Pros and Cons of Trusses vs Stick Framing

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When comparing two things, it’s best to compare apples for apples. If you are trying to decide if you will use trusses or stick framing, there are things to take into consideration that will make a difference in your decision making.

Although we want to compare apples for apples, some things can’t be compared equally because it’s actually not possible to do it as both trusses and stick framing have some situations where one isn’t an option.

Let’s go through a few lists of pros and cons of both stick framing and trusses, to begin:

stick framing

4 Major Pros of Stick Framing:

  1. The roof and ceiling can be attached to the same member.
  2. If any last minute changes are made to how things look, it can simply be changed one piece at a time.
  3. Half stories built into the roof that have very large dormers or shed roof style openings out of the roof.
  4. Complicated, steep hip roofs.

And the Cons of Stick Framing:

  1. All the work must be done on the site which is controlled by weather (rain, mud, wind, cold, heat). It’s not good for lumber to get wet either.
  2. Stick framing a roof requires framers to spend much more time on scaffolding, ladders, and above ground which means more chance for accidents.
  3. Stick framing requires larger lumber and more of it.
  4. Stick framing can’t span very far.
  5. It is easy for boards to walk off the job site when they are loose and in easy to carry pieces.
  6. Often the stick framed roof has no engineer seal on it showing it will do what it is asked to do.
  7. Frequently has bounce on the roof and doesn’t feel as solid.
  8. Stick framed roofs are frequently under-braced and easy to leave out. Ridge beams are frequently too small and not braced.

3b

Now, the Pros of Trusses:

  1. Trusses are an engineered product and are designed for your specific project.
  2. Our trusses all have an engineer seal on them, meaning they meet a universal standard of design.
    Trusses span great distances without support.
  3. Can be designed to handle seismic reactions, drag loads, 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.
  4. Lumber for the truss is cut using computer controlled saws for greater accuracy, tighter fits, and less chance of mistakes.
  5. 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.
  6. There is very little waste when building trusses.
  7. Parts of the roof can be cantilevered out over porches or decks quite a ways without requiring posts and beams to hold it up at the end.
  8. The roof is very solid with no bounce since each truss is an engineered product and tied together very well.
  9. Pitch changes on the roof and ceiling can happen easily almost anywhere without requiring over-build.
  10. The heel height of a truss can be changed up or down very easily to account for more insulation at the point by the wall or to keep the overhang from hanging down so low.
  11. Trusses almost never walk off the job site in the dark hours of the night.
  12. Trusses speed up the building time enough that you can build more houses in a year.

The Cons of Trusses:

  1. Extremely cut up hip roofs are more difficult and require a lot of pieces to put together.
  2. Once trusses are built, they are very hard to modify if something needs to be changed.
  3. Sometimes if attic areas have a T-shaped layout, it can be difficult to build with trusses if not impossible where the T comes together.

Stick framing a roof takes a lot of time. Time is money.

Here are some questions you need to consider: How much time do you have to spend on the roof? What are you trying to achieve with the ceiling or roof? How comfortable are you working off the ground? What is your experience level? If you plan to stick frame a roof, do you have a structural engineer on board with you that has designed the roof to be sound?

These are all important things to take into consideration. Let’s go into more detail on some of these points and questions now. I find that these are common questions that people ask and also common things that people want to know.

2f

Structural Strength and Engineer Seal

Stick framing can be structurally sound but so many times it’s not designed as well as trusses. This is a major concern to pay attention to. If you don’t have a structural engineer designing your roof for you, how do you know what size of material you will need to build the roof?

Builders will often go to span charts or something down that line to figure it out. Now, does this span chart take very important details into account like wind load including distance above ground, live and dead loads, snow loads, unbalanced loads, long term duration and lumber creep factor?

Trusses on the other hand are designed for a project with all of the above factored in along with other things we haven’t even mentioned. When a customer calls and orders trusses from us, those trusses are designed specifically for that customer at his location to fit just his need. All the trusses built by us come with an engineer seal that say they will handle the loads that are specified. Does your stick framed roof come with that?

Framers or roofer also have given me feedback about the strength of a trussed roof versus a stick framed roof. As they work on a roof and walk back and forth, most of the time a trussed roof is very solid with no bounce. The stick framed roof on the other hand usually has some bounce and a little more squishing feeling to it. If this is on a newer roof, what will it be like after 40 years?

