I've been around to the local suppliers shopping for hardware, doing price comparisons, etc. A few questions about hardware and connections.
1. Simpson vs. USP: Local lumberyard sells Simpson Z-Max, Menards (regional chain) sells USP "triple Z" (for zinc), which are rated for ACQ and cost about 30% less. Any reason not to buy the USPs?
2. Beams on saddle or notch: Which is the better connection method? Post caps run about $14 each, whereas lag bolts are under $2, so notching would be cheaper but entail more labor. What would you do?
3. Hold down anchors: Are these required/recommended for all posts? One source I read says they're code, but Another source says to put 'em in with lag bolts. Who's right? They're $11 a pop, and I've got around 25 posts to mount. Is the answer different for 6x6 pergola posts vs. 4x4 railing posts for a deck 3 feet high?