Recently a project came across our desk that was an unusual attic design. The architect had drawn in an attic condition that “stepped up and over the floor joists at one end of the building. In other words, the attic truss had no bottom chord!
The design was 2 mono trusses “sistered” together at a ridge girder over the attic space. The mono truss had to step up and over the depth of the floor joists that were weaved in between the roof trusses.
While the design at the end walls was fairly simple to accomplish, as the trusses tied back in the adjoining planes, it presented some challenges. As the ceiling condition transitioned, some of the trusses had to rest on the top chord of a girder and others had to hang into the bottom chord…of the same girder!
The girder itself had to leg down. Yuck!
At the other end of the building, the plan called for the floor depth being built into the dual-pitch attic truss.
The fun part was that the ceiling condition of the slope up to the attic ceiling height was to remain consistent throughout the entire building!
Sometimes, these attic design can be head-scratchers. On this particular design, the architect did a fabulous job anticipating everything and it all worked out beautifully. Ah yes, the beauty of the attic truss!
What types of unusual attic designs have you seen in your travels?
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Are you aware that the MiTek software will allow you to sheath your gables in the software? Are you using this tool? Consider the value it could provide to your customer if you could provide this as an option on your quote sheet. Here are a few tips to consider about the sheathing feature.
Sheathing is most common in the application where it covers the entire gable face. Yet, there are jobs where this is not necessary. To ensure proper application, you will need to take a few extra steps.
Dimensions for Sheathing Placement
When designing partially sheathed gables where the sheathing is raised from the bottom chord, always add a vertical dimension from the bottom edge of the truss to the bottom of the sheathing. MiTek provides notes on the shop drawings that describe where the sheathing gets applied EXCEPT for this case where the sheathing is held up from the bottom chord.
- To add the vertical dimensions to the sheathing, you will need to add a horizontal reference line in Versa-Truss to represent the bottom limit of your sheathing.
- Then use the “add dimension” tool in Versa-Truss to add the vertical dimension.
Doing so will ensure your shop has the proper placement. After all, what is the point of a value-added feature for your client unless it is correct? Take the extra time to ensure your shop personnel can accurately apply the sheathing.
Ask your customer if this is something they want. I think you will be amazed when they say “I didn’t know you could do that!” After all, the application is happening anyway, why not do something to distinguish yourself from the competition?
Remember: It’s the little things that add the value for repeat sales!
Gould Design, Inc. Administration
As truss designers, we are fortunate to have built into our job description constant mental stimulation. Our job is really about putting “pieces of the puzzle” together and “making everything fit”. Sometimes we run into design project assignments that cover all 3 aspects I have just mentioned. This article is about one such project.
This particular assignment is one of those that have just about every condition you can think of in it. It would have helped if the building designer would have taken the time to figure out how to support all of these unusual conditions, but, thankfully, he left that up to me. This job was so mentally stimulating that I found it hard to walk away from it when it was time to go home.
I won’t take space to relate all of the details of the project; rather I want to focus on 2 particular conditions that a truss designer just does not see every day and hopefully inspire some creativity for when you run into something like this in the future.
Radius Wall Framing
As you can see, this project has a radius tower at the entry. The problem is, below this tower is totally open to below and no bearing is available to support it. In fact, in the first draft of the architectural plans, the radius was pushed back 7’ from where it is now, making it impossible to support. This is what I came up with to solve the problem.
To say this was fun is an understatement. It took a great deal of thought and careful mathematics to even consider this type of solution. It requires trusses on 2 different levels to transfer loads down to the foundation in order to support this 19’9” radius tower.
Upper Loft Framing
This project also had another fun challenge to overcome. There is a sloping flat roof that connects to an upper loft balcony overlook that is open to below.
In order to access this loft, some imagination had to be used, as the ceiling height over the stairway was on a plane sloping down. I ran some butt-cut, tail-bearing monos that bear directly on top of monos at the level below at one end and hang into a sloping flat girder at the other end. Fun!
In addition, the sloping roof had to be turned and supported by the loft beam to avoid having to place loads down to a beam in the floor system that barely worked carrying only wall, jacks and floor loads.