Open Area Designed Houses

More and more house designs have large open areas in the house. It makes things feel more open and roomy. The only way to achieve a wide open area is with trusses. And that area can be built right into the roof with a cathedral ceiling, chamfers, trays, double trays, or whatever idea you have!

When people normally compare the cost of trusses versus stick frame, they don’t think about the cost of the foundation and bearing walls. Most of the house projects that we design use only the outside walls for bearing support. This means that essentially you can put up the outside shell of your house and then build your interior walls wherever you would like them with no concern about the need for interior footings and bearing walls for the stick frame. Or if you choose, leave it wide open!

Remodel those walls if you want to and knock old one out. How much cost do you save since you don’t have to plan and build for that? What do you consider is true flexibility of design when we talk about this?

Considering Attic Space and Usage

Most people tend to think that you can’t get as much attic space out of a truss as you can with stick frame. I would like to tell you that it can be done with trusses and be done better, in many cases.

Let’s say your house is 36-feet wide. You will have to have a bearing wall or beam in the middle of this area to support the floor system and roof beam if you choose to stick frame the roof. So to compare apples for apples, let’s leave that bearing support in there and let me design trusses over the same area.

Most people don’t finish out the whole attic area all the way out to the exterior wall but build a little knee wall that’s anywhere from 4 to 6 foot tall to cut the area off. If that’s the case, I can build a truss that is identical to what you have in mind. I can match that no problem.

Furthermore, most framers use that knee wall to support the stick framed roof members. If they use the knee wall, the roof members don’t need to be as large and don’t have to span from the roof beam to the wall. But what happened to the floor system?

Now the floor system not only has to hold up the floor but also the roof load. And has that floor system been designed to handle a concentrated roof load out in the middle of the span? If not, is that really good building practice to just leave details like that unfinished?

An attic truss on the other hand will have the same shape and look but is tied together so that all the members support each other and help carry the load together. It’s taking all the loads into account and also adding loading in the attic area for the sheetrock on the sidewalls and ceiling.

And if you don’t want that area beneath cluttered up with a beam and post or a support wall, we can still create a free spanning truss with an attic room but unfortunately it won’t be near as large as with a bearing support. This couldn’t be done at all if you are stick framing.

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Building Speed with Trusses

For the contractors reading this, how full is your building schedule? Are people on a waiting list for you to build for them? Are customers unhappy because you’re not getting the house completed as quickly as they like? Have you thought of it that using trusses on your framing jobs will speed up the process enough that you will likely build more houses in a year? And if trusses cost less per house then stick framing, how much more profit do you gain past that per house savings by being able to get more houses built?

Complete Profile, Single Piece Installation

Now the part that I say is better is that if a truss can match the same shape and usability of a stick frame, which is going to be faster and less cost?

When that truss shows up at the job site ready to install and you swing it up on the roof, that truss just took care of roof, ceiling, attic flooring, attic ceiling and attic side walls all in one moment and is ready for decking, sheeting, sheetrock, and finish work.

And since it is one piece and all tied together, it is much more solid and has passed all the loading requirements and has an engineer seal on the drawing!

Considering The Topic As A Whole

Now I have some questions for you to think about after reading this.

  • When the wind begins to really blow hard in a storm, which style of roof would you feel safer under?
  • If the roof was stick framed, did they attach each one of the individual boards as good as the one beside them and to the proper loading?
  • Do they really know how much uplift there is on the roof?
  • When you think about all the valuables in your house, what do you want to put over them to keep them from damage?
  • If you decide to change a few walls in a remodel project later on down the road, which style of roof will most likely allow for this?
  • How much will the stick framed roof sag later on down the road?

It is true that I am in the truss industry, so I may be slightly biased but I have tried to honestly point out what I see and you are free to decide what you think.

After all we live in a free America which I am very thankful for! I would not be in this industry and selling trusses if I didn’t think that I had something worthwhile to sell.

I also would not be selling them if it would not be a benefit to you as the customer. Your vision of what you would like and the happiness of seeing it achieved is what I will aim to achieve when you hand your project to me. Once in a great while stick framing an area is the only answer, but most of the time trusses will enhance your experience and speed up the building process along with a well-designed roof.

In the future, please remember Timberlake TrussWorks LLC when you are thinking of building a roof. Even if you aren’t sure if your project is the right fit for trusses, why not find out? It won’t cost you anything to pick up the phone and call 580-852-3660 or send us your information on our website contact form.

**We only provide truss services for Oklahoma, Kansas and North Texas. We cannot manufacture and ship to other locations.**

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