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    Home | Our Blog | Truss Roof vs Rafters: What's the Difference?

    Truss Roof vs Rafters: What's the Difference?

    Reviewed by Tomas Kalkys. President.
    Qualifications: More than 20 years of experience in residential and commercial exterior remodeling.
    Founding farther of Legacy Service.
    Written by LegacyUSA Team

    posted on Mar 10, 2021

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    Truss Roof vs Rafters

    At first glance, roof trusses and rafters may seem pretty similar, but they’re actually more different than you might think. Each has its pros and cons, so it’s up to you to decide which one is ultimately right for you.

    In this article, we’re going to discuss the difference between trusses and rafters. Although trusses are more modern, and they’re slowly but surely becoming more popular, rafters are a classic option that has its own set of advantages. We hope that with the help of this blog, you can determine which type would work best for your home.

    At Legacy Service, we provide roofing installation and replacement services for homeowners throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Whether you’re looking to install asphalt shingles, metal roofing, or anything in between, let our team do it for you. After all, protecting your family and your home is the most important thing in life.

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    Whether you choose roofing installation or replacement, we’ll send out a technician who will provide you with a free estimate. They can also help you decide the winner of this heated debate: roof trusses vs. rafters.

    So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get started! Continue reading to learn more about roof rafters vs. trusses or call us today to schedule a consultation.

    What’s the Difference Between Rafters and Trusses?

    Rafters and trusses are pretty similar, especially in the sense that they’re both used for roof framing, but there are key differences that will affect which one you’d prefer for your house.

    In recent years, trusses have been more commonly used than rafters by residential homeowners in the United States. This is due to the fact that they’re economical to build and offer excellent durability. However, rafters are still beneficial in their own way. Not only are they the traditional way to frame your roof, but they also provide more opportunity for creativity in your home’s design. Those are the main differences between the two types.

    In the sections below, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of attic trusses vs. rafters in further detail. We’ll explain why trusses have been gradually replacing rafters so that now roughly 80% of new residential construction uses them instead of rafters to support the roof.

    If you’re interested in installing or replacing your roof, you don’t have to look any further. We’ll present you with all of your options and walk you through the process, so you can decide what’s best for your home. Feel free to contact us at any time to schedule a free estimate.

    Roof Rafter

    What is a Roof Rafter?

    You may be wondering, “What is a rafter?” If so, you’ve come to the right place. We specialize in rafters and pretty much all things roofing!

    A rafter is defined as one of a series of sloped structural pieces (typically wooden beams) that extend from the hip or ridge to eave, wall plate, or downslope perimeter. They’re designed to support the roof deck, shingles, and everything else that goes with the roof.

    Rafters are the traditional way to frame a roof. This is also known as stick framing, which is cut and built on the job site by a professional carpenter. Major components of a rafter include:

    • Common rafter
    • Plumb cut
    • Ridge board
    • Collar tie
    • Birdsmouth cut
    • Tail cut
    • Ceiling joist
    • Double top plates
    • Wall stud

    Rafter boards that create the slope of the roof are typically wider than ones used to create trusses. While 2x4s are most common in trusses, 2x8s, 2x10s, and 2x12s are most common in rafters. In a finished space, insulation is placed between the rafter boards and drywall. In an unfinished space, like an attic, insulation is usually laid between the joists.

    In the next sections, we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of choosing rafters to frame your roof.

    Rafter Pros

    Although the number of homeowners using trusses have increased in the past half-century, many people still use rafters to frame their roof. As the traditional way to provide structure, rafters have plenty of advantages. They include:

    • Rafters allow for more space in your home – When you use rafters, you’ll be pleased to hear that they’ll provide more space in your home. In fact, you might even be able to turn your attic into an office or another bedroom. Even if you don’t need another room, you can open the lower floor to create a beautiful vaulted ceiling.
    • You can use them anywhere – Rafters are usually built on-site, so they’re perfect for building locations that are hard to reach. Whether it’s by truck, boat, or helicopter, the way the material can be transported is also quite flexible.
    • They’re perfect for “spur of the moment” projects – Since rafters don’t have to be ordered and built ahead of time, they’re ideal for spontaneous projects.

    All in all, if you’re seeking flexibility in regards to timespan, the amount of space in your home, or the way you need to transport the materials, rafters may be the right choice for you. Of course, it’s always best to consult with a roofing expert before making your final decision.

    Rafter Cons

    Although rafters are a popular and high-quality way to frame your roof, they also have a few disadvantages that you’ll want to know about. The cons of using rafters include:

    • They’re usually more expensive than trusses – When you factor in the labor rate and materials, rafters are typically more expensive than trusses. If you’re on a budget, trusses may make more sense.
    • They can take longer to build – If you have to deal with inclement weather, the building process will take longer. This is because the entire structure will need to be tarped until the rain is over.

    In the next sections, we’ll discuss roof trusses as well as their pros and cons.

    Roof Truss

    What is a Roof Truss?

    You might be wondering, “What is a trussed roof?” And you also may be wondering how trusses differ from rafters.

    A roof truss is best described as a structural framework of timbers that’s designed to provide support for a roof. They’re also used to bridge the space above a room. They typically occur at regular intervals, and they’re linked by horizontal beams known as purlins.

    One of the main differences between truss roofs vs. rafters is the fact that trusses are prefabricated wooden structures while rafters are usually built on-site. For trusses, the triangular webbing of structural pieces not only provide support for the roof, but they also tie the outside walls of the home together.

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    Another key difference between the two is that trusses mainly use 2x4s instead of wider dimensional boards. Since the materials aren’t as strong, more material ends up being used.

