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Roof Framing - Chapter Onehttp://www.acontractorslicense.com/books/rf-chapter.html[06/03/2011 6:37:56 PM]

Roof Framing

by Marshall GrossChapter OneIntroduction to a Simple Roof

Roof framing is the Ph.D. of carpentry. Most carpenters would agree that it requires moreknowledge and skill than any other framing task. Many experienced carpenters, even mastercarpenters who have put a roof on many homes, don't claim to be expert roof framers. There aretoo many roof styles and there's too much mathematics for most carpenters to feel like they canhandle any roof job that's likely to come along.And if I had to select a single framing job on which carpenters waste the most time and material, itwould be roof framing without a doubt.Having admitted right at the start that roof framing (or roof cutting, as I'll call it) isn't as easy asframing a partition or floor, I'm going to set out to prove that any diligent carpenter with theintelligence to read and understand the pages in this book can become an expert roof cutter.Even if you've never driven a straight nail in your life, this book can make you a skilled roof cutter.It isn't hard if you have a knowledgeable and patient teacher. And I intend to be exactly that.I learned roof cutting from a master carpenter by the name of Florien Alter. He perfected his skills in Germany over 50 years ago. Iwas lucky. There are few really expert roof cutters working in the construction industry today. And I know of no book or other sourcefor most of the information presented in this manual. But I expect that this book will keep the fine art of roof cutting available to anycarpenter or apprentice roof cutter who wants to master the trade.

From Simple to Complex

Don't get discouraged if something in this book seems too complicated at first. My goal is to make you a master roof cutter capable offraming irregular, octagon and unequal pitch roofs. Knowledge like this doesn't come overnight. A lawyer or doctor spends yearslearning and perfecting his skills. A craftsman needs nearly as much time to learn his trade.Give yourself time to get comfortable with the procedures and recommendations in this book. Build the models I describe. Workthrough the problems until your answers match my answers at the back of the book. Master each type of roof as that kind of roof jobcomes along. When you can frame any roof discussed in this book, you should have no trouble making a good living as a master roofcutter.

The First Few Chapters

If you've worked as a roof cutter or carpenter, you already know much of what's in the first few chapters. But the apprentice programsI'm familiar with don't do an adequate job of explaining many of the important points that you'll find in Chapters 1 through 6. You maywant to review these chapters even if you feel reasonably certain that you can handle gable and hip roofs. These chapters includeinformation that will help even experienced roof cutters.In Chapter 2 I'm going to suggest that you use one of the most powerful tools a roof cutter can own ... an inexpensive hand-heldcalculator. It will free you from dependence on rafter length tables, increase your accuracy, and provide correct rafter lengths for all ofthe irregular roofs that no rafter table could possibly cover. Modern hand-held calculators make the tables on a framing square a poorsecond choice for modern craftsmen.

Your Calculator

I use a Texas Instruments calculator, the TI-35, and have based my examples on it. But many others are available, at a veryreasonable cost, at most drug and discount stores. If you buy a calculator for roof cutting, be sure it has keys that will calculatesquare root, square, sine, cosine, tangent and that will store and recall figures in memory.Before we begin, note that there's a Reference Section near the end of this manual. Appendix B in the Reference Section may beespecially helpful if you didn't take trigonometry in high school or need a quick brush-up on terms used to describe sides of a righttriangle.Now, let's start at the beginning and take it one easy step at a time.

In the Beginning

Figure 1-1 shows a building with the wall framing completed. The stage is set for the roof cutter to begin his work.At the top of the wall studs are two horizontal members called plates. The first horizontal member above the studs is simply called

the plate.

The plate above that is called the

rafter plate

because this is the resting place for the rafters. The outside edge of the rafter plate

Roof Framing - Chapter Onehttp://www.acontractorslicense.com/books/rf-chapter.html[06/03/2011 6:37:56 PM]

is the reference plane for all roof cutting work. It's the line from which many important roof dimensions are measured. We'll call this the

building line.

A Simple Roof

Figure 1-2 shows a simple roof added to the framing in Figure 1-1. The roof shown would finish the roof cutter's work on this building.Notice that the roof has only two slopes. This is called a

gable roof.

By the end of the next chapter you'll know how to cut this simpleroof.Now we're going to look at this building from the direction of the arrow in Figure 1-2.

Span and Total Run

From the direction of the arrow in Figure 1-2 we can see two right triangles formed by the roof. These are

right

triangles becauseeach has one right (90 degree) angle.Look at Figure 1-3. Notice that both triangles are identical in every aspect. Whatever we calculate for one triangle will apply to theother.The width of the building is called the

span.

For calculation purposes, we'll divide the span in half (as in Figure 1-3) to get the base ofone right triangle. We'll call half the span distance the

total run.