What types of creative design have you run into recently? How did you “Do the Impossible”
If you have ever wanted to start your own business and work from home, GDI presents a unique opportunity to do just that. Below, I have co-opted a blog post I wrote last year to provide a sense of what GDI, INC looks for in those we partner with and how to assess yourself to see if you would be a good fit.
GDI, INC is looking for designers who are self-starters, and eager to operate their own business. We have the clients, agreements, and the workflow. You control your schedule, pace, etc. While many are dissuaded by the lack of a “steady” paycheck or a fixed hourly rate, I would present this as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. As a contractor, your earning potential will be directly related to your performance.
One thing before I continue. Fundamentally, GDI, INC is about being in business with integrity. We don’t cut corners. We don’t knowingly do things wrong and then send it in regardless. We respond to mistakes with humility, make restitution, and learn from them. We are in business so, yes, we are about making money, but not to the exclusion of our integrity. GDI, INC is a company operated by folks of integrity and so we expect integrity of people that we partner with.
If you are interested in providing us with remote design services, contact me after you finish reading this article.
So, let’s face it, this is the age of the entrepreneur. If you are considering a move to remote truss design work start with this article before making the move. We are going to look at the essential characteristics to help you succeed and reach your goals:
- Effectiveness and Efficiency
Want to succeed at any vocation? Be humble. This goes hand in hand with all the other traits and forms a kind of feedback loop that allows you to gauge where you are, honestly, and where course correction needs to occur.
Humility is a frame of mind which governs how we conduct ourselves, how we respond to criticism, and how we criticize others. It allows us to see our own weakness and then take steps towards growth.
How do you improve humility? One way is to become a beginner at something, where you rely on others to teach you, and where you place yourself in a position to receive criticism. Humility is always hungry to learn.
- Volunteer with a charity
- Take music lessons
- Take a martial arts class
- Ask your kids to teach you something (huge for them and you!)
Humility and humor share the same root. Being able to laugh at yourself is the key to humility. Don’t be so serious that you can’t see the humor in your foibles. See them, laugh at them, and move on!
Effective and Efficient
These two are so interconnected that I will discuss them together. Tim Ferriss has a useful definition that I’ve adopted. Being effective is doing the right things, being efficient is doing those things right.
To succeed at remote truss design, we need to determine the right things to do, then we need to determine the most efficient ways to accomplish them. Doing the wrong things efficiently does not provide value. It’s still doing the wrong things.
Recently I had the opportunity to shadow my boss as he posted a blog and reviewed his social media content for the business.
He follows a sequence that he does every day, quickly moving from task to task, and he had it wrapped up in a half hour (it was that long cause he was showing me things as he went).
He posted a blog article, wrote notes to connections on LinkedIn, reviewed groups that he manages, added new connections, accepted invitations, shared an article or two that he thought would be useful, all this within a short span of time.
As I reflected on this I thought of how ineffective (not identifying and doing the right things) my social media time was. As distracting as social media can be, he found a way to navigate it through a series of tasks to be performed, completed those tasks, and moved on to the next thing on his plate while staying true to his goal to provide value to others.
That kind of approach is important as a freelancer because you aren’t often paid by the hour, but rather on a job by job basis. A job that I bill out at $200.00 will be that regardless if I spent 2 or 20 hours doing it. Succeeding at remote design then is directly related to being as effective and efficient as possible.
Now, whenever I hear someone complaining about not having enough time I wonder if they really don’t have enough time, or if they are doing the wrong things with their time. If time is a currency, then what you spend it on is more important than how much you have.
How can you become more effective?
- Make a list of your top priorities
- Make a list of things that you do in a day/week/month/year. Determine if those things are aligned with your priorities.
- Ruthlessly deal with the non-priority things that you find yourself doing. Schedule them out of your time, or schedule them in where they don’t interfere with your work (e.g. check social media at lunchtime or at the end of the day, don’t allow that to enter into your work-time).
How can you become more efficient?
- Stay up on developments in your field and the tools you use. Keep educating yourself.
- Find ways to reduce “clicks” of the mouse, or taps on the keyboard. E.g. shortcuts to eliminate using the ribbon and drop down menus.
- Automate as much as you can. E.g. set up a labeling scheme so that you have very minimal manual labeling to do.
- Is there a menu default that doesn’t match up with what you need 99% of the time? Look into settings to change the defaults. Now you only change it for the 1% of the outlier situations.
