To Truss or not to Truss…

There are several different opinions on this subject and like most discussions it all depends on whom you ask.  A lot of older framers will tell you stick framing is better because you don’t have to wait for design and production and it can be modified on the fly at the job site if things change. If trusses are used they cannot be cut or modified in the field. They may also say stick framing is cheaper because you are not paying for a designers time and production costs, just go buy the lumber and build the house. Some designs (like the one shown below) just cannot be done with stick framing.

The flip side to this is with stick framing there is more room for problems with inspections and the framer is responsible all the construction and has no engineering to back up what he has built. If there are any issues is it up to the framer to convince the inspector that what he did is acceptable. There is also a difference in the time it would take to stick frame rather than setting a rack of trusses.

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The reduced time spent on the job site by using trusses can lower costs and liability for the builder because the framers are on the job site for a shorter time period which could also lower additional insurance costs. There is also less waste, mess, and scrap materials to be disposed of which is another cost involved with stick framing.

The truss company and designers supply the engineering to validate the design and production of the trusses and bears the responsibility of any field issues with the design. A full set of trusses can be installed in a day depending on the size of the house where stick framing could take several days measuring cutting and assembling pieces one by one. The cost of a crane to set the trusses with is much less than the cost of a framing crew for days. On an average size house trusses can be set in one day and at least partially decked the same day. The sooner the house gets dried in the sooner the other trades can start their work cutting down more on the total build time.

The myth that complicated roof systems cannot be done with trusses has been proven to be false time and time again. It all lies in the hands of the truss design technician’s skills and abilities. Also the argument about attic storage not being available with trusses is not true; especially with the introduction of engineered lumber in dimension lumber sizes. LVL can now be used in bottom chords allowing much larger open areas and room sizes.

There are always new products and ideas being introduced allowing more and more design options for trusses and time-saving ways to frame a roof system. Almost every job can be done with trusses with the right skills and abilities. However like anything there are pros and cons for both sides and comes down to what the builder is comfortable with and what he wants to use on his job. All we can do is try to educate him on the other options that are available and show him what can be done with trusses and the savings that are there to be made.

What is your opinion on this subject?

Doug Walter

Gould Design, Inc.