Imported: 18 Feb '17 | Published: 28 Mar '06
USPTO - Utility Patents
A retainer and methods for retaining a spacer bar within an opening in a web of a metal stud. In one embodiment, the retainer includes a cover plate that has a plurality of resilient snap members for retaining engagement with the web of the metal stud when the cover plate is pressed into the web opening. The cover plate may have a notch that is configured to nestingly receive a portion of the spacer bar therein. Other embodiments may include retainer tabs for retaining and/or applying a biasing force to the spacer bar.
1. Field of the Invention
The invention relates to walls constructed from metal studs and, more particularly, to apparatuses and methods for retaining spacer/stiffening bars that extend through openings in metal wall studs.
2. Description of the Invention Background
Traditionally, the material of choice for new residential and commercial building framing construction has been wood. However, over the years, the rising costs of lumber and labor required to install wood framing components have placed the dream of owning a newly constructed home out of the economic reach of many families. Likewise such increasing costs have contributed to the slowing of the development and advancement of urban renewal plans in many cities. Other problems such as the susceptibility to fire and insect damage, rotting, etc. are commonly associated with wood building products.
In recent years, in an effort to address such problems, various alternative building materials and construction methods have been developed. For example, a variety of metal stud and frame arrangements have been developed for use in residential and/or commercial structures. Such studs are traditionally C-shaped with a planar web portion and a pair of legs that protrude therefrom. To facilitate the passage of utility members such as wires, pipes, etc. through the studs and to facilitate bracing of the studs, the stud webs generally have a series of openings punched therein. Unfortunately, if the utility member that passes through the opening is un-insulated and fabricated from a metal that is dissimilar from the metal from which the stud is made, a galvanic reaction could be caused between the utility member and the stud resulting corrosion and deterioration of the utility member and the stud. Further, it is possible that the edges of the openings in the stud webs could be jagged and rough which might lead to damage of the utility members or injury to the installer.
Ordinarily, such metal studs, when arranged in conventional vertical relationship, are braced by traverse spacer bars that extend through vertically spaced openings in the webs of the metal studs. Some spacer bars, such as those disclosed in PCT Application No. PCT/US96/01522 and Australian Published Patent Specification No. 30,388, are configured to fit into a complimentary-shaped opening in the stud webs. PCT Application No. PCT/AU93/00246 discloses a spacer bar that appears to have grooves cut therein that permits the bar to be seated into each respective stud opening. However, spacer bars of the types described above may become inadvertently jarred or otherwise moved out of retaining engagement with the studs as the wall construction continues. In an effort to prevent that from happening, spacer bars that are designed to bite into or retainingly engage the stud webs were designed. U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,784,850 and 6,021,618 to Elderson disclose spacer bars that are designed to retainingly engage the stud webs.
At times, however, even with the types of spacer bars described above, it may be desirable to use additional means to secure the bar to the studs. The additional means ensure that the strength and stiffness of the bridging system is maximized. Thus, brackets have been developed to retain the spacer bars in position. U.S. Pat. No. 3,322,447 to Biggs and U.S. Pat. No. 5,904,023 to diGirolamo et al. disclose various types of clips and brackets that are attached to the studs to retain various types of spacer bars in position. Such clips are usually either attached to the spacer bars and/or the webs of the studs by conventional fastening means such as welding or metal screws and thus, can led to increased installation costs.
One embodiment of the invention provides a retainer for retaining a spacer bar within an opening in a web of a metal stud. The retainer may include a cover plate that has a plurality of resilient snap members for retaining engagement with a portion of the web of the metal stud that extends around the stud opening. The cover plate may also include at least one retainer tab that is oriented adjacent to the spacer bar when the cover plate is affixed to the stud by the plurality of resilient snap retainers which extend into the web opening.
Another embodiment of the present invention comprises a wall that includes at least two metal studs that each have a web portion with at least one web opening therethrough. A spacer bar extends through the web openings of at least two of the metal studs and engages the web portions thereof adjacent to an end of each web opening to space the at least two metal studs apart from each other a predetermined distance. At least one retainer member corresponding to at least one of the web openings through which the spacer bar extends is snapped into the web opening to retain the spacer bar therein.
