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This article describes and illustrates the different types of roof and floor trusses used in residential construction. We describe common roof or floor truss defects that can be observed by visual inspection. This article series describes building framing materials used in different epochs of residential construction. Knowing when certain materials were first or last in common use can help determine the age of a building. Our page top photo shows modern floor framing details for a modular-constructed house.
Floor & Roof Truss Materials used in Building Construction
Wood Floor & Roof Truss Photos
Our photos show an attic view of modern roof trusses (above left) and floor trusses (above right).
Illustration of Howe Trusses & Fink Trusses
The illustrations below illustrate two common wood roof truss designs: the Fink Truss and the Howe Truss.
Common defects observed when inspecting wood roof trusses in residential buildings
Some common defects we find when inspecting wood truss construction in residential buildings include:
Wood trusses were cut or modified, such as the removal of the bottom chord of a truss to install an attic stair
Wood truss connector plates or "gusset plates" that are damaged or disconnected. Sometimes you may need to look closely at the steel connector plates on wood trusses for signs of separation, or on occasion, a "repair" of loose truss plates using roofing nails.
Truss uplift, a cosmetic not a structural defect, is discussed separately at TRUSS UPLIFT, ROOF
Broken Truss Chord, Inspector Falls into Toilet
Watch out: the bottom chord of the roof truss is often used to support the ceiling below. But the bottom truss chords, especially with pressed-on gusset-plate wood roof trusses, may not support the weight of an inspector who walks on them. Worse, the bottom chord of the truss is often hidden from clear view, buried in attic floor insulation.
The author [DF] standing on a truss chord while installing an attic fan, suddenly found himself one floor down, in the bathroom of an unsuspecting condominium owner who had no idea that a contractor was working in the attic over her head while she was using the toilet.
As the dust settled from this painful and embarrassing incident we investigated the broken roof truss bottom chord.
A large knot through the bottom 2x4 truss chord had not interefered with the truss function while the chord was in tension - it's usual load. But when walked-on and when the contractor stepped on to the chord right over the knot, it simply broke in two, leading to an accident.
Our wood roof truss photo at above left shows a design that would have been less likely to collapse when walked-on. The bottom chord of the roof truss is formed by a wood floor truss. The two trusses are bolted together at the truss ends using plywood gusset plates.
(History & dates of the design and use of site-built and factory-made roof trusses, king trusses, A-trusses, and web trusses are in process, contributions invited,CONTACT us)
Below our photos show details of finger-jointed wood truss web connections.
Metal Floor & Roof Truss Photos
Our photos below illustrate the use of steel roof trusses below a flat poured concrete roof. At below right you can see that steel roof trusses are not completely immune to damage from water, leaks, and rust. We don't consider surface rust to be of structural significance on these trusses, but when the rust has advanced to flaking exfloiating steel rust then the integrity of the truss and thus the structure is questionable.
Below our photograph illustrates a steel I-joist also used in roof and floor construction. Also see I-JOISTS, Wood Roof Floor.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about roof or floor trusses used in building construction
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Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Mr. Cramer serves on the ASHI Home Inspection Standards. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com
John Cranor is an ASHI member and a home inspector (The House Whisperer) is located in Glen Allen, VA 23060. He is also a contributor to InspectApedia.com in several technical areas such as plumbing and appliances (dryer vents). Contact Mr. Cranor at 804-747-7747 or by Email: email@example.com
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The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones.
Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto, have provided us with (and we recommend)
Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates' Technical Reference Guide to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment ($69.00 U.S.). Technical Reference Guide, Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates, Ltd., 120 Carlton St. Suite 407, Toronto, Ontario, M5A 4K2 Canada, ISBN 1-895585-90-2 165pp.
American Plywood Association, APA, "Portland Manufacturing Company, No. 1, a series of monographs on the history of plywood manufacturing",Plywood Pioneers Association, 31 March, 1967, apawood.org 253-620-7400 APAWood.org
Asbestos products and their history and use in various building materials such as asphalt and vinyl flooring includes discussion which draws on Asbestos, Its Industrial Applications, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton, MA, Reinhold Publishing, 1959 Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 59-12535 (out of print).
Building Research Council, BRC, nee Small Homes Council, SHC, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, brc.arch.uiuc.edu. "The Small Homes Council (our original name) was organized in 1944 during the war at the request of the President of the University of Illinois to consider the role of the university in meeting the demand for housing in the United States. Soldiers would be coming home after the war and would be needing good low-cost housing. ... In 1993, the Council became part of the School of Architecture, and since then has been known as the School of Architecture-Building Research Council. ... The Council's researchers answered many critical questions that would affect the quality of the nation's housing stock.
