• Emily Maushardt

Updated: Nov 21, 2019

I've mentioned before that we are using a cut and stack method or as I refer to it in this article, stick built roof. This has lead to questions as to why we don't just buy trusses especially since we are building this home ourselves.

For starters, I'll explain the difference between the two methods. A stick built roof is building the roof on the construction site one piece or board at a time. Truly custom. A wood truss on the other hand is an engineered building product. Trusses have been used in the majority of newer homes during recent years. Though the two methods use completely different processes, there are pros and cons to each method and in some cases, when one of the options cannot be used.

Pros of Stick Framing:

  • The roof and ceiling can be attached to the same member.

  • The stick built roof process allows more space underneath the roof, either for a cathedral-style ceiling or for storage space in an attic because they allow for an open, triangle shape between the ceiling joists and rafters.

  • They are easily changed and manipulated later if needed, by either changing up the space, removing an attic floor to make a more open room, or other remodeling plans.

  • They can be cheaper to install, as they do not require as much material or as much man power to construct.

  • Best when building a complicated roof with steep pitches and hipped roofs like in our case.

  • If your roof leaks, it is easier to determine where the leak is coming from because you will be able to access the bottom of it more easily.

Cons of Stick Framing:

  • All the work must be done on the site which is controlled by varying weather (snow, rain, wind, cold, etc). We've been battling with the elements in the Pacific Northwest as of late.

  • Stick framing a roof requires framers or in this case, my husband to spend much more time on scaffolding, ladders, and above ground which means more chance for accidents.

  • Stick framing requires larger lumber and more of it.

  • Stick framing can’t span very far without adding webbing or collar ties.

  • Frequently has bounce on the roof and doesn’t feel as strong however you can add additional strength by installing collar beams and often times, exceed the strength of trusses which we will be doing.

  • If you are not using the extra space or don’t appreciate taller ceilings, having a stick framed roof can be an additional, unnecessary expense.

Pros of Trusses:

  • Trusses are an engineered product and are designed for your specific project.

  • Can be designed to handle seismic reactions and other special engineering requirements.

  • Built in a controlled environment out of the weather, which means the building process isn’t affected by rain or snow.

  • Trusses are manufactured on the ground and are raised onto the walls. This means less time spent off the ground and fewer chances of falls and accidents.

  • The roof is very solid with no bounce since each truss is an engineered product and tied together.

  • Trusses speed up the building time.

Cons of Trusses:

  • Cut up hip roofs are more difficult and require a lot of pieces to put together.

  • Once trusses are built, they are very hard to modify if something needs to be changed.

  • If attic areas have a T-shaped layout, it can be difficult if not impossible where the T comes together.

In our case, using trusses was not possible with our roof design. We have a mixed and complicated roof with a very steep pitch. The pitch of our roof actually creates most of our second story walls which will allow for some unique ceiling details in our home and the main reason why using trusses was not an option in this case.

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  • Emily Maushardt

One of the biggest concerns for us not financing our build and having all of our cash upfront, is a major catastrophic event or property theft during our project. What if a wild fire came through and devastated our home build that we dumped all our savings into? What if someone decided to help themselves to all our tools or material on the job site? These are all very important scenarios that happen often and shouldn't be taken lightly.

So how can you protect yourself and your investment while building? The number one most crucial item is insurance. Because there is no home to insure while building, you need what is referred to as a Course of Construction policy (also referred to as a COC policy or builders risk policy). It covers the property value of the project while under construction. Once you are done building, it can easily be transferred to a homeowners policy. Obtaining a COC is as simple as finding a local Property and Casualty agent in your area. After reviewing the scope of your project with high level specifics, such as finishes and square footage, he/she can produce an average cost of loss if something were to happen.

Secondly, because we know how common worksite theft is, living on property was very important to us. Not only is it convenient so we aren’t driving so much to the property, but we are always around to lessen the likelihood of someone coming by to take what isn’t theirs. If you are building or thinking of building and can’t live on site, surveillance cameras are also a great investment. Much more budget friendly game or trail cameras are also available so you can have surveillance on your site. Worst case scenario, you’ll have picture and video of unwelcome visitors if something were to happen to assist with insurance claims and the local police department.

Costs of a COC policy and cameras are minor compared to other costs associated with building. This is something you can easily build into the budget from the beginning to protect yourself and your investment.

Do you have other build related questions or topics you want me to discuss? Make sure to let me know.

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  • Emily Maushardt

Want to start building but unsure of where to start?

Home building is an exciting idea; however, it can be challenging for those without experience. Many people simply don't know how to get started and have reached out asking me to discuss the general process. Although building can be complex, there are generally some initial steps to take when deciding to build.

Determine Your Budget

Calculating how much you can afford for a home is crucial. This should take place at the very beginning because all other building decisions are affected by the amount of money you have to spend. This covers what size of home, type of materials, location and quality of the builder. It may also be helpful to sit down with an experienced lender who deals frequently with new construction home loans. This is also the time to start cleaning up your credit if you will be financing the build. Because construction loans are considered higher risk with no home to use as collateral and thus harder to qualify for, you will need strong credit and a down payment of 20% to 25%.

Find a Location

You'll need to decide where you want to build. Would you prefer living in a subdivision or in a rural area? Most areas within city limits have tighter covenants and restrictions, and neighborhood rules may interfere with your intended use of the property and lifestyle. Always check to see if Home Owners Associations or CC&Rs are in place prior to making your decision. Usually building in a subdivision means you’ll have access to city water, sewer and electricity which uncomplicates matters. The absence of readily available amenities like water, electricity or sewer systems in rural areas could affect your decision and budget. Having to drill a well, install a septic system and/or bring electricity closer to your property may come with hefty price tags. If you find raw land, my first piece of advice is to pull a free well report for the area to see how accessible and deep other wells are around the property. Contacting the electric company should be priority as well to see how much it’ll be to bring electricity to the property line. We were very lucky to find our property with a well already on it and electricity to the property line. Lastly, don’t be afraid to work with a qualified real-estate agent (not all have experience or knowledge with buying and selling land) who can help you find the ideal plot of land (in or out of a subdivision). They also have tools at their fingertips to assist with the above mentioned steps.

Choose a Builder

If you are not in the position to self build like us, finding a reputable builder is crucial to making your dream a reality. I highly recommend interviewing several. Remember, you'll be dealing with this person or company for several months during the construction process. It's important to check references, review their portfolio, ask about any warranties offered, standard features included or charges for upgrades or changes once construction starts. Additionally, it may be a good idea to get a rough estimate of price per square foot so you can begin to select a house plan. At this point, you’ll know what you can afford since establishing your budget is the first thing you need to do.

Pick a House Plan

Your builder may have a selection of plans available for you to review with a price list and description of features or you may have the option of designing your own plan or giving the builder a pre designed floor plan that can be purchased online. Whichever route you take, it's important to remember that a house plan needs to be functional for your family. Key items to study should include the general layout, room dimensions, width of hallways, amount of storage space, etc. If you decide to go the custom route; working with an architect if your builder does not have one in house, to draw and sign off on your plan is imperative and often times required in the county you build.

There are of course many different scenarios not discussed in this blog post but I hope this gives you a general idea of the initial steps to building a home. For those of you following along with our build on Instagram, thank you! We hope you enjoy watching our progress. Our first framing package delivery is tomorrow so pretty soon, this will start looking like an actual house.

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