Site Built Roof Trusses

Site Built Roof Trusses

In penning my recent article about sexy prefab roof trusses, recalled from recesses of what little mind I have yet, was a story I will share with you about site built roof trusses.

I was not long into my position as truss plant manager for Lucas Plywood and Lumber when a house framer approached me in regards to trusses for a pole barn he had just sold. Whilst then I was relatively (if not completely) post frame (pole barn) building ignorant – I did know lots about trusses.

Now I am relatively sure this builder wanted me to design these 40 foot clearspan trusses for him. I can only assume he thought he was going to save himself a bunch of money by assembling trusses himself at the jobsite.

Only then 22 years old, I didn’t know much, but did know helping with a design was not a place I was going to get myself deep into. I did end up selling this builder a bunch of 20 and 22 foot long 2×12 #2 Green Douglas-Fir, some 2×4’s and plywood for gussets. I made him provide me with a list as I wanted no part of any liability fiasco.

As far as I know, it all worked.

How this builder expected to come out ahead still baffles me. Truss companies (hopefully) make a profit, otherwise why be in business? When I was a newcomer to truss sales, we used to double lumber costs to come up with a sell price. Toothed steel connector plates ran about 7% of sell price and assembly labor 10%. Left us with a gross profit margin of roughly 1/3rd.

We also had benefits of engineer sealed truss designs, often using higher graded lumber than what a builder would normally be able to buy from his or her local lumber supplier. Our labor costs were reduced by having cutting capabilities of several hundred boards per hour, being trimmed to length and proper angles pretty much as quickly as boards could be fed into saws. Jigs, once set up, provided a means for every truss to be identical in profile.

Have a builder considering constructing trusses for your new post frame building at your site? Unless you are after something quite custom, being built from engineer sealed plans – just say no, as somewhere in this your builder will be cutting corners.

2 thoughts on “Site Built Roof Trusses

  1. Ah the stories.
    Back 40+ years ago, I was a young father with no money and we were putting a 1,000 ft^2 addition on our small house, with a budget of 10k, not much even then.

    Well, I “designed” the addition and hired a guy to do the block work and rough framing. I planned to buy trusses but we needed small quantities of 3 different shapes. A std truss at Menards then IIRC was about $25 each, with the specials well above that, 65-75? Way too much.

    My dad and I site built them on the deck (after shoveling the snow off) for about 15 each, and upgraded to 6″ bottom members just cause. They were installed spaced on the then standard spacing of 16″ on center.

    They are still going strong today.

    I would sure build different today. 🙂


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