How could homes be designed and built more efficiently?
What kinds of construction and production techniques worked well and which did not?
How did people use different kinds of spaces in their homes?
What roles did community planning, zoning, and interior design play in how neighborhoods worked?
Georgia Pacific: information about DensGlas gypsum board building sheathing can be found at the company's website at gp.com/build/product.aspx?pid=4674
Homasote Co., 932 Lower Ferry Road,
West Trenton, New Jersey 08628-024,
U.S.A. 800-257-9491 homasote.com
"Hurricane Damage to Residential Structures: Risk and Mitigation", Jon K. Ayscue,
The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, published by the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, November 1996. Abstract: "Property damage and loss from hurricanes have increased with population growth in coastal areas, and climatic factors point to more frequent and intense hurricanes in the future. This paper describes potential hurricane hazards from wind and water. Damage to residential structures from three recent intense hurricanes - Hugo, Andrew, and Iniki - shows that wind is responsible for greater property loss than water. The current state-of-the-art building technology is sufficient to reduce damage from hurricanes when properly applied, and this paper discusses those building techniques that can mitigate hurricane damage and recommends measures for mitigating future hurricane damage to homes." - online at www.colorado.edu/hazards/publications/wp/wp94/wp94.html
"Evaluating OSB for Coastal Roofs," Paul Fisette, Coastal Contractor, Winter 2005, online at coastalcontractor.net/pdf/2005/0501/0501eval.pdf . Fisette cites: "Jose Mitrani, a civil engineer and professor at Florida. International University in Miami, was ... Florida’s official damage assessment team. ... After Hurricane Andrew, Florida code advisers ruled OSB sheathing inferior to plywood
GluLam Structural Wood Products, U.S. GluLam Inc.,
4245 W. 166th St.,
Oak Forest Il. 60452 -
email: firstname.lastname@example.org, 708-535-6506
I-Joists: "The Evolution of Engineered Wood I-Joists",
Building Materials and Wood Technology
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, 2000 - see U. Mass online article at umass.edu/bmatwt/publications/articles/i_joist.html
Isham: "An Example of Colonial Paneling", Norman Morrison Isham, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 6, No. 5 (May, 1911), pp. 112-116, available by JSTOR.
Laminated Beams: Radial reinforcement of curved glue laminated wood beams with composite materials", Kasal, Bo and Heiduschke, Andreas, Forest Products Journal, 1 Jan 2004
OSB: "Evaluating OSB for Coastal Roofs," Paul Fisette, Coastal Contractor, Winter 2005, online at coastalcontractor.net/pdf/2005/0501/0501eval.pdf . Fisette cites: "Jose Mitrani, a civil engineer and professor at Florida. International University in Miami, was ... Florida’s official damage assessment team. ... After Hurricane Andrew, Florida code advisers ruled OSB sheathing inferior to plywood."
OSB: Timberco TECO is located at 2902 Terra Court,
Sun Praire, WI 53590 USA, 608-837-2790. TECO provides a reference library of .PDF files that can be downloaded by consumers, homeowners, builders, and architects. The association refers to industry standards for oriented strand board OSB products as:
"DOC PS 2, Performance Standard for Wood-Based Structural-Use Panels. Certified to CSA 0325, Construction Sheathing, or CSA 0437, OSB and Waferboard, OSB is accepted in the National Building Code of Canada, certified to EN 300, Oriented Strand Boards and recognized for structural use in Europe and certified to meet the JAS standard for structural panels in Japan."
OSB: "Performance of Wood Shear Walls Sheathed with FRP-Reinforced OSB Panels", J. Struct. Engrg. Volume 132, Issue 1, pp. 153-163, Jan. 2006 provides a study on the development and structural testing of a hybridsheathing panel designed to improve the lateral resistance of lightwood-frame shear walls. "FRP" refers to fiber reinforced polymer material that was sandwiched between more conventional exterior OSB layers.
OSB - Universite Laval slides on the production of OSB are at xylo.sbf.ulaval.ca/osb/sld001.htm
Manufactured & Modular Homes: Modular Building Systems Association, MBSA, modularhousing.com, is a trade association promoting and providing links to contact modular builders in North America. Also see the Manufactured Home Owners Association, MHOAA, at www.mhoaa.us. The Manufactured Home Owners Association of America is a National Organization dedicated to the protection of the rights of all people living in Manufactured Housing in the United States.
