Trusses or Conventional "Stick" Framing.
What's the Difference?

By Bob Linnert, Better By Design LLC

First off I must admit my bent toward using engineered trusses. I worked as a truss designer for 8 years and have a great appreciation for the use of any engineered products. Having said that for the purpose of being transparent, let’s take a look at the differences between conventional framing and truss systems and how they might affect your new home.

Conventional framing, or stick framing as it is commonly called, is simply the use of typical dimensional lumber (2x6’s, 2x8’s, 2x10’s, etc.) to frame up your roof. The individual boards are cut onsite by the framer to various lengths and at various angles to form the roof planes as shown on your house plan. The framer must determine where the roof load (the weight of roofing materials as well as snow loads and wind loads) will bear on the walls of your new home. It is critical that the loads from the roof are transferred through the walls and beams in your home all the way to a foundation which rests upon a footer that was poured on solid, undisturbed earth.

The consequence of roof loads bearing on walls that are not supported by a bearing wall or beam below can be numerous and costly. A wall that simply sits upon your floor system and not upon a beam or bearing wall transfers any roof loads it carries onto your floor joists. Floor joists are not designed to carry more than typical floor loads. They can be overloaded easily if roof loads are placed upon the floor system. So applying roof loads to the floor may cause failure in different forms.

Floors can sag because of being overloaded. Sagging floors may cause problems from chasing a dropped pencil across the room to cracks in drywall, doors that won’t open and close, or actual collapse during a snowstorm in extreme cases. An experienced and knowledgeable builder/ framer can stick frame a roof bringing the loads to bear upon appropriate walls or beams and completely avoid these negative consequences.

Other problems may arise if the boards, or ‘sticks’ are not the correct size or grade of lumber for the job. Rafters of various sizes and grades are required to span various open areas and to carry certain loads. The bracing and supports that will be placed in your attic space must also be placed and sized correctly so that your roof will not sag. Sizing and grade requirements are listed in building code reference books. So it is possible for the framer to choose the correct lumber for each component. And your local building inspector will make certain things are done to code.

So be certain that your builder has good references and uses a framer who has experience and good references as well. And ask a lot of questions during the whole process of building your home. It is not usually acceptable for you, the homeowner to speak directly to the framer or other subcontractors because they work for your builder (General Contractor) and not directly for you. But you should feel comfortable asking you builder or building inspector about any concerns you have. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing something that concerns you with your builder, then you’ve chosen the wrong builder.

Now let’s talk about trusses.


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