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Trusses vs Rafters: Which are better and more cost-effective

Trusses vs Rafters

The roof is your first line of defense. It protects you from weather extremes. The construction, composition, and design of the material should be strong enough to give you protection. The roofs in the US are composed of either rafters or trusses. Roof rafters were commonly used for roof construction in the past but the US population is now shifting towards trusses. Both are meant to give protection to the home but which one is the best? Let us compare the properties of both so that we may find out which one is the best between them.

Trusses vs Rafters


Rafting is commonly known as stick framing. Rafters are used to frame the roof composed of long, wooden boards. Usually, rafters and trusses are the same having a triangular shape. There is the main difference between rafters and trusses on the base of the method of construction. The construction of rafters takes place on-site. They take a long time due to the construction of one piece at a time. It is a time taking method.  Roof rafters can be customized according to requirements. Rafters are visually appealing and they provide open space, therefore they look beautiful and appealing.

Rafters have only two beams, one outer and an inner beam. The cut size for beams of the rafters is either 2×10 or 2×12, sloping down from the top of the roof. The ceiling joints help to join and secure the exterior walls and rafters. They provide protection to the sheathing of the roof by the placement of a ridge board or ridge beam at the roof center. 

What is a Ridge Beam?

The structural pipe that is meant for supporting and holding up the rafter is called a ridge beam. Usually, the beam increases the longevity of the rafter and also provides more stability than the ridge boards. The buildings that have more ceiling space use ridge beams for stability. They also help to increase the attic space.

  • Ridge Boards

The thin but non-structural boards that do not carry any load as beams do are called ridge boards. The ridge beams behave as a connecting point between the joints of each side. Therefore, they help to maintain spacing between rafters as well as transfer loads onto the exterior walls via joints. The roof slopes having a size of 3×12 and 12×12 use ridge boards in construction.  In addition, collar ties are required by the ridge boards to prevent pressure exertion and wall collapse. On contrary, the ridge beams do not need collar ties.


Traditionally, roof trusses also provide support to the roof as the rafters do but structurally, they are different. The trusses are composed of prefabricated and lightweight wood. They require a controlled environment at the factory for a quality product. The construction method of trusses is therefore time-saving. The large pieces of wood ranging in size from 2×8 inches to 2×10 inches are processed in an automated machine or plant, converted into trusses, and then delivered to the construction site. Unlike, rafters, trusses are manufactured on the chords pattern featured by webbing arrangements. This webbing pattern helps in load distribution onto the external walls.

In addition, they are composed of multiple beams and hence, distribute the load more broadly as compared to the rafters. They provide more stability and strength to the roof as compared to rafters. Webbing patterns can be different depending upon the size of the building. The most common type of webbing is a king-post truss. It requires lesser material and is hence cost-effective. Both the trusses and the rafters are of good quality but there is no open space in trusses due to multiple beams so they do not look appealing.

Rafters and Trusses, which one is Better?

Benefits of Rafters:

  • Attic Space

Do you want to make the attic your living space? Rafters are the best choice as they add space to your attic.

  • Insulation

A properly insulated roof is the need of every house. As rafters provide more space, there will be enough room to install insulation.

  • Installment is Time-Saving

Since they are made on-site, they require less time for installing and are hence time-saving. 

Disadvantages of Rafters:

  • Expensive

As they are constructed on-site, therefore more wood and labor are required. The wood and labor costs make it more expensive.

  • Requires a Professional

Rafter installation is not an easy job. You need an experienced professional for this purpose. A professional craftsman is required to construct a good quality rafter. Trusses are becoming popular in the US market, therefore finding a rafter professional is difficult. 

  • More time for Construction

Due to their on-site construction and lack of advanced planning, they take a longer time for construction. Only one piece is constructed at a time, it may take up to one week to complete the construction of all the required pieces. Later, they are installed. 

Benefits of Trusses:

  • Better Quality

Trusses are constructed on a plant or in a factory having a highly controlled environment. They give products of high quality having precise measurements and cuts. In addition, a tight and organized design of the roof is attained by installing trusses.

  • Timely Delivery

Due to their automated construction, timely delivery is ensured and hence construction projects are way much easier to plan out.

  • Rapid Construction

Once they are constructed and delivered on-site, they take less time for installment, and roof construction is completed in lesser time.

  • Strength and Stability

Trusses are composed of more beams and webbing patterns, therefore are more stable and provide a stronger base for roof construction as compared to rafters. 

Disadvantages of Trusses:

  • Less Space for Attic

The biggest disadvantage of trusses is less available space for insulation and attic. Multiple beams and webbings provide less space for any further modification and alteration.

  • Less Flexible 

Less space makes trusses less flexible. Since there is no available space, it means you cannot modify it. Any future changes can affect the stability of the roof. 

Which one is Better and Cost-effective?

In a nutshell, it is concluded that the trusses seem a better choice as compared to rafters. Initially, the cost of the trusses seems high involving pre-fabrication of raw material, and then on-site transportation also makes them less suitable. However, the installment is time-saving as well as construction also takes less time due to automatic machines. On contrary, rafters need more labor and more experienced professionals. They also need more lumber as compared to trusses.

The rise in wood prices has resulted in making it more expensive and less cost-effective. Hence, it is analyzed that the roofing contractors can save up to 50% from trusses construction. Trusses are more stable and stronger as well as are cost-effective. Several companies are providing services of rafters and trusses construction. You can hire the services of roofers101.com as a stronger, stable, and cost-effective roofer. They deal with residential, commercial, and industrial projects.