A living room with white sofas and a softly vaulted rafter ceiling. Photo by Ryan Christodoulou on Unsplash.

The skeleton structure of a roof is one of the most important aspects of its initial construction. The two primary categories of internal roofing structures are trusses and rafters. When you’re building a home or renovating a property, how can you be sure which variation is ideal for your unique roof?

In recent years, roof rafters and trusses have been neck-and-neck in popularity. This battle stems not so much from one roofing schematic holding a majority of advantages over the other — it boils down more often to a matter of personal preference, budget, and time limitations. 

In this article, we will review the high-level differences between rafters and trusses and how you can weigh the factors to determine which one is right for you and your home improvement needs.

Rafters

Rafters were the traditional structure of choice for homes in the past, and many are still constructed today. 

A roof rafter, which lies underneath the shingles or tile of the roof covering, is constructed in a triangular shape with two outer wooden beams supporting the lateral sides of the shape. This shape is duplicated and repeated throughout the layout of the entire roof, with rafter units spaced evenly apart. Unlike trusses, there is no supporting beam in a rafter build that crosses diagonally or asymmetrically in relation to the under-roof “triangles”.

Many modern rafters are fabricated in combination with metal to reinforce their resistance to external loads.

Trusses

It’s no coincidence that this roofing structure sounds a bit like the word “trust.” After all, trusses tend to be stronger and more durable than some of their rafter counterparts! 

The construction of a roofing truss begins in a similar manner to a rafter in that a triangle is used as the base shape. They differ, however, because they also include a series of interposed supportive beams that give the design greater structure and weight-bearing capacity.

Rafters and Trusses: Comparing Cost

Rafters tend to be more expensive to install because they are custom-cut and designed to fit the dimensions of the surrounding home’s skeleton. They are also desirable from an aesthetic standpoint due to the vaulted-ceiling effect they produce, and some variations include expensive metals to fortify beams. Given the technicalities of customizing a rafter build, as well as the plank-by-plank installation process, this method of construction tends to take longer and therefore racks up more expenses in labor costs.

Trusses are manufactured in advance based on industry standards and arrive directly from the producer. For this reason, they are seen as more of a systematized, wholesale item that can be sold for a lower price. Additionally, because no on-site measuring or modifications are necessary, their installation tends to take little more than one or two days; by contrast, an average rafter project can last a week or longer.

How to Decide Between Rafters and Trusses

One of the most influential factors in the decision between rafters and trusses depends on the size of your home. Smaller homes are better suited for rafters because they do not need as much weight or width support. By contrast, larger homes are generally better equipped to support a truss structure. The additional support of the beams are needed to hold up the greater surface area of the overhead roof, as well as other foundational beams in the walls of the home. 

There is no single right answer to whether rafters or trusses are the best option for your home. Express Roofing recommends that you consult a carpenter, a professional engineer, and one or more of our roofing experts prior to deciding on one supportive structure over another. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and have a better understanding of how to proceed with your roof construction or renovation. For more information on roof repair, maintenance, and more in the Mesa, Arizona, area, please contact Express Roofing today!