Another embodiment of the present invention includes a method for constructing a wall which includes supporting a first metal stud having a web with at least one opening therethrough in a vertical orientation such that the first metal stud is plumb. The method also includes supporting a plurality of additional metal studs that each have a web and at least one web opening therethrough such that the web openings of the additional metal studs are aligned with the web openings in the first metal stud. At least one spacer bar is inserted through the aligned web openings of the first metal stud and additional metal studs to orient the first metal stud and the additional metal studs at desired spacing intervals relative to each other. Corresponding retainer members are snapped into the web openings of the first metal stud and additional metal studs such that the spacer bars are retained in each respective web opening.
Referring now to the drawings for the purpose of illustrating the invention and not for the purpose of limiting the same, it is to be understood that standard components or features that are within the purview of an artisan of ordinary skill and do not contribute to the understanding of the various embodiments of the invention are omitted from the drawings to enhance clarity.
FIG. 1 is a partial perspective view of a metal stud wall 10 employing one embodiment of the spacer bar retainers 50 of the subject invention. As can be seen in that Figure, the metal stud wall 10 commonly includes a C-shaped metal base member 12 and a plurality of C-shaped metal studs 20 that extend vertically from the base member and that are attached to the base member 12 by conventional fasteners such as sheet metal screws, rivets, etc. Those of ordinary skill in the art will understand that the top portions of the studs 20 may also be attached to a C-shaped metal top plate (not shown) in a similar manner. The base member 12 is commonly secured to the floor or other support structure and the top plate is secured to the rafters or roof structure.
The C-shaped metal studs 20 are typically fabricated from galvanized steel or similar material and have a web portion 22 and two leg portions 24. Each leg portion 24 may also have a lip or return 26 thereon. To facilitate passage of utility members, such as wires, conduit pipe, etc. through the wall 10, each stud 20 is provided with one or more openings 28 through its web portion. The openings 28 may be shaped as shown in the Figures (i.e., an elongated slot with a rounded upper end 30 and a rounded lower end 32). The openings 28 each have a perimeter, generally designated as 34. Depending upon the application and particular stud configuration employed, the openings 28 may have different shapes. As the present Detailed Description proceeds, however, those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that the various embodiments of the retainers of the present invention may be constructed for use in connection with a variety of differently shaped stud openings. Thus, the various embodiments of the retainers of the present invention should not be limited to use with studs having the particular openings depicted in the present Figures.
To facilitate spacing and support of the metal studs 20 at desired intervals, spacer bars 40 may be employed. A variety of spacer bars are known, such as those depicted in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,784,850 and 6,021,618, the disclosures of which are herein incorporated by reference. The spacer bars 40 may be provided with notches 42, or grooves, slots, tabs, etc. for engagement with a portion of the stud web 22. The notches 42 may be spaced at desired intervals such that when the spacer bar 40 is inserted through the stud openings 28, a portion of the stud web 22 adjacent the bottom end 32 of the opening 28 may be received in the notches 42. In some spacer bars 40, the notches 42 are designed to “bite” into or otherwise retainingly engage the stud web 22. Such spacer bars 40 may be installed by tapping the spacer bar 40 with a hammer or other hand tool to cause it to move down onto and engage a portion of the stud web 22. In this manner, the spacer bar 40 establishes the spacing of the studs 20 and provides lateral support to each of the studs 20 to prevent unwanted bowing or twisting of the studs 20. As will be appreciated, only one stud 20 needs to be plumbed. Thus, after a “first” stud 20 has been plumbed and fixed in place, all other studs 20 should be held plumb by the spacer bar 40 or chain of overlapping spacer bars 40.
Other forms and types of spacer bars may employ vertical slots that are sized to receive the stud web therein without establishing an interference fit between the spacer bar and the stud web. Yet other spacer bar arrangements may be provided with tabs that engage the stud web or have irregularly shaped slots that engage the webs of the studs. Those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that various embodiments of the retainer of the subject invention may be configured to work equally well with a variety of different types and shapes of spacer bars. For example, the spacer bar may be U-shaped or arcuate in shape, etc.
FIGS. 2–6 illustrate one embodiment of a spacer bar retainer 50 of the present invention. As can be seen in those Figures, the retainer 50 includes a cover plate 52 that may be sized to completely cover the portion of the opening 28 in the web 22 that is located above the spacer bar 40 after the spacer bar 40 has been seated or otherwise placed into the lower end 32 of the opening 28. In FIG. 6, the portion of the web opening 28 extending above the spacer bar 40 has been generally designated as 36. In this embodiment, the retainer 50 is fabricated from high tensile strength steel plate. For example, high tensile steel plate that is 1/32″ or 1/16″ thick may be employed. It is conceivable, however, that the retainer 50 may be fabricated from other types and thicknesses of metals or “polymeric” materials such as plastic, polyvinyl chloride, etc. The retainer 50 could also be fabricated from rubber or rubber-like material.
