Rafter Tails

Truss vs. Rafter: Pros and Cons

Truss vs Rafter

When it comes to creating a reliable and robust roof structure, choosing between rafters and trusses can significantly impact the overall outcome of your roof deck. Although construction professionals widely use both components for roof framing construction projects, each presents unique advantages and disadvantages.

Understanding the key differences between rafters and trusses will empower you to make an informed decision when building your roof. In this jam-packed article, we’ll uncover the major distinctions between rafters and trusses. Keep reading to expand your understanding of these two structural support components.

Discovering Roof Trusses

There are several important elements to consider when evaluating whether roof trusses align with your roofing needs. Below, we’ll explore what roof trusses are and their pros and cons.

What are Roof Trusses

Roof trusses are prefabricated structures, typically made of wood or steel (sometimes both). These triangular units support the roof deck and evenly distribute weight. Roof trusses comprise three core parts—web bracing, top chords, and bottom chords.

Roof Trusses’ Sizes

The required size of a roof truss depends on architectural design and the mass of the intended roof structure. Standard truss spans are between 120″ and 480″, with truss heights varying between 24″ to 48″ feet on average.

Types of Roof Trusses

There are several variants of roof trusses, each tailored to serve a different purpose. Here are five popular types of trusses that are worth familiarizing yourself with.

Scissor Trusses:

These provide additional ceiling height and are particularly popular in cathedral ceilings

Attic Trusses:

These integrate storage with living spaces and are often found in homes

King Post Trusses:

Featuring a singular vertical post, these trusses make cost-effective solutions for shorter spans

Queen Post Trusses:

With two upright posts, these structures provide increased load-bearing capacity, they are suited to large homes with wider spans

Gambrel Trusses:
Similar to barn roofs, these trusses provide additional headroom and storage space


Below are the key pros of roof trusses.

More Span

Trusses present greater span capabilities, reducing the need for excessive interior load-bearing walls. This facilitates storage space and flexible living space.

Greater Strength

Trusses are engineered to distribute weight evenly. This enhances the structural integrity of a building, allowing larger load capacity without compromising safety.

Easy Construction

Installing trusses is straightforward because they are prefabricated structures. This eliminates the need for complex on-site calculations and adjustments.


Due to their pre-fabrication, trusses present reduced labor costs, construction, and material costs, making them cost-effective roof structure solutions.

Enhanced Precision

Because trusses arrive pre-fabricated, they reduce the occurrence of human error, ensuring measurements and alignments are precise. This results in sturdy-fitting and safe roof structures.

Quicker Framing

With trusses being pre-constructed, they make on-site assembly a seamless process, enabling faster framing. This can help you meet construction deadlines while simultaneously ensuring installation is hassle-free.


Below are the main cons of roof trusses.

Big and Heavy

Roof trusses are substantially large and heavy. This can complicate handling and installation, with the potential need for heavy-duty equipment and skilled labor, which can incur additional costs.

Less Flexible

Due to their fixed structures, trusses can limit architectural creativity. This may restrict the modifications needed to create unique design aesthetics.

Less Space

The inherent webbed structure of trusses occupies significant attic space. This limits the potential for expansive storage rooms and additional living areas.

Transportation Difficulty

Because trusses are pre-constructed, they require careful transportation planning and specialized vehicles to ensure they are safely hauled. Arranging transportation for these large structures can be logistically challenging and incur additional costs.

Limited Design Options

Because trusses are fixed structures, they can limit the diversity of architectural shapes and configurations. This can sometimes stop you from achieving unique roof shapes and aesthetics.

It’s Challenging to Build on Hard-to-reach Sites

Since trusses are fully assembled, transporting the material will be a challenge. This means that it would be difficult to deliver it in hard-to reach areas especially if there is no proper road access.

Roof Rafters Explained

In order to make an informed comparison, it’s essential to ensure you fully understand the ins and outs of roof rafters. In this section, we’ll outline what roof rafters are and explore their pros and cons.

What are Roof Rafters?

Roof rafters are fundamental structures of traditional roof framing systems. They consist of inclined beams that run between a building’s exterior walls and the roof ridge. This creates a basic foundation for the roof structure. By supporting the roof deck, roof rafters allow for various roof shapes, such as vaulted ceilings.

Roof Rafters’ Sizes

Roof rafters’ on-center spacings reach between 12″ to 24″. Most building structures have rafter spacings of 16″ and 24″. Factors such as roof pitch influence