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Trusses vs. Rafters: Which Construction System Offers Better Structural Support?

Posted on June 15, 2023

Trusses vs. Rafters: Which Construction System Offers Better Structural Support?

When it comes to any building, having sturdy support for the structure is essential. Trusses and rafters are two framing methods typically used for roofing. The main difference between trusses and rafters is that trusses have multiple beams that are connected, while rafters are independent beams extending from a central ridge. In this article, we will examine the benefits and drawbacks of both trusses and rafters, and compare these two options so you know which is best for your home. 

Considerations such as load-bearing capacity, resistance to natural forces, design flexibility, installation procedure, and cost should be taken into account when deciding between rafters and trusses. Luckily, we’ve thoroughly explained each system to determine which one best suits your needs and preferences.



Trusses are structural frameworks made of triangular, or other geometrically shaped members that are connected. Because of their many useful features, they are frequently employed in building projects. 

Trusses, made of either wood or metal, are roof structures that use tension and compression to create lightweight, strong bracing that can span great distances. The bottom is used to prevent separation of the inner webbing, and the sides are compressed to hold everything together. 

Types of Trusses 

King Post Truss

A king post truss is a simple yet widely employed design for a truss. It consists of a central vertical post (king post) with diagonal beams extending from each side to the apex of the truss. This truss type is best used in projects with shorter spans and lighter loads.

Queen Post Truss

Compared to king post trusses, queen post trusses are constructed with two vertical posts (queen posts) rather than a single central post in the middle of the structure. These posts provide additional support and stability compared to the king post truss. This design suits medium to long spans and can handle greater loads.

Howe Truss

The Howe truss is distinguished by diagonal members that slope in opposite directions. It features vertical beams, similar to queen posts, and diagonal members that form triangles. These trusses are commonly used for longer spans and heavy loads, as they provide excellent load-bearing capacity.

Pratt Truss

Pros Cons
Trusses are specifically designed to distribute and bear heavy loads efficiently, protecting the integrity of a building.Trusses take up room within the building, reducing the amount of vertical space available and potentially limiting the layout options for interior rooms.
Trusses can be arranged geometrically to minimize stress on the structure by redistributing forces like the roof’s weight and external loads.Trusses are complex structures that necessitate precise preparation, intricate engineering, and expert craftsmanship when being installed. Their complex nature requires skilled craftsmanship and may extend the time and energy needed to build them.
Trusses are adaptable in design and construction, allowing them to meet the needs of many buildings and structures. They allow for varying span lengths, loads, and building designs.They are more expensive than rafters because they require more materials, engineering considerations, and additional labor to fabricate before installation.



Rafters are structural components that form the framework of a roof that has a pitched shape. They are sloping beams that extend from the ridge or central beam of the roof down to the eaves or walls of the structure. Rafters play an essential role in both the process of transferring the weight of the roof to the load-bearing walls or beams, as well as supporting the roof covering itself.

Types of Rafters

Common Rafters

Common rafters are the primary sloping beams extending from the roof ridge down to the eaves. They form the roof’s main framework and support the roof covering. These rafters evenly distribute roof weight to load-bearing walls or beams, supporting most of it.

Hip Rafters

Hip rafters are sloping beams that connect the external corners of a roof to the ridge or central beam. They form the sloping sides of a hipped roof, which is a roof with inclined surfaces on all sides. They provide stability and support to the roof structure at the external corners.

Valley Rafters

Valley rafters are diagonal beams that join two roof surfaces in a V shape at an internal corner, creating valleys in multi-pitch roofs. Valley rafters support and stabilize the roofing structure at the inner corners. They transfer the roof’s weight to supporting walls or structures.

Pros Cons
Rafters are easier to work with than more complex truss systems due to their simple design and installation process. They can be readily cut, shaped, and installed on-site.When compared to trusses, rafters can only support a fraction of the weight. They work well with less weight and shorter distances but might need reinforcement for heavier loads and longer distances.
Rafters are more cost-effective because they use less material and require fewer complex engineering calculations. This can lead to overall cost savings in construction projects.Rafters may be more vulnerable to forces like high winds, snow loads, or seismic activity depending on their specific design and construction methods. Proper structural analysis and reinforcement measures should be considered to guarantee their steadiness in that environment.
Rafters typically do not intrude into the interior space, allowing for greater flexibility in the design and use of the space below the roof. They offer more open and uninterrupted areas compared to truss systems.Because rafters are built on-site, they require an expert contractor for installation. While trusses are not considered a DIY project, they are easier to install than rafters.  

Trusses vs. Rafters

Trusses are known for their enhanced load-bearing capacity thanks to their engineered design and interconnected members.On the other hand, rafters have a more limited load-bearing capacity and are typically suitable for smaller spans and lighter loads.
Trusses efficiently distribute forces such as gravity, wind, and roof weight equally due to their triangulated structure.While rafters provide sufficient support under normal conditions, they may be more vulnerable to certain forces and stresses.
Trusses typically require more complex engineering calculations and specialized knowledge for their design and installation. They are often pre-fabricated off-site and require careful coordination during the construction process. Rafters have a simpler design and installation process, making them easier to work with and install on-site.
Trusses generally involve higher costs compared to rafters. The additional materials, engineering requirements, and labor involved in designing and installing trusses contribute to their increased cost.Rafters, being simpler in design and installation, tend to be more cost-effective, making them a budget-friendly option for construction projects.

Factors To Keep In Mind When Choosing Between Trusses And Rafters

Considering these factors will guide your decision and help you choose the appropriate construction system for your project.

Architectural design

The building’s architectural style and desired aesthetic can affect the choice between trusses and rafters. Trusses can complement modern or commercial buildings with their industrial look. Rafters, on the other hand, work well with rustic or traditional designs.

Local climate

Trusses offer better resistance to wind, snow, and seismic forces, making them suitable for challenging climates. Rafters may need additional reinforcement in extreme weather conditions.

Maintenance and Accessibility

Consider roof accessibility and long-term maintenance. Due to their complex structure and webbing, trusses may require more work to inspect, repair, and modify. Maintenance and future changes are easier with rafters.

Construction Timeline

The construction timeline is an important factor to consider. Trusses are typically pre-fabricated off-site and require additional design, engineering, and delivery time. Alternatively, rafters can be built on-site, speeding up the installation process and reducing project duration.

Building Regulations and Permits

Local building codes and permits may affect truss or rafter selection. Some jurisdictions may have specific construction requirements or restrictions based on building height, occupancy type, or structural loads. Local authorities should be consulted to ensure regulations are followed.

Final Thoughts

It is essential to take your particular requirements and circumstances into account before making a final decision. It is important to thoroughly analyze various aspects of the project, including the budget, size, and shape of the roof, the type of roofing material, and the climate of the area. In addition, preferences regarding architectural design and maintenance considerations both play a part in determining the best option.

If you need help with the inspection, repair, or maintenance of your roof’s internal framework or support beams, ReNew Roofing is here to help. Our experienced team will identify and resolve structural issues with your roof, providing tailored solutions for your needs. Trust ReNew Roofing to keep your home’s structure in optimal condition, ensuring a safe and efficient beam and support structure system. Call us today at (813) 400-3329!

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