Build with Rafter and Ridgeboard

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Build a Chalet Style shed with Rafter&Ridgeboard

Chalet Style shed under construction  with Rafter&Ridgeboard


Carpentry Retro: Build with Rafter and Ridgeboard!

Do you know what rafter&ridgeboard construction is? Most trained carpenters are familiar with rafter and ridgeboard construction  because most homes in the past were built with this essential, reliable, strong construction technique. This timeless, and relatively simple construction method has fallen out of favour because of the convenience and availability of trusses.

The Modern Truss:  Alternative to Rafter and Ridgeboard Stick Framing

A discussion of rafter and ridgeboard stick frame construction would not  be complete without an explanation why the use of trusses has become more popular. The modern home builder today is more likely to use pre-manufactured trusses which incorporate ceiling joists, rafters and engineered web designs into single units which are incredibly strong. Individual rafters, ceiling joists and other web components are all computer-designed and  assembled with steel gussets into a ‘truss’ structure.  The gussets are gang-nailed together, or today, more likely press-assembled  with specially-designed steel gusset plates at the time of manufacture.   An engineered truss  offers rapid installation of the exterior  roof framing  and interior ceiling framing of a home simultaneously.  With trusses, wide spans can be achieved without central load-bearing walls, posts or beams. Much time can be saved in construction by using trusses on large projects. Trusses for a small building such as a shed , play house, or doghouse are not necessary. Even for a modest full-sized home, rafter and ridgeboard construction is fast and efficient and can be achieved by competent carpenters and moderately-skilled DIYers.  Your closest long- established neighbourhood in any city has many homes that demonstrate the method is reliable and strong enough to last for centuries. Building with Rafters and Ridgeboard Rafters are established in opposing matched pairs to form the roof, with each rafter leaning against,  and fastened to a pre-installed ridgeboard at a calculated height with another rafter immediately opposite.  The length of the rafter is calculated using the simple Pythagorean geometry of a right-angled triangle. The chalet style shed in our photo  has a  12:12 pitch slope (45°) and a wide overhang. The pitch of the roof must be decided prior to making any rafter cuts.
Stick framing showing rafters and ridgeboard

Stick framing showing rafters and ridgeboard

The  rafter, after calculating carefully for length, is cut short at the peak to allow for half of the thickness of the chosen ridgeboard which may be a 1x6" or 2"x6 dimensioned lumber. The length of the rafter is calculated from the actual peak to the vertical cut for the bird's mouth notch which is made in the underside of the rafter at the top of the supporting wall. An allowance for the overhang of the rafter is added to the rafter length calculation.  The top end of the rafter is cut vertically to accept the fascia board. The fascia boards  and ridge boards are both measured long enough to extend past the end walls, again to allow for overhang as desired and carry the ends of the ‘fly rafters’ on either end of the building . An  overhanging ‘ladder’  assembly may be built to resting on the  end wall,  or simple ‘lookouts’ may be used  to fasten the fly rafter . *Hint:  Cut one matching pair of rafters (opposing) and try them. If they fit perfectly, use them as patterns for the remaining rafters. In typical stick-framing, (don’t you just love that old carpenter term?)   'horizontal ‘collar ties' would be nailed onto the opposing rafters  close to the apex of the roof for added load-carrying strength. Additional collar ties to and from matching opposing rafters may also be added at the mid-point of the rafter. Doing so substantially improves the strength by creating what is in fact a simple truss.  A diagonal support brace from the wall plate to the peak of the underside of the roof may be installed and fastened to each of the rafters to  establish spacing and  dimensional stability prior to roof sheeting. Following the installation of the rafters, ceiling joists may also be installed if desired.
Symmetry of Rafters

Symmetry of Rafters is Elegant Geometry

See the photos!  The beautiful  symmetry of rafters carefully installed in stick-framing has a certain elegance... Here's an over-simplified diagram.
Rafter and Ridgeboard Construction showing Collar tie

Rafter and Ridgeboard Construction showing Collar tie

Simple, isn’t it? Now you can build that dog house or play house with a storage space. Or a chicken-coop for the egg-laying chooks. Or a whimsical peaked roof for a wishing-well. Or a protective porch over that back door.   The application is endless.   After a small project is complete,  try a larger garden shed too. Apply  the rafter and ridgeboard construction technique to your next building project and you’ll have discovered the joy of genuine stick-framing .  Happy Building!   Is that Incoming I hear?   *Photo credits and diagram © 2013 rakukkee  All rights reserved.    FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

About Raymond Alexander Kukkee

A published author and freelance writing professional, Raymond lives and writes in Northwestern Ontario.
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4 Responses to Build with Rafter and Ridgeboard

  1. I can tell you like this subject Ray because you say the rafters have elegance 🙂 It is not a subject here that I have experience in but I still appreciate your wonderful writing style!

  2. Yes, rafters installed correctly and carefully are beautiful geometry which is elegant in it’s own way, much like any visual art form, perfection trumps function at times “:) I do love building “:) Thank you for commenting, Christyb ~R

  3. Dave says:

    Collar ties are not a substitute for Rafter ties. What will keep pressure from blowing your walls outward?

    • hi Dave, welcome to IncomingBytes! Collar ties or gussets placed high are definitely NOT a substitute for rafter ties fastened at the top plate–especially for longer walls, larger spans, larger buildings. We could not agree more.

      Even on smaller buildings –like the shed illustrated, collar ties on wider spans MUST be placed low enough to create a ‘truss effect’, particularly with smaller dimensioned-lumber construction (ie 2×4 rafters) –or if they are proposed as a substitute for rafter ties on larger buildings. The placement is critical especially if the rafters happen to be smaller dimension or the roof construction has been built with 2′ wide OC spacing in high-snow-load geographic areas.
      The placing of the tensile (collar tie OR rafter) member is absolutely critical -and certainly, lower (as close to the top plate as possible) is definitely recommended if a higher ceiling is not specified.

      Modified truss (web-like) ‘collar ties’ have also been used effectively in place of rafter ties to allow more headroom (ie a vaulted ceiling) if no ceiling rafters are desired for aesthetic reasons or function.

      Thanks for that valuable comment. The prime causes of walls bowing out with age or snow load are forgotten, broken, incorrectly-located, missing or inadequate collar ties, particularly if combined with under-dimension, inadequate roof structural members or poor-quality materials.
      Thanks again for commenting! ~R

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