- Give yourself time limits and goals for completing a job. This can add a sense of urgency and focus on the task at hand. E.g. aim to have a job done by 3 pm so you can spend time with your kids when they get home from school.
Like we talked about, Freelancing is the dream. You have leeway in setting your schedule, the frequency of work, what work you accept, etc. But, is it the freedom that everyone craves?
Not without discipline. Without discipline, being a freelancer will be torturous. Deadlines won’t be met, money will be tight, everyone at your house will hate you because you are stressed out.
Discipline is that inner voice, yours (I hope!), telling you what to do and then obeying it.
How do you improve your discipline?
- Start the day with a simple goal and follow through with it. E.g. set your alarm and get up when it goes off!
- Continue through the day with goals that you set ahead of yourself and execute.
- Decision fatigue will give way to discipline. Discipline in one area begets discipline in other areas.
- Don’t put it off! Take little steps now!
Is it possible to “own” something that you don’t truly own? Absolutely. When you take on the mindset of treating a company or a job as if your own interests are at stake you will enter into an ownership mindset.
Personally, I have been both an employee and an employer. I know what it is like on both sides and so whatever hat I happen to be wearing the “flip side” has informed how I operate.
Whether as an owner, employee, or freelancer it is important to view the success or failure of your employer or clients as your own. Taking ownership means owning the failures and owning the solutions to the problems that you encounter and not putting them off on others.
What does this mindset look like? Here are some examples:
- Bill your client as if you were paying the bill. That changes things, doesn’t it? Adding in padding that shouldn’t be there only hurts your client and could even end your work relationship. Think about how you would respond to an invoice that was higher than expected or reasonable.
- Treat omissions as opportunities. When you realize that you missed something in your work, don’t ignore or hide it. Take it to your client. Say, “Hey, I did this work and in reviewing it later I see I missed X, Y, Z. What can I do to make this right?” They may not be happy, but this would at least give them the opportunity to correct the issues. Ultimately, I think they would respect you more and it would increase rather than detract from your credibility.
- If a project fails don’t blame others. Blame yourself and learn from your mistakes. If someone under you fails, don’t blame them, blame yourself for not giving them the direction they need. Then take it upon yourself to train them up to avoid those mistakes in the future.
- Ownership is all encompassing. It is saying “the buck stops here” even if your title doesn’t say “CEO” or “President”. That doesn’t mean you park in the CEO’s parking spot. If you do, you didn’t get that advice from me!
Let me answer one objection. It would run along the lines of, “But, if I take ownership of mine and other people’s mistakes, I’m going to be sacked” or “I’m going to lose clients!”
If you lose your job because you took responsibility, then the company wasn’t worth working for and you are better off. No. What happens when people take responsibility for mistakes and who work to grow and learn from them all the while creating solutions? They are given more responsibility. What is responsibility? You guessed it: “Ownership”.
We have had many good blog articles on communication that you can find here and here and here that I will refer you to for review if you want to go into greater depth on this topic. Here are the basics.
It is important to remember that our communication is with people, not robots. People have thoughts, feelings, stresses, and tensions in their life… all of which affect their communication.
Working remotely requires the right balance of communication, but it is better to err on too much to start, and dial it down, rather than not enough.
Here are some ways to improve communication:
- Determine how to communicate on a person by person basis. What method (phone, email, texting, or another messaging tool) and what style (personal, formal, chatty, to the point, etc.).
- Follow up vital information provided over the phone with an email summarizing that information. Get your client to confirm.
- Ask questions. If you think they will make you look stupid, just think about how stupid you will look if you provide a product that is wrong… all because you didn’t ask. Ask questions!
Remember that communication is more about building relationships than just gathering information.
We hope this gets you thinking about what it will take to succeed at remote truss design or whatever it is you have set as a goal. What thoughts do you have on what it takes to succeed? Let us know in the comments below!
Tim Hoke – Design Manager / Sales – firstname.lastname@example.org – 276-492-8020
Gould Design, INC
What is false bottom under-framing, you ask. To put it simply, false bottoms are non-structural filler chords attached to the bottom chord of a truss (see below). They are used in a number of different situations including, but not limited to double step ceiling conditions, ceiling height changes, and vaulted ceiling conditions. The benefits of using false bottoms consist of less on-site framing, less expensive truss material cost, and more efficient labor during truss manufacturing. Client preferences, architectural plans, and designer discretion determine when false bottom under-framing is useful.
