With timber shortages likely to remain a factor for a while, this Multinail product helps you make the best use of your framing timbers, and adds a bit of speed to the process, too.

The very short version of this story is this: framing timbers are in high demand at the moment. They’re most valuable as long, structurally supportive elements. Rather than using valuable timber on nogs, Multinail’s Steel Nog System does the job for many wall frames effectively, quickly and with cost and labour savings. Plus, and I cannot emphasise this part strongly enough, some users shorten the name to SNOGS and that’s hilarious.

“Our COO Trent Taylor saw the precursor to this product being used at a fabricator’s in Canberra,” says David Zhang, Multinail’s lead structural engineering manager.

“He said ‘this is a great idea, let’s work together and make it into a proper product we can supply to everyone in the country.’ And that’s basically what we did. There was some technical development on the product and we developed a machine to help fabricators install them by trenching them into the frame, and then we took it to the wider market.”

The galvanised steel nogs are applied as two continuous rows on standard walls up to 3m, rebated up to 10mm into the studs at specified spacings on the uprights and with some limitations on applications and other elements such as bracing.

“It changes a little bit of the engineering properties of the prefabricated wall frames,” Zhang says. “However, noggins are non-structural members, they only provide restraints to the studs. This steel nog has exactly the same function as a timber one. The only difference is that it needs to be installed to our specification, which is normally two rows of steel nogs in one timber frame compared to one row of timber ones running along the middle. As always, there’s a lot of technical design criteria, restrictions and limitations for that, but they’re very clearly outlined in our materials and advice and easy to follow.”

The nogs are specified for installation at 800mm from the base plate then 900-1350mm between the two rows. Attachment is simple: fix to first and last studs with 2/2.5Ø hardened, screw shank gun nails, then to the remaining studs with one. There’s a bit of complexity around the bracing restrictions, eg, the Steel Nog System works well with flat tension bracing and OSbrace, but cannot be used with metal angle brace. Timber nogs are required if a short wall bracing system is used and additional timber nogging should be used within a Steel Nog wall frame if needed for horizontal butt joints of ply sheets.

Multinail released the new product quietly at the time and has since been growing it on listening to feedback from customers.

“It went quite well,” says Zhang. “We pushed the product into Victoria in particular, where there are a couple of our Multinail fabricators who have been using them for three or four years now. They supply a lot of jobs with steel nogs. As well as saving timber, it also speeds up manufacture: you just put on strips of tensioned steel nogging, nail it on then put the frame up as normal. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Fabricator bonuses

Initially the concept of SNOGS was focused on convenience for fabricators.

“Now, due to the timber shortage, I think this is a really good product that more people should be looking at,” Zhang says. “People don’t need to sacrifice their lengths for nogs and there are still a lot of other options for utilising offcuts on most jobs.”

The Multinail team has heard a lot of positive feedback from their fabricator customers. “I believe the fabricators really like the idea of it,” says Zhang.

“First of all, they don’t need to cut all those 415mm timber nogs and then install them which takes quite a bit of time. This is a really good product from the point of efficiency. It can help fabricators to manufacture things faster and more efficiently. It’s more practical as well, because you don’t need as much labour as you do with timber nogs. The feedback I’ve heard suggests that they’re quite happy with our Steel Nog System, to the point they would rather use it than the timber.

”The only possible downside of steel nogs is that it’s one less element for people to stick a nail in to hang a picture,” Zhang adds. “Just use a stick-on hook instead!”

Unlike some design solutions, this is one that doesn’t create follow-on issues at other parts of the build process. As Zhang says: “For the electrician, plumbers and the like, because the steel nogs have a thin profile, they can run those services directly from the top to the bottom, there’s nothing in the way. It’s another advantage and saves the time and potential risk of having to make holes. We’ve got multiple busy fabricators who are using this system and have received a lot of positive reports about its usability.”

Joe Hackett, co-owner of Complete Frames in Victoria is one of those fabricators. Complete Frames has been using the Steel Nog System for several years now and has found the system answers a lot of the company’s needs. “It’s simple and it’s practical,” Hackett says.

“A couple of years prior to Multinail coming to us with the Steel Nog System, I would have loved to have had a way to get rid of the timber noggins wherever possible in our automated wall line – they create a lot of issues, from time to labour to safety.

“I always thought that if we could come up with a way to just remove the timber noggins and nail something to the face of the wall, that would be perfect! We had no idea how to do it, but lo and behold Multinail came along with the idea, which they’d picked up from another fabricator.”

Hackett is enthusiastic about the system. “We love it,” he says. “Our clients love it and our clients’ trades love it. It took the chippies a little bit to get used to it just because people generally don’t like change, but now the lockup chippies, plumbers and sparkies all love it for the simple reason it gives them room to work.

“From a fabricator point of view, it’s much easier for us to work with, and faster. Especially at the moment when it’s harder to get your hands on a pack of timber than it is to get your hands on the winning Lotto numbers. The steel nog solution means that’s one less thing to worry about.”

For the Complete Frames team, it’s about more than just simplified and economical processes. “I also think it allows us to provide a better product,” Hackett says.

“It’s easier for us to straighten the first and last studs of every wall and then every stud individually as well. Time-wise, it doesn’t add anything to the build, so that’s an ideal solution.”

So if you’re looking for a way to stretch your timber supply and speed up a few processes along the way, it might be time to say give us a SNOG. (Don’t bother writing a complaint email, I’ve already had a stern word with myself about that gag.)

For more information, visit www.multinail.com.au/products/steel-nogs

Image: A wall frame manufactured using Multinail’s Steel Nog System with a flat-strap brace. The steel nogs are rebated into the back of the frame, leaving plenty of room for services.