Roofing Trusses


The chapter on Bridge Building gives some suggestions as to form of trusses, the particular types there shown being principally for wide spans. Such trusses were made for one purpose only, namely, to take great weight, and they were, as a consequence, so constructed as to provide strength.

But a roofing truss, while designed to hold the accumulated materials, such as snow and ice, likely to be deposited there, is of such a design, principally, so as to afford means of orn
mentation. This remark has reference to such types as dispense with the cross, or tie beam, which is the distinguishing feature in bridge building.

The tie beam is also an important element in many types of trusses, where ornamentation is not required, or in such structures as have the roofed portion of the buildings enclosed by ceiling walls, or where the space between the roofs is used for storage purposes.

In England, and on the Continent of Europe, are thousands of trusses structured to support the roofs, which are marvels of beauty. Some of them are bewildering in their formation. The moldings, beaded surfaces, and the carved outlines of the soffits, of the arches, and of the purlins, are wonderful in detail.

The wooden roof of Westminster Hall, while very simple in structure, as compared with many others, looks like an intricate maze of beams, struts and braces, but it is, nevertheless, so harmonized that the effect is most pleasing to the eye, and its very appearance gives the impression of grandeur and strength.

Nearly all of the forms shown herein have come down to us from mediæval times, when more stress was laid on wooden structures than at the present time, but most of the stone and metal buildings grew out of the wooden prototypes.

Now the prime object of nearly all the double-roofed trusses was to utilize the space between the rafters so as to give height and majesty to the interior.

A large dome is grand, owing to its great simplicity, but the same plain outlines, or lack of ornamentation, in the ceiling of a square or rectangular building would be painful to view, hence, the braces, beams, plates, and various supports of the roofed truss served as ornamental parts, and it is in this particular that the art of the designer finds his inspiration.

Before proceeding to apply the matter of ornamentation, it might be well to develop these roof forms, starting with the old type Barn Roof, where the space between the rafters must be utilized for the storage of hay.

Fig. 284. Gambrel Roof. Fig. 284. Gambrel Roof.

The Gambrel Roof, Fig. 284, requires a tie beam, (A), as shown, but the space above the beam is free of all obstructions, and gives a large storage space. The roof has two sets of rafters (B, C), and of different pitch, the lower rafters (B) having a pitch of about 30 degrees, and the upper ones (C), about 45 degrees.

A tie bar (D) joins the middle portion of each of the rafters (B, C) and another tie bar (E) joins the middle part of the rafter (B), and the supporting post (F). The cross tie beam (G) completes the span, and a little study will show the complete interdependence of one piece upon the other.

Fig. 285. Purlin Roof. Fig. 285. Purlin Roof.

The Purlin Roof is a type of structure used very largely throughout the United States, for wide barns. (A) is the cross beam; (B, B) the purlin posts; (C, C) the purlin plates; (D, D) the rafters; and (E, E) the supporting braces.

The rafters (D) are in two sections, the distance from the eaves to the comb being too great for single length rafters, and the purlin plates are not designed to make what is called a "self-supporting" roof, but merely to serve as supports for the regular rafters.

The Princess Truss, on the other hand, is designed to act as a support for the different lengths of rafters (A, B, C), and as a means for holding the roof. It is adapted for low pitch and wide spans.

Fig. 286. Princess Truss. Fig. 286. Princess Truss.

The main truss is made up of the cross beam (D), rafters (E, E) and thrust beam (F). Purlin posts (G, G) are placed at an angle intermediate the ends of the rafters, and the purlin plates (H, H) support the roof rafters (A, B, C); I, I are the vertical tie rods.

This type is probably the oldest form of truss for building purposes, and it has been modified in many ways, the most usual modification being the substitution of posts for the tie rods (I, I).

Following out the foregoing forms, we may call attention to one more type which permitted ornamentation to a considerable degree, although it still required the tie beam. In fact the tie beam itself was the feature on which the architect depended to make the greatest effect by elaborating it.

This is shown in Fig. 287, and is called the Arched, or Cambered, Tie Beam Truss. It is a very old type, samples of which have been found which take it back to a very remote age.

Fig. 287. Arched, or Cambered, Tie Beam. Fig. 287. Arched, or Cambered, Tie Beam.

The tie beam A, in wide spans, was made in two sections, properly tied together, and sometimes the outer ends were very wide, and to add to the effect of the arch, it might also be raised in the middle, something in the form shown by the dotted line (B).

The Mansard is what may be called a double-mounted roof, and it will be seen how it was evolved from the preceding types. It will be noted that the simple truss formed by the members (A, B, C) is merely superposed on the leaning posts, the tie beam also being necessary in this construction.

Fig. 288. The Mansard. Fig. 288. The Mansard.

But the most elaborate formations are those which were intended to provide trusses for buildings wherein the tie beams were dispensed with.

The simplest form known is called the Scissors Beam, illustrated in Fig. 289. This has been utilized for small spaces, and steep pitches. Each rafter (A) has an angled beam or brace (B), springing from its base, to the opposite rafter (A), to which it is joined, midway between its ends, as at C.

Where the two braces (B) cross each other they are secured together, as at D. As a result, three trusses are formed, namely, 1, 2, 3, and it possesses remarkable strength.

Fig. 289. Scissors Beam. Fig. 289. Scissors Beam.