• Emily Maushardt

Trusses vs Stick Built

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.


© 2019 by MthreeDesigns

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