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A Basic Example of Truss Design

– using axially loaded members

Traditional roofing materials such
as thatch and shingles are not
waterproof - they require steep
pitches to shed water.
As the pitch of the roof increases,
the rafters feel more axial load and
less bending load. This is
because the load increasingly
runs down the rafter (thus
compressing it) rather than running
across it like a beam.
Roofs of this type were often
constructed with a load bearing
ridge beam
Coupled rafters lean on each other at the top and obviate the need for
a load bearing ridge. At the bottom however, the axial thrust down
the rafters tends to spread the walls outwards. In traditional
construction, large buttresses were used to stop this spread from
By adding a member tying
the bottoms of the coupled
rafters to prevent them
spreading the walls apart, a
simple triangular truss is
formed i.e. the rafters are in
compression; the tie member
is in tension; beam action in
all members is minimal
The underlying concepts in
the example have since
been used to more fully
utilise axial loading in
advanced truss design
Holding Triangles Together with Nail
Even though joints can usually be
thought of as hinges, trusses depend a
lot on their joints.
This is challenging because of the
different three dimensional properties in
The stress concentrations at single
point joints such as bolts, cause
problems as shown in the top sketch.
Multiple-toothed nail plate connectors
used in trusses, successfully deal with
this by distributing the joint loads
across a larger area.
The timber truss industry as we know it
would not be possible without nail plate
The plates are used in pairs - identical
plates are pressed in each side of the
joint using special equipment in a
Bottom Chord
Defines the bottom member of the truss, usually horizontal, and
carrying a combined tension and some bending stress (from gravity
Top Chord
Defines the top members of the truss, usually sloping, and carrying
combined compression and some bending stress (from gravity
Webs are members joining top and bottom chords to form a truss.
They may be in tension or compression depending on the truss
The point where the chords meet. This can be either a Top Chord
Apex or much less commonly a Bottom Chord Apex (not shown).
The Top Chord Apex of multiple trusses in a row, forms the ridge
line of the roof.
The point on a truss where the undersides of the Top and Bottom
Chords join.
Panel points
The points where web members and chord members meet
The distance between the outer edges of the load bearing walls
supporting the trusses (usually heel to heel)
Overhang – Eaves OH
The part of the Top Chord that extends beyond the intersection with
the bottom chord. It forms the eaves overhang of the roof.
To make gable roof shapes, standard trusses are simply added together
at regular intervals for the length of the building. This is very efficient
in terms of truss production because only one truss setup is required
 Trusses can span long distances in one go.
External walls are usually used to provide
support but internal walls are not needed.
 Internal walls cause problems if used for
support because they change the way the
truss works. To prevent this:
 External load bearing walls are made slightly
Detail that should be used

higher than internal walls, leaving a gap between

the bottom chord and the internal wall
Problem because
partition wall is built
hard up under brackets fix the bottom chord to the
bottom chord with
no gap wall – the brackets maintain a gap and
allow the bottom chord to move up and down
Rafter roof Purlin roof

Collar roof Roof frame structures of trussed rafters

Two King post trusses linked to support a roof.
Key:1: ridge board, 2: purlins, 3: common
rafters. This is an example of a "double roof"
with principal rafters and common rafters.

King post truss.

Key: 1: King post, 2: tie beam, 3: principal
rafters, 4: struts
Queen post truss.
Key: 1: Queen posts, 2: tie beam, 3: straining
beam, 4: principal rafters.

Open trusses:Arch-braced truss.

Key: 1: principal rafters, 2: collar beam, 3: arch