Pergo AB, division of Perstorp AB, is a Swedish manufacturer or modern laminate flooring products. Information about the U.S. company can be found at http://www.pergo.com where we obtained historical data used in our discussion of the age of flooring materials in buildings.
Plank House Construction: webslog from plankhouse.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/plank-house-construction/ and where plank houses were built by native Americans, see
Large 1:6 Scale Plank House Construction / P8094228,
Photographer: Mike Meuser
06/12/2007 documented at yurokplankhouse.com where scale model Museum quality Yurok Plank Houses are being sold to raise money for the Blue Creek - Ah Pah Traditional Yurok Village project.
Radiant barriers such as attached to OSB and plywood panels - see radiant barrier standard ASTM C1313, the California Title 24 Insulation Standards, and information provided by an industry site radiantguard.com
Scott C. LeMarr has provided his file of keys to decode Furnace and Water Heater Age from the data provided on the manufacturer's equipment labels. Mr. LeMarr is
a professional home inspector, Certified Professional Inspector/President,
MASTER Indoor Environmental Specialist (MIES).
Vice President of Wisconsin NACHI. He and his company, Honest Home Inspections, LLC. can be reached at
262-424-5587 or by email to email@example.com
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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Design of Wood Structures - ASD, Donald E. Breyer, Kenneth Fridley, Kelly Cobeen, David Pollock, McGraw Hill, 2003, ISBN-10: 0071379320, ISBN-13: 978-0071379328
This book is an update of a long-established text dating from at least 1988 (DJF); Quoting: This book is gives a good grasp of seismic design for wood structures. Many of the examples especially near the end are good practice for the California PE Special Seismic Exam design questions. It gives a good grasp of how seismic forces move through a building and how to calculate those forces at various locations.THE CLASSIC TEXT ON WOOD DESIGN UPDATED TO INCLUDE THE LATEST CODES AND DATA. Reflects the most recent provisions of the 2003 International Building Code and 2001 National Design Specification for Wood Construction. Continuing the sterling standard set by earlier editions, this indispensable reference clearly explains the best wood design techniques for the safe handling of gravity and lateral loads. Carefully revised and updated to include the new 2003 International Building Code, ASCE 7-02 Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, the 2001 National Design Specification for Wood Construction, and the most recent Allowable Stress Design.
Diagnosing & Repairing House Structure Problems, Edgar O. Seaquist, McGraw Hill, 1980 ISBN 0-07-056013-7 (obsolete, incomplete, missing most diagnosis steps, but very good reading; out of print but used copies are available at Amazon.com, and reprints are available from some inspection tool suppliers). Ed Seaquist was among the first speakers invited to a series of educational conferences organized by D Friedman for ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors, where the topic of inspecting the in-service condition of building structures was first addressed.
Defects and Deterioration in Buildings: A Practical Guide to the Science and Technology of Material Failure, Barry Richardson, Spon Press; 2d Ed (2001), ISBN-10: 041925210X, ISBN-13: 978-0419252108. Quoting: A professional reference designed to assist surveyors, engineers, architects and contractors in diagnosing existing problems and avoiding them in new buildings. Fully revised and updated, this edition, in new clearer format, covers developments in building defects, and problems such as sick building syndrome. Well liked for its mixture of theory and practice the new edition will complement Hinks and Cook's student textbook on defects at the practitioner level.
Straw Bale Home Design, U.S. Department of Energy provides information on strawbale home construction - original source at http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/designing_remodeling/index.cfm/mytopic=10350
More Straw Bale Building: A Complete Guide to Designing and Building with Straw (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series), Chris Magwood, Peter Mack, New Society Publishers (February 1, 2005), ISBN-10: 0865715181 ISBN-13: 978-0865715189 - Quoting: Straw bale houses are easy to build, affordable, super energy efficient, environmentally friendly, attractive, and can be designed to match the builder’s personal space needs, esthetics and budget. Despite mushrooming interest in the technique, however, most straw bale books focus on “selling” the dream of straw bale building, but don’t adequately address the most critical issues faced by bale house builders. Moreover, since many developments in this field are recent, few books are completely up to date with the latest techniques. More Straw Bale Building is designed to fill this gap. A completely rewritten edition of the 20,000-copy best--selling original, it leads the potential builder through the entire process of building a bale structure, tackling all the practical issues: finding and choosing bales; developing sound building plans; roofing; electrical, plumbing, and heating systems; building code compliance; and special concerns for builders in northern climates.