    Trusses have become increasingly popular over the past half-century. In the next sections, we’ll discuss the pros and cons to help you determine if they’re the right fit for your home. Once you know the advantages and disadvantages of each, you’ll have a better idea of which one would be right for you. Let’s get started by reviewing the pros.

    Truss Pros

    There’s a reason why trusses are now being used for about 80% of new residential roof projects. They have tons of advantages and will provide your home with the structural support it deserves. The pros of using a truss system roof include:

    • They have superior span and strength – Both the span and strength of truss roofs are superior to rafters. While truss spans can reach up to 60 feet, rafter spans usually can only reach to about 30 feet. Also, the webbing of truss roofs provides excellent structural strength.
    • They’re DIY friendly – Trusses are easier to build yourself than rafters. Fortunately, truss packages come with instructions that will help you with spacing and fastening. They also tend to number or mark differing sizes and types of trusses for easy identification.
    • They tend to be less expensive than rafters – In most cases, the cost of a prefabricated truss package is about 30-50% less than the material and labor costs of building rafters on-site.
    • Their fabrication allows for greater accuracy – Since they’re built in a controlled environment, there tend to be fewer mistakes in the fabrication of a truss roof. Specifications are inserted into software and the components are digitally measured and cut.

    Truss Cons

    As good as they sounded in the section above, trusses aren’t perfect. Otherwise, we wouldn’t even need to be debating roof rafters vs. trusses. The disadvantages of choosing trusses include:

    • Assembled trusses are big and heavy – Since assembled trusses are so large, they’ll need to be delivered on a semi, which raises shipping costs. You might even need to rent a crane or boom to reach the roof. And if you live on an island or mountain, it’ll
    • They have less flexibility – Since trusses have structural webbing, your options are limited in regards to what you can do with the space above and beneath them. You probably won’t be able to convert your attic into an office or another bedroom.

    Which One is Better for Home Roofing?

    This answer will differ depending on your wants and needs for your home as well as the person you ask. While trusses have significantly increased in popularity over the past half-century, rafters are still used by a great deal of homeowners.

    Here are the instances when trusses would work better for your home:

    • You can easily access the site of the home and its roof.
    • Cost and budget are a priority in the design of your roof.
    • You wouldn’t prefer the attic to be a finished space.
    • If you have any vaulted ceilings in your plan, you can use scissor trusses to provide enough steepness. However, you need to consult an architect to determine that.

    Here are the instances when rafters would work better for your home:

    • You’d prefer a steeply vaulted ceiling.
    • You’d like to maximize the living space in your home. For instance, you may want to convert the attic into another bedroom or an office.
    • It’s difficult or impossible for trusses to reach the building site with an affordable method of transportation.

    Trusses have become increasingly popular over the past 50 years. In fact, a vast majority of new roofs use trusses rather than rafters as framing. We suggest contacting your local roofer to help you determine which one would be right for you.

    Truss Roof vs Rafters FAQ

    In this section, we’ll answer your questions about the difference between ceiling joists and rafters, and we’ll also compare the costs of trusses vs. rafters. In fact, we aim to answer any questions that you have about trusses and rafters in this blog. If you have further questions, please be sure to contact your local roofer.

    If you’re interested in installing or replacing your roof, please feel free to contact us at any time. We’ll send out a technician (either in person or over the phone) who will get your home’s measurements and provide you with a free estimate.

    Can you replace trusses with rafters?

    Although it’s technically possible to replace trusses with rafters, it’s best to check with a structural engineer before you make any decisions. Redesigning a roof space potentially interferes with the structural integrity, so not only should you consult an expert, but you should also properly plan your remodel before beginning the process. If you fail to do so, it could lead to expensive and potentially dangerous problems with your roof.

    If you decide to make adjustments to your roof trusses, please follow these steps to ensure the proper outcome:

    • Put temporary load bearers in place as support. This includes:
      • Underneath the ridge of your roof, run a support header after finding the correct type and size with the help of an engineer.
      • Add support to both ends of the header and one in the middle. These new beams should go right to the foundations to make your roof as structurally sound as possible.
    • Then, you’ll have to boost the load-bearing capabilities by adding extra rafters between the sidewalls and new support header.
    • After that, you’ll be ready to cut out the trusses. Make sure you have an engineer check the floor of your space.

    What is the difference between ceiling joists and rafters?

    Rafters and joists are both used in the construction of buildings, but they have a few differences. It’s essential for those who work in the construction industry to understand the difference between the two, and it’s also useful for homeowners to have a basic understanding in case repair and maintenance are needed.


    Let’s start with joists. They are parallel horizontal beams that run across an open space. They join the opposite walls in a building to support both the ceiling below and the floor above. They’re usually made from timber, and they come in a variety of widths (usually between 8-12 inches wide).


    On the other hand, rafters run diagonally from the wall plate to the apex of a roof structure. They form the foundation for attachment of the roof boards onto which the final roof covering is fixed. They are typically about 8-10 inches wide.

    The main difference between joists and rafters is that joists are usually more horizontal to the ground while rafters are used for steeply sloped roofs.

    Which costs less?

    Trusses typically cost less than rafters. In fact, prefabricated truss packages will cost about 30-50% less than the materials and labor used to build rafters on-site. They have become increasingly popular over the past 50 years because of their cost-effectiveness compared to rafters. If budget is a significant factor in your roof truss vs. rafter decision, most of the experts will recommend that you choose trusses.

    Roof Replacement

    Contact Us Today to Schedule a Roof Replacement Estimate!

    Whether you’ve decided on trusses, rafters, or would like to consult with an expert first, please contact our team at Legacy Service. We provide roof installation and replacement services for homeowners throughout New Jersey, Delaware, and southeastern Pennsylvania.

    To schedule a free estimate, please feel free to contact us today!

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    Posted on Mar 10, 2021 in Roof

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