In the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 2–5, the cover plate 52 is sized to be wider than the width of the opening 28 in the stud web 22. For example, the width “A” of the cover plate 52 may be 2 inches for applications wherein the stud opening 28 is 1.5 inches wide (width “B” in Figure). However, the cover plate 52 may be provided with other widths and sizes relative to the width and size of the opening 28 without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.
Also in this embodiment, the edges of the metal cover plate 52 may be folded over the rear side 53 of the cover plate 52 and a plurality of resilient snap clips 56 may be cut and bent into the metal as shown in FIGS. 3–5. In this embodiment, the snap clips 56 are shaped to permit the cover plate 52 to be positioned in front of the opening 28 in the stud web 22 and then pressed or otherwise forced into snapping engagement with the stud web 22. It will be appreciated that the resilient snap clips 56 initially flex to enable the stud web 22 to be received between the cover plate 52 and outer edges of the snap clips 56 as shown in FIGS. 7 and 8. Those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that the amount of retention force generated by the resilient snap clips 56 and the amount of force necessary to snap the retainer 50 into the opening 28 can be dependent upon the type of materials used and the dimensions and configurations of the snap clips 56. While the snap clips 56 described above are integrally formed within the cover plate 52, those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that other forms of snap retainers could conceivably be attached to the cover plate to snappingly affix the retainer to the stud web 22 without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. For example, spring biased retention members, detents, etc. could be used to snappingly affix the retainer to the stud.
Also in this embodiment, a retaining tab assembly 60 or biasing assembly may be formed on the lower end of the cover plate 52. The retaining tab assembly 60 may comprise a pair of retainer tabs 62 cut into the lower portion of the cover plate 52 and bent to define a notch 70 that has a contour that substantially matches the cross-sectional shape or outer contour of a spacer bar 40. For example, in the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 6 and 7, the spacer bar 40 has a V-shaped cross-section and the notch 70 has the shape of an inverted “V” so that when the retainer 50 is snappingly attached to a portion of the web 22 defining the web opening 28 as described above, the spacer bar 40 is “nestingly” received within the notch 70. In one embodiment, the retainer tabs 62 may be bent to bias the spacer bar 40 into engagement with the stud web 22 when the retainer 50 is snapped into the installed position as shown in FIG. 6. It will also be appreciated that the notch 70 can be sized and shaped to accommodate overlapped spacer bars 40 in the manner illustrated in FIG. 1.
For those embodiments wherein the retainer 50 is molded or otherwise fabricated from polymeric materials or rubber, the retaining tab assembly 60 may also be molded to establish a biasing force against the spacer bar 40 when the retainer 50 is installed or the retainer tab assembly 60 may be molded to act as a stop to prevent the spacer bar 40 from being dislodged from the stud 20 without applying a biasing force to the spacer bar 40. Another advantage enjoyed by this embodiment of the present invention is the ability to center the spacer bar 40 within the bottom portion 32 of the web opening 28. That is, by centrally positioning the notch 70 in the lower end of the cover plate 52, the notch may serve to center the spacer bar 40 when the retainer 50 is snapped into the web opening 28.
To facilitate passage of utility members 82 such as wires, conduit, piping, etc. through the stud openings 28 and the retainers 50, the retainers 50 may be provided with one or more utility openings 80 therein. If desired, a knockout slug 81 may be provided in the cover plate such that the user may easily remove the knockout slug 81 if an opening 80 is required. Such knockout slug 81 can be of the type commonly employed in electrical junction boxes and the like.
Another embodiment of a retainer 150 of the present invention is depicted in FIG. 9. In this embodiment, the retainer 150 is identical to the retainer 50 described above, except that it lacks the retaining tab assembly 60. A notch 170 is provided in the bottom portion of the cover plate 152 for nestingly receiving the spacer bar 40 or spacer bars (when overlapped) therein. The reader will appreciate that the cover plate 152 has the above-mentioned resilient snap clips 56 formed thereon. Also, a knockout slug 181 may be provided in opening 180 in the cover plate 152 to facilitate passage and support of utility members through the retainers 150.
