10 reasons why you’ll be making the right choice
The difference between a truss and a rafter isn’t something most of us think about regularly – but it’s a topic of importance when it comes to building a home.
What’s the best way to hold up your roof?
Are trusses the way to go, or do rafters seem to offer more advantages?
Why do trusses seem to be more prevalent in newer buildings?
We’re (unsurprisingly) big proponents of steel roof trusses. However, don’t take our position as biased – we’ve got solid reasons and numbers to back up our belief. Additionally, up to 80 percent of all roofs in new houses now use trusses instead of rafters, so we’re certainly not alone in our stance.
We know that roof trusses are becoming increasingly popular over rafters, but why? Let’s talk about it.
First things first: we need to talk about the essential qualities of rafters vs. trusses.
What are Rafters?
Rafters used in roof construction run from the roof’s hip/ridge to the wall plate of the external wall. It’s the traditional way of supporting a roof – often referred to as “stick framing.” Decades ago, every house on the block would have been made with rafters.
Each rafter is designed, cut, built, and installed on the construction site by a knowledgeable carpenter. Dimension lumber is used to support the roof, and the rafters work with collar ties to hold the roof planes together.
What are Roof Trusses?
Roof trusses offer a more modern and optimized method of support. These trusses are created before they arrive at the construction site. Together, the trusses form a wooden structure that supports the roof while connecting the house walls.
So, you know what each type of roof support is – but how are they different from each other?
What’s the Difference Between the Two?
The most noticeable difference between roof trusses and rafters is that the former is built mostly with 2x4s, not wide dimensional boards. Although less material is used, the steel (or steel) is more robust.
Rafters can either be hidden or showcased as architectural features. On the other hand, Trusses are less likely to be installed as aesthetic features in a home.
Still, these differences don’t tell you why roof trusses are the more popular of the two. Let’s break the reasons down into ten different sections.
Trusses Are Made in a Controlled Environment
As we said before, trusses are manufactured before they arrive at the site – while rafters are assembled onsite. This is a huge difference – and one that has driven many contractors and homeowners to choose trusses.
Because trusses are manufactured in a factory that maintains a controlled environment, they are double-checked and guaranteed high quality. The automated manufacturing process ensures that trusses are turned out in no time, which is excellent for construction productivity.
Each truss is made specifically to meet the needs of one project. Whether you’re constructing cathedral ceilings or cross gambles, trusses can be made to fit your requirements exactly. No miscalculations, low last-minute measurements, or design errors.
Rafters, on the other hand, aren’t as speedy (or easy) to create. Each piece is assembled onsite, one by one. They may seem cheaper, but the lengthy manufacturing process can rack up a hefty bill. Additionally, quality is difficult to ensure – external factors such as weather can cause problems. Factory-built trusses don’t have to deal with issues like this.
Once roof trusses have been manufactured, they can be quickly delivered and are ready for installation. They may even be certified by a third-party organization, indicating that they have been proven for quality and flaws.
Rafters Take Longer to Install
Because of the long manufacturing process and the room for error, installing rafters isn’t exactly a quick project. It can take an entire week to install rafters in just one building.
In juxtaposition, trusses can be installed in as little as one day in a 250 sq meter home, as long as the right workers and tools are onsite. This saves heaps of time in a big construction project, especially if multiple different buildings are involved.
Once the trusses are fully installed, the roof sheathing can go on. This quickly protects the rest of the structure from bad weather, sunlight, and other potentially harmful factors. Soon after, shingles can be installed, moving the project along quickly.
When rafters take a long time to install, they leave the structure vulnerable to bad weather, as well as general wear and tear. It’s no wonder that most contractors now opt for roof trusses whenever they can.
Trusses Are Often More Affordable
A massive win in the battle of rafters vs. trusses is the latter’s price tag.
Upfront, trusses seem expensive. Because they are prefabricated, their initial costs seem high. However, it’s important to remember that rafters require more installation time and labor, which tacks hefty fees to the overall construction price.
Additionally, rafters use more lumber than trusses, so if the price of wood rises, so does the rafter project’s cost. In general, contractors can save up to 50 percent using trusses instead of rafters. That’s a substantial amount of savings that can go toward another area of the project – or the homeowners’ pockets.
Trusses Are Better for Large Structures
Next, it’s essential to look at what structure you’re building – most predominantly, its size. Roof rafters are great for small buildings but not so great for large, spacious designs.
Considering that the average size of homes has expanded by an average of 74 percent across the Australia (since 1910), it’s not surprising that more structures call for trusses. We’re usually building bigger and better things, which means rafters aren’t viable choices.
Rafters Require Highly Specific Skills
A problem you might run into with rafters? Rafter installation isn’t simple. You need a contractor with the right set of skills to tackle the project, and today, those skills are becoming less and less accessible.
Many licensed builders today don’t have the time or means to build rafters precisely on location. This leaves room for error in measurements, and in the worst cases, shoddy craft.
Should you decide to go with rafters, you may struggle to find workers with the specific skills needed to do the job right. Most of the best rafter installers have retired by now, leaving behind a generation that’s more comfortable with pre-constructed roofing materials.
Trusses Are Better for the Environment
Here’s a big bonus if you love our planet (as you should!): roof trusses are more eco-friendly than rafters. Because they use less steel and produce less waste, they have a much lower impact on the environment – something we can all appreciate.
Steel roof trusses are now often manufactured with steel plates to join them. These increase their load-bearing capabilities without requiring more wood—less steel used in construction = a happier, healthier planet for all.
Additionally, the little bits of off-cuts left over from the truss manufacturing process can easily be recycled. There’s no need to transport them back and forth from the job site – a win-win for both construction crews and Earth.
Trusses Allow for a More Open Floor Plan
Trusses have an extensive span capability, even though they’re built from shorter lumber lengths than rafters. They can span far distances – farther even than most conventionally framed roofs. This leads to an open interior space, as well as versatile design options in a spacious floorplan.
If you want your home (or commercial building) to feel bigger without square footage, trusses are the way to go. You’ll need fewer load-bearing walls to get that open-concept design you’ve been admiring. If you’re building to sell, note that the modern home buyer loves a beautiful open floor plan.
Rafters Require More Load-Bearing Walls
Speaking of load-bearing walls, did we mention that trusses require fewer of them than rafters? Because manufactured trusses are designed to correctly distribute a roof’s weight to the house’s outer walls, they don’t need as many load-bearing walls inside to keep the structure standing.
Trusses Are Strong
Another critical point in trusses’ favor: they’re solid considering their size and use of lumber. The “webbing effect” of trusses gives the structure immense durability. They’re heavy to transport, but once in place, trusses harness the power of triangles to support roofs of all sizes, shapes, and styles.
Trusses Are DIY-Friendly
Lastly, if you’re the kind of builder who likes to get their hands dirty, trusses might be the way to go. They are far easier to install than rafters, which means doing it yourself is possible – if you have the right tools and experience to do so.
Of course, we’re not the ones to recommend DIYing any roofing project if you don’t have the right experience. Talk to us about your needs, and we’ll give you a quote for truss installation assistance in Florida.
Although there are some cases to be made on behalf of roof rafters, trusses are coming out ahead of them in almost every category. As our construction methods improve and building becomes more automated, we expect to see roof trusses grow in popularity – even more than they are now.