Briefly, I would like to talk about how a false bottom is created using MiTek. The command can be located under the “Tools” menu in the upper left, by placing it in a toolbar, or by creating a hotkey for it. Once the command is open, the dialog is completed with the information needed for the filler.
In the location box, the option of which side to start from is provided. In this case, the filler started at 5-1/2” in from the left end of the truss. The “End at” field indicates where the false bottom stops. 6’ 8” was used in this example. The starting height of “0” indicates that the underside of the false bottom is the same as the plate height, or bearing height, of the truss. If a false bottom is being applied to create a ceiling height change of 1’, the starting height would be 1’. Either a slope or an end height may be used to create a vaulted false bottom. Extensions left or right will extend the bottom filler chord; however, the vertical filler members are not present over the extended horizontal member. “Stud spacing”, “Min. Stud Length”, “Butt Cut”, and “Stud From” are all adjustable and are used to meet client specifications and building codes.
Alright, now we can move on to the important stuff. The filler chords in a false bottom are non-structural because they don’t contribute to the matrix of the truss itself. However, when analyzing a truss with a false bottom condition there are certain aspects that the designer must consider. Normally drywall is applied directly to the bottom chord of a truss. When there is a false bottom, the drywall is applied to the filler chord instead of the bottom chord in that area of the truss. In other words, the false bottom under-framing must still be analyzed by the software.
In another instance, the filler chords require plates throughout the false bottom and plates to affix the under-framing to the bottom chord of the truss. Sometimes, based on location, plates will overlap in the area where the truss bottom chord and the filler chords join. Overlapping plates are not O.K., they are bad. When plates overlap it causes an insufficient grip between the teeth of the plate and the member of the truss. Improper plating of a truss has a significant structural impact and will cause the truss to fail. In the following example, the plates overlap slightly. The integrity of each plate is intact and so the joint plates and the truss passes.
We want to make sure that the system is setup to provide a proper analysis in the two previous scenarios. Prior to analyzing the truss, verify that the system will plate non-structural members. There are a couple ways to access the plating options in the MiTek engineering program. The edit dropdown at the top left houses the plate options menu. Plating can be viewed by going into truss basics (Ctrl+B). Another option would be to setup a hotkey for the plating options menu.
Once inside the plate options menu, scroll down until you see the following:
Make sure that “Plate separately” is selected from the drop down next to “Non-structural members”. Next, analyze the truss. Analysis of a truss will provide any necessary bracing required. Any bracing displayed by the engineering drawings must be adhered to in the field. As discussed previously, the drywall for the ceiling is applied to the false bottom. Purlin bracing must be used in those areas. If there aren’t any structural issues, the truss will pass and may be saved.
Now we are able to properly create and analyze a false bottom in MiTek. Not only are false bottoms a time saver, but also they are more economic. In a few short and easy steps, fillers may be added to a truss. The Proper analysis provides accurate truss drawings that must be replicated both by the truss manufacturer and the builder.
Those are just a few tips we have. What tips and tricks do you use?
Admin – Gould Design Inc.
If you are like me you are always looking for different, faster, and more productive ways to work. Here is a method I stumbled upon for quickly inputting the filler webs needed in a Boston gable truss. A Boston gable is a gable truss that has other trusses or conventional framing attached to the side. Instead of the field applied framing to support the sheathing and flashing at the intersection of the sloping plane and the vertical plane (the gable face), the blocking can be installed by the component manufacturer. So, let’s look at a quick way to accomplish this.
First of all, I’ve highlighted my Boston Gable truss below. There you can see that I have two runs of gable trusses tying into it on each side and a plane sloping up to the gable truss in the middle.
When I first input the truss it came in, as I would expect, with the top chord following the profile of the main span. For the first step, I’m going to modify the top chord. From the left end of the truss to the right, I’ll click on the planes in front of the gable truss. Here is the result; I’ve highlighted the modified top chord. This effectively gives me the centerline of the blocking I’ll be installing.
Next, I’ll import the modified truss into engineering and save it outside of the job folder. No need to analyze.
Once it is saved I will go back into Sapphire and modify the truss so that it has the correct top chord.