As indicated above, the unique and novel aspects of the present invention are not limited to a particular shaped opening in the stud webs or a particular shape of spacer bar. For example, FIGS. 10–12 depict another retainer embodiment of the present invention for use in connection with a spacer bar 140 that is roughly U-shaped. The spacer bar 140 in this embodiment has a relatively planar upper portion 142 and two leg portions 144 that each protrude from the planar upper portion 142 at an angle. Slots or notches (not shown) sized to receive and engage the stud web 22 therein are provided in the leg portions at desired intervals. If desired, stiffener ribs may be provided in the planar upper portion 142 and/or the leg portions 144 for additional strength and rigidity.
The retainer 250 in this embodiment has a cover plate 252 of the type and construction described above and at least one resilient snap clip 256 of the types and construction described above attached to or integrally formed thereon. The lower end of the cover plate 252 has a notch 270 therein that is configured to nestingly receive the U-shaped spacer bar 140 therein. If desired, the retainer 250 may be provided with one or more retainer tabs 262 or biasing members for biasing the U-shaped spacer bar 140 into engagement with the stud web 22. In an alternative embodiment, the retainer 250′ includes the notch 270′ without the retainer tab. See FIG. 13. The retainers 250, 250′ of these embodiments may be installed in stud web openings 28 in the manners described above.
FIG. 14 depicts another retainer embodiment of the present invention for use in connection with a spacer bar 340 that is U-shaped. The spacer bar 340 in this embodiment has a relatively planar upper portion 342 and two leg portions 344 that each protrude from the planar upper portion 342. Slots or notches (not shown) may be provided in the leg portions 344 at desired intervals for receiving a portion of a web of a corresponding stud (not shown) therein. Other spacer bar embodiments may not be provided with such notches.
The retainer 450 in this embodiment has a cover plate 452 of the type and construction described above and at least one resilient snap clip 456 of the types and construction described above attached to or integrally formed thereon. The lower end of the cover plate 452 has a notch 470 therein that is configured to nestingly receive the U-shaped spacer bar 340 therein. If desired, the retainer 450 may be provided with a retainer tab 462 which corresponds to the planar portion 342 of the spacer bar 340. The retainer tab 462 may have at least one hole 463 therethrough to receive a fastener such as a screw or the like to attach the retainer tab 462 to the upper planar portion of the spacer bar 340. It will be appreciated that such arrangement prevents those spacer bars that lack the slots or notches for engaging the stud webs from sliding within the stud opening. In addition, the cover plate 452 may have at least one and preferably two lateral retainer tabs 464 which each correspond to one of the leg portions 344 of the spacer bar 340 as shown in FIG. 14. Such lateral retainer tabs 464 prevent the spacer bar 340 from rotating within the stud opening. If desired, one or both of the lateral retainer tabs 464 may also be attached to the corresponding leg portions of the spacer bar 340.
The various embodiments of the present invention described above-offer vast improvements over the apparatus and methods commonly employed when constructing metal walls. In particular, in the past, after the spacer bars were installed, brackets had to be screwed into the studs and often into the spacer bars which required additional labor and time to install. The retainers of the present invention are designed to be retained in place without the use of additional mechanical fasteners or fastening methods. For example, various retainer embodiments of the present invention may be snapped into place by the installer immediately after the spacer bars have been installed. There is no need for power drills, screwdrivers or the like to complete the installation.
In addition to the above-mentioned advantages, various retainer embodiments of the present invention may also act as grommets for supporting and protecting the utility members that pass through the openings in the studs. In particular, if the openings in stud webs inadvertently have ragged edges, such ragged edges could damage the utility members extending therethrough and/or injure the installer during insertion of the utility members through the openings. Furthermore, by acting as a grommet, the retainer can prevent the likelihood of galvanic corrosion occurring between utility members and a stud that are fabricated from dissimilar materials. Also, various embodiments of the subject invention may be provided with smooth openings in the retainer cover plate that are sized and shaped to accommodate a particular utility member.
Yet another advantage provided by the subject invention concerns reinforcement of the openings in the studs. In those embodiments wherein the cover plate completely covers the opening extending above the spacer bar, the retainer will act to reinforce the opening which results in a stronger wall construction.
Whereas particular embodiments of the invention have been described herein for the purpose of illustrating the invention and not for the purpose of limiting the same, it will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that numerous variations of the details, materials and arrangement of parts may be made within the principle and scope of the invention without departing from the spirit invention. The preceding description, therefore, is not meant to limit the scope of the invention. Rather the scope of the invention is to be determined only by the appended claims and their equivalents.