COVID-19 Hands-Free Process. Click here to learn more.

Tips on How to Frame a Roof

Framing your roof correctly is essential to ensure it can withstand the weight of the roofing material and hold up under heavy winds and falling limbs. Do it right, and your roof frame can last for decades. If you don’t use enough support beams or aren’t precise with your measurements, your roof can collapse under stress. If you want to avoid learning how to a tarp roof while you wait on repairs, you need to make sure you know what you’re doing first. 

Though the outside of a roof may look relatively simple, there’s a carefully designed wooden framework inside supporting the weight of your roof and holding your walls together. It takes years of experience to develop the skills to do it right and requires a lot of tools most homeowners won’t have.

What is the roof frame?

The frame of your roof is the load-bearing structure that supports your roofing material. There are two common approaches to framing, stick framing, and trusses. 

Stick framing means is a method of assembling your roof support on-site. The basic frame is boxed out with ridge beams and valley beams. A series of wooden rafters support them. Each rafter will extend from the roof ridge and meet the wall perpendicularly. The angle of their rise determines the pitch of the roof. Meanwhile, ceiling joists form the horizontal ceiling and are used to hold the walls together. This roof framing style has been around for centuries, and it takes an experienced carpenter to do it correctly. 

A truss frame uses prefabricated lumber made into triangular webs. Each truss is designed to provide support for the roof and hold the walls together. The space between each truss is known as a bay, and they are spaced out evenly at precise intervals to bear the load of your roofing material. For DIYers, truss framing is less complex and can provide a sturdy support structure to your home, as long as you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. One major drawback is that renovations are much more difficult with truss framing because you can’t cut or alter truss’s in any way without compromising their integrity. 

Different styles of roofs are framed a little differently. You will need to select the style of roof you want before you design the frame. 

Roof designs

There are quite a few roof styles, and even the most basic types have a lot of variations to change the appearance and allow for more space in the attic. Let’s break some of the more common ones down:

Flat roof

Flat roofs lack the slope that helps buildings shed water, snow, and debris, and they are vulnerable to bad weather. The flashing and sheathing require skill and precision to install correctly. Otherwise, it will develop a leak quickly. Still, many people enjoy the look of a flat roof, and they are desirable for having a roof deck to enjoy during nice weather. 

Gable roof

A gable roof is one of the simplest styles of the roof to frame. Construction is straightforward and simple, and the roof pitch will help protect your roof from the elements. Gable roofs are easily recognizable—they have two sloped sides that meet at the ridge beam and an extended, triangular wall on either side of the roofing. 

Lean-to Roof

A lean to roof, also called a shed roof, consists of a single slope. Not sure why you’d need to learn how to build a lean to roof? If you are adding a room on to your home, it is often simplest to use a lean to roof for your add-on. They are commonly found on sheds, though many people build them over porches. So, if you’ve been wondering how to build a porch roof, this is a great option. They are great for minimizing low points and corners in the walls to maximize the space inside, while still allowing water and debris to fall down the slope. However, they require much longer trusses or rafters than other roof styles and are often more expensive to design.

Hip Roof

A hip roof has four sloped sides constructed on a square frame or a hip. This style of roof is very durable, especially in areas with heavy snowfall. However, they are one of the most complex roofing styles to design and build, and they are significantly more expensive than others. A hip roof will have rafters coming down each side of the house to meet at the roof’s peak. In addition to common rafters, they use four hip rafters to attach the wall’s corners to the ridge board. They also use jack rafters to support the hip of the roof and the exterior walls. 

Framing your roof

Once you’ve selected your style, you will need to determine your roof’s pitch and the length of the common rafter. First, you’ll need to measure the length of the space you are roofing and divide it by two. This is the run, and since the rafter will meet in the middle, this is the length of the common rafter. 

Once you have the pitch and run of your roof, you can use a construction calculator to determine the length to cut each rafter, and the angle of each cut you will need to make in order to attach the rafter to the ridge beam and wall stud. You should make a couple of test cuts first, especially if you’re inexperienced, to make sure you have the right length for your common rafters. For roofs with a steep pitch, you will need to construct scaffolding to allow you to nail the tops of the rafters into the ridge board. 

The common rafters and trusses are often placed 24” apart, but some materials may be better suited for 12” or 16” spacing depending on the roof design. Once you’ve placed a few of the common rafters, you can place the ridge board. The ridge board runs the entire length of the home and the total overhang of the roof. Placing the ridge generally requires three people to secure it safely, and everyone should be wearing safety equipment. Once the ridge beam is placed, you can finish securing the common rafters or trusses to complete the frame.

Roofing is no easy task, and it’s best to hire a professional roofing company to help. They have the experience and equipment to do the job without injuring themselves or compromising your home’s structure. Preman Roofing Solar has been doing roofing in the San Diego area for over a decade, and we can take the guesswork out of complex carpentry so that your roof can keep your family safe and last for years to come. Whether you need commercial roofing installed, residential roofing installed, or just routine roof maintenance, we have you covered. Contact us today for a free estimate on installation.