This client wants us to match the webbing of the truss just behind the Boston gable, then stitch the filler blocks in between the webs. So, after re-importing my Boston Gable truss I use the match webs tool with the adjacent truss.
I save, close out of the truss, then re-open it to lose the “shadow” of the truss I matched. Next, I’ll match webs again, this time I match with the template that I saved outside the job folder. You’ll notice that it messes up your webbing.
Just click undo and it reverts the webs back to where they should be, but the outline of the template remains giving you the profile of the roof planes tying into the face of the gable.
Sometimes the “shadow” of the template makes it hard to place the webs correctly. If needed just put in some reference lines along the top chord of the outline. Save the profile, close, then re-open. Once you go back into versatruss you’re reference lines will still be in place but the outline has been removed so that you can stitch in your filler cleanly. I leave the input setting at center and install all my filler. It comes in as 2×4 and will need to be 2×6, but I will leave that for now.
Next, you will want to change the properties of the “webs” that you have installed so that it is considered “non-structural” and not factored into the loading of the web members. Once this is done you can go through and make the filler pieces 2×6 if needed. If you happen to change to 2×6 first then change the properties of the fillers the filler pieces will all switch back to 2×4. So, change properties then size. Go ahead and analyzed the truss to make sure you’re filler is truly filler and not treated as a structural element of the truss. If you get funky errors chances are you have missed a filler piece. Turn analog on if you have trouble finding it.
Now it’s just a matter of inputting gable studs in above the filler pieces according to my client criteria. Any studs that come in below the filler pieces can be deleted. In this case, there is a 24” diameter Gable vent that I need to account for and I need to make part of the top chord 2×6 for notching in the field.
There you have it. Hope you all find this technique useful. How do you perform the same function? Any tips you can add? Let us know below!
Tim Hoke – Design Manager
Gould Design, Inc.
Sometimes the simplest looking plans result in a special sort of brain teaser for the truss designer. Its seems that many times what looks good and what a homeowner desires is the opposite of what makes the most sense structurally. It is the truss guys “job” to bring these two worlds together in a safe, simple, and satisfactory way.
Recently, I worked on a job that at a glance seemed straightforward but, as I put the pieces together, it took a twist towards the cantankerous side of component design. The elevation is fairly simple. The walls do not have many corners. There is only one pitch (6/12), overhangs are short and heels are all standard 2×4. The loading and wind speed are typical.
There are four different vertical tray ceilings in this home and the architect pushed them to the maximum size that will fit inside the roof. I created a tail bearing truss to accommodate this where the span is a little long; it reduced webbing and steps in the bottom chord. That makes it shop friendly and lowers the risk for the component manufacturer. If desired, I could have added filler to create the profile for the trays, but it wasn’t required in this case.
One of the tray ceilings is directly underneath the corner of the upstairs. I had to create girders to carry the wall, floor, and roof above with the profile of the tray built into the bottom. This is one of those creative moments when you’re not too sure what is going to work. Fortunately, these girders worked without too much trouble.
Another issue I encountered on this job is that the corner of the second floor is in the middle of the garage. The floor is only 16” deep so I ended up with a lot of plies on my girders. I made a set of combination roof and floor trusses. The loads from above have to be placed manually and the trusses have to be run with both roof and floor loads (including wind load). Take a look at the cross section below
I run into lots of issues like this when designing custom homes. I have learned to appreciate it over the years because it keeps my job interesting. I love the challenge. I love the sense of accomplishment when I get something to work that seemed undoable at first glance.
What kind of unusual designs have you seen over the years?
Gould Design Inc.
View Part 1 in this series here.
View Part 2 in this series here.
View Part 3 in this series here.
View Part 4 in this series here.
View Part 5 in this series here.
View Part 6 in this series here.
View Part 7 in this series here.
View Part 8 in this series here.
View Part 9 in this series here.
View Part 10 in this series here.
View Part 11 in this series here.
Stay tuned for Part 13.
At Gould Design, Inc. we are constantly exploring ways to enhance productivity. MiTek Sapphire and 20/20 (the engineering side of the software suite) are jam-packed with features that are often under-utilized or entirely missed by Component Manufacturers.
