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Stylish Support: Choosing Your Truss System

From elementary to advanced, the truss system you choose for your home will have an impact on your overall design.

From personal appearance to complete home design, fashion-forward thinking is about being distinctive. So why shouldn’t the same rule apply to your home’s individual style?

timber frame truss Opting to build a timber-frame home already declares your desire to build outside the box, but the choices you make when designing that home can whisper hints of your style in more subtle ways. While some design decisions are merely aesthetic, others are essential to the structures of your new home’s interior space.

Bent Into Shape

A truss is the timbered unit composed of some combination of vertical posts, girts, main rafters, struts and knee braces joined together with pegs to form a single complete section of the frame called a bent. This bent is then used to support your home at the ends, center or both. Put together on the ground and then raised by hand or crane, the bents are then joined with another bent by ridge beam, girts and perhaps purlins to form a bay — the area of space between two bents.

Truss Talk

There are a number of truss styles to choose from when planning your home. Each style may be used for one story or two, depending on personal preference, load capacity, window placement and room layout. Whether your style is contemporary, traditional, rustic or refined, one choice is sure to be a perfect fit for your timber home. And if you can’t decide, combine a few different styles to create a truly unique interior look.

King.

KingWithStrutsKing posts are perfect for large great rooms or areas where the trusses will have to span greater distances. King posts come in two varieties: suspended and full. A suspended king-post truss with a single, vertical post is often used for areas that are about 16 feet wide, a comfortable-sized room with the option for centered windows or furniture. The full-length king post allows for wider spans, but also includes a vertical post that transfers the load of the ridge beam to the floor. Because of this, a full-length king post would best be used in between bays or on an end wall where windows or wall spaces could be balanced on either side of the post.

The horizontal beam of this style brings rooms to a human scale, offering a cozy feel to a space despite the vaulted ceilings. Keep in mind that the bent girt (a horizontal beam that reinforces the girt) may limit placement of tall furniture; while centered vertical posts and braces limit the possibilities for upper-level windows in your plan. Also, a post may be in the way of a fireplace or television armoire, which needs to be centered for ideal room arrangement.

Queen.

Queen A queen post is a rectangle within a triangle that effectively opens up entryways and focal points in your home. This design allows for a window or eye-catching architectural element under the ridge, while keeping the lower part of the wall open for picture windows or large furnishings.

A fully extended queen-post configuration can be used to frame the fireplace while simply adding a beam between the posts can create the perfect mantel. Like king posts, this style offers greater width possibilities, thanks to the vertical posts that extend to the floor and transfer the load.

Hammerbeam.

HammerbeamThe strength of the hammerbeam offers the possibility of wide expanses of about 24 feet without the need for vertical support posts. That means you could include a whole wall of uninterrupted glass with only enough framing to hold the glass together and a hammerbeam supporting the roof.

The most complex of all the joinery systems, hammerbeam bents can be more expensive, but the price may be well worth it for the breathtaking effect. The lack of horizontal beams will result in a decidedly lofty look, which is perfect for showcasing your landscape.

All in the Details

Let your timbers do more than keep your house from tumbling down. Use them to make a statement. Here’s how.

Size.

Using 6-by-6-inch timbers achieves a look that’s different from 8-by-8-inch ones. Naturally, taller walls look sturdier supported by a thicker frame, but you can control the scale to your liking by your choice of dimensions. Remember, too, that not all timber-frame homes have cathedral ceilings or barn-like great rooms, so scale the timbers accordingly.

Color.

Different wood species have their own hue. Douglas fir is generally redder than hemlock, for example. But you can stain your timbers to suit you and your decor. Pickling, originally used to make new wood look instantly old, is a popular lightening treatment.

Shape.

For eccentricity, consider cruck timbers and bowed truss chords. Crucks are naturally curved tree trunks, which are split or sawed lengthwise. Using a slightly curved timber for the base of a truss conveys grace.

Surface.

Whether your timbers are planed smooth or left rough achieves different looks, from refined to rustic. Reclaimed timbers from old mills or barns create an older distressed effect.

Edge Carving.

A common embellishment is to chamfer the edges of timbers instead of leaving them square. Chamfering is a subtle beveling technique that adds a level of craftsmanship to the visible portions of the timbers.

End Carving.

Pendants are carvings on downward projecting timbers that add flair to the exposed end. Similar treatments of upward-projecting timber ends are called finials.

Struts.

Bracing timbers to soften the intersection of posts and beams and to suggest greater stability can produce appealing effects. The most common is the simple curve. A variation is the gunstock, so named because it broadens at the lower end, resembling a rifle butt.

Through-tenons.

Most timbers are connected by a mortise-and-tenon joint. A groove, or mortise, is cut in one timber, and a projecting tongue, or tenon, is cut in another to fit the groove. Sometimes the tenon projects through the mortise to the other side, exposing the joinery in eye-catching fashion