homepage
    I'm interested to hear what the Slashdot crowd has to say about them patenting this. Six years is a long time to spend researching something. I'm sure they dumped a truck of money into it. (Without reading the article,) I'm guessing that it's probably relatively reverse engineer a nail and knock it off in a Chinese factory.
  • by demi ( 17616 ) on Monday November 27, 2006 @12:45PM (#17003740) Homepage Journal

    Wood is a great building material, or a poor one. As someone else pointed out, it satisfies many demands simultaneously. Market forces (cost and home type), environment (earthquakes, severe weather and other factors not existing in the UK, for example) and personal taste (ease of retrofit, etc.) all contribute to building material choice.

    One of the factors that's interesting is that the quality of wood used in construction differs quite a lot from the long-lasting timbers in the old wood-frame houses. I owned an over-hundred-year-old house which had lasted through two of our age's most severe earthquakes, with aplomb. In a termite-endemic area the naturally pest-resistant, tight-grained old-growth redwood timbers and planking (it had solid heartwood plank sheathing, not OSB or plywood) had no damage (the "modern" addition, built with current farmed-fir 2x4s, was not so fortunate). I have no doubt that, properly maintained, the house will last another hundred years or more (possibly with more than one generation of modern-construction additions).

    But that wood construction is not typical of current practice. By today's standards (it was built to no code but the good judgment of the original builder) it would be horribly material-hungry and overengineered. The pace of building in the U.S. demands cheaper materials and techniques--in fact, to do otherwise would be a criminal waste of limited natural resources; as to why low-quality timber is being used instead of more poured concrete--I bet it has much to do with consumer demand and tradition (that is, what contractors are used to working with and homeowners are used to buying) and little to do with actual economics.

"There are some good people in it, but the orchestra as a whole is equivalent to a gang bent on destruction." -- John Cage, composer

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