Today we are going to look at a simple way to enhance productivity in 20/20 in setting up lumber colors for at-a-glance identification of the lumber grade.
With a variety of clients, we receive the settings they use so we can seamlessly design jobs that look just like theirs and conform to their criteria. Some clients have colors already setup, some don’t.
To adjust the color scheme, open engineering and go to setup>manufacturer>materials:
First, I took a snip of my “Material Defaults” so that I could reference the list as I work. I navigated there by selecting: Material List>Truss>Master>Truss members
Note that this list will vary depending on your own inventory.
Each column has the ability to filter, similar to “Search and View” in MiTek Sapphire. You can use these to assist you in finding the material you want to adjust. Below is a sample of some of the lumber we are going to alter, starting with the Hem-fir.
To edit the colors, click on the dropdown in the color column in the row of the appropriate lumber type. In this case, 2×4 HF Stud:
From here it is a matter of continuing to make adjustments based on your lumber and ideal color scheme.
Once completed click “Save”. Then close out of “Materials”. Let’s open a job in engineering and see what we have. In the output display settings, I turned on member labeling to show size, species, and grade so that you can see what we have here. As you get used to designing with the colors you can tell at a glance the species and grade by the color.
Let’s have some fun and make some changes:
I hope you enjoyed this quick look at using a color scheme to increase productivity in 20/20 engineering. What settings do you use to design more effectively? Please leave a comment below.
Today I’m going to walk us through aligning webs in a series of trusses with differing end conditions on one end. Below is my layout so you can keep track of where I am in the design.
Examining the A series of trusses you’ll notice I did a couple things here. First of all, I made sure the left end of the truss was on the end that remains unchanged throughout the series. This is a nice clean look but it also allows me to use the align webs tool in engineering. If I put the left end on the opposite end then nothing would match up as pictured here:
After examining the layout I chose to engineer A06 first since it has a standard end condition on each end. After playing with the design I settled on Fink webbing. I did this for several reasons.
- It falls within my panel width restrictions.
- It uses less webbing than a Howe arrangement.
- I don’t have to alter my webbing for the FAU space that is centered under the ridge.
Because this is a production job I need to work on optimizing before I use this as a template for the other trusses. Look at how the truss came in by default:
Using the optimization tool I dialed my webbing in to get the most economical webbing pattern I could achieve while not exceeding panel limitations. You’ll notice that all the webbing could come out of (3) 12’ lengths, (1) 16’ length of 2×4. My top chord and bottom chord lengths still aren’t ideal but this client prefers on panel splicing.
For the most part, the rest is a matter of aligning webs and splices for the remaining trusses in the “A” series. Looking at the layout the garage wall juts into the garage before stepping back in. Selecting the align webs tool will match all the webs that it can and aligning webs we see the profile of A06 in the background. All the webs are matched up except for the last panel on the right we add a web down to the bearing. The splices were matched so that everything about A02 is the same as A06 except for the stubbed condition.
We’ll notice that we now have two CLB’s on this shorter truss. As we saw in this GDI post on bracing, we know that we need our webs to be aligned in order to use CLB’s which we have.
A03 is 2’8” shorter than A02. Everything remains the same except the right end condition. Again we can see the shadow of A06 in the background.
The only difference between A03 and A04 is the FAU. Here we need to add the load and the stacked BC for the platform, but notice how all the webbing still matches up.
A05 is the same as A06 except for the FAU. For fun, I’ll show you the difference between the Fink webbed FAU and the Howe.
Here we’ve created a nice uninhabitable room for the FAU and service personal with this Howe truss, but it’s a $142.
Now compare with our fink webbed truss coming in at $105 dollars which serve the purpose of providing space for the FAU and service personal, it has an elevated platform that they will attach plywood to in the field. Not to mention the ease of building in the shop. It’s a win-win.
Since we started with A06 only A07 remains. It is the same as A03 except that it has an overhang on the right end, so I’m going to align webs with A03.
While this was a very simple gable roof to truss, you can see that by thinking proactively and trying out different web arrangements and optimization on a sample truss, that we were able to design this roof with an effective plan, and an efficient design that satisfies the design requirements while also making life easy on the shop personal when assembling these trusses. The left side doesn’t change at all with only slight changes on the right throughout the series.
What tips or tricks do you have for efficient design? We’d love to see your comments below!