This is an important dimension to the roof cutter. See Figure 1-4.

Span

Figure 1-3

Total Rise

This is the vertical height of the roof measured at the midpoint between opposite rafter plates (Figure 1-3). The word total tells us thatthis is the overall dimension to the highest point. The highest point is called the ridge.Total run is expressed only in feet (as in 14.75'), while total rise is usually expressed in feet and inches (as in 4' 3-1/2").Here are the terms we've used so far:

Total Run:

half the span of the building (expressed in feet).

Total Rise:

the apparent height of the roof ridge above the rafter plate.

Unit Run and Unit Rise

Unit run and unit rise

are also key terms used in roof cutting. They're smaller segments, or building blocks, of the roof triangle. SeeFigure 1-5.The unit rise is expressed in inches from 1" to 24" of rise. When we say, "I have a 4 in 12 pitch roof," it means that the roof surfacerises 4" for every 12" moved along the line which identifies total run. In carpenter's language, the unit rise and unit run indicate theslope of the roof.Since our English system of linear measure is based on 12", or one foot, it's appropriate that 12" be the basic unit in roof cutting.Therefore, the

unit run

for a common rafter is always 12", or one foot. Later we'll see why the unit run for a regular hip rafter is 16.97"and the unit run of a regular octagon hip rafter is 12.988". These numbers are not arbitrary. They're fixed mathematical relationshipsbased on the 1-2" unit run of the common rafter.

The unit rise

can be anything the designer of the building wants. The unit rise expresses the steepness of the roof's slope as relatedto the 12" unit run. There are three common ways to note the particular slope: in words, such as "four in twelve," in numbers,expressed as a ratio such as "4:12," and a symbol, showing a horizontal line with 12 above the line and a vertical line with 4 besidethat line. See Figure 1-6.

Roof Framing - Chapter Onehttp://www.acontractorslicense.com/books/rf-chapter.html[06/03/2011 6:37:56 PM]

Calculating Total Rise

Figure 1-7 shows a 4 in 12 roof. The total rise increases 4" every time an additional foot (12") is added to the total run.All of the lines (a) through (e) in Figure 1-7 represent a 4 in 12 rafter, and each line makes a successively larger triangle. If the totalrun for a particular roof is known and the unit rise is given on the blueprint, it's easy to find the height of' the total rise. Simply multiplythe unit rise by the number of feet in the total run. Figure 1-8 shows examples.Test you understanding of the information presented so far by working on the following example:A 26' wide building is to have a 6 in 12 gable roof. Find the: (a)

unit run

, (b)

unit rise

, (c)

total run

, and (d)

total rise

.Here's how to do it:a) The unit run is the basic run of 12", which is always used for common rafters. Since this is to be a gable roof, there will only becommon rafters in this building.b) The unit rise is given as 6".c) The total run is another name for half the span or width of a building. Since the span is given as 26', the total must be 13'.d) To find the total rise, multiply the unit rise by the total run: 6" times 13 equals 78", or 6' 6".

Problems

Here are two more problems. The answers are in the back of the book.

1) A 22'-wide building has a gable roof that rises 8" for every 12" of run.a) What's the common rafter total run? b) How high is the peak? c) What's the unit rise? d) What's the unit run? 2) A regular gable roof with a 4 in 12 pitch has a span of 17'.a) What's the total run? b) What's the unit run? c) What's the unit rise? d) What's the total rise?

Two Types of Roof Framing

Type I - Conventional -

If a roof rests solely on opposite rafter plates, the weight of the roof will tend to push the upper part of thewalls outward. See Figure 1-9. To keep this from happening,

ceiling joists

are installed across the building span. They're nailed intothe rafter plate on each side of the building, and into each rafter. Usually there's a ceiling joist for every set of common rafters. Theseceiling joists also provide a support for the first story ceiling and the second story flooring.Collar ties can also help hold the walls together. See the right-hand illustration in Figure 1-9. Collar ties are generally made from 1 x 6material and connect every third set of rafters at a point one-third of the distance down the rafter from the ridge.

Type 2 - Post and Beam:

In this type of construction, a post is built into the framing of the wall at either end of the house. See Figure1-10. These posts support a heavy beam which is the ridge board for the roof. The beam supports the upper end of' the commonrafters and the roof load. Since the rafters will be exposed to view from the room below, you'll probably want to use rough lumber tocreate the rustic took that's popular in exposed beam ceilings.The posts hold up the beam and the beam holds up the roof'. That eliminates the need for ceiling joists. If the span is very large, anoccasional joist or metal rod will be added for strength.

Design Considerations

Selecting the roof pitch isn't purely a matter of design preference. Roof pitch determines what type of roof covering can be used, the

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