Straw Bale Building: Roof Trusses - DIY vs. Manufactured

| 6/27/2011 5:07:45 PM

When Barbara and I undertook the building of our homestead in the desert, we committed to doing things ourselves as much as was reasonable, even some things that were perhaps unreasonable. One project that began as a DIY and morphed into using a manufactured product is roof trusses.

       Front Plate on DIY Truss

Our adobe Bear Cave, the first building to go up, was also my first attempt at DIY roof trusses. I read articles and books and looked at pictures and drew sketches by the dozen before creating a plan for a roof that I liked. We decided on a simple shed roof truss with the porch rafters attached to a plate at the front of the truss to create a gabled roof appearance. 

       Truss Jig

 As the only level place on the building site was the well-tamped sub-floor, I laid out a couple sheets of plywood inside the building, fastened them with a scab and laid out a truss jig. Because I was hauling all our dimension lumber on the roof rack of my old Blazer, I was pretty much confined to ten-foot lengths. As the bottom cord of the truss needed to be 16 feet long, I had to make a joint in two 8 foot 2 x 4s. With an 18 ft top chord to provide an overhang out the back of the building, I used a 10’ and an 8’ 2x4 for each truss.

          Inside View of Bear Cave trusses

Dave Larson
6/28/2011 3:58:54 PM

Nebraska Dave, Right now I feel even older than I am. Just finished 7 hours of grouting flagstone and pouring/troweling curbing for the deck surrounding the house (a future blog). It is 103 degrees outside and I am wiped. I'm pleased that you noticed yet another thing we seem to have in common. Start with a good plan, make every step in construction plumb and true, and there will be fewer times when you have to do things over. I admit that I, too, may well be about done with the high work. The trusses weren't bad, but the untethered bale wall - not so good. But as you say, spend the most time on the foundations and the following steps take care of themselves (almost). Have a great day in Nebraska!

Nebraska Dave
6/27/2011 8:14:57 PM

Sheeesh, how old did you say you were? Carrying, hauling, and lifting trusses while balanced 10 feet in the air is not my idea of a good time any more. My hat is off to you for the work you have accomplished on the bear cave and house. Most of my projects are from the ground and usually require digging in the dirt. The only walls I build are those that make a dirt bank look beautiful and keep the bank from falling. One thing that I've discovered that you have hinted at is the most important part of a project is the planning and the foundation. The most time spent on all my projects is always on the foundations. Have a great time enjoying all the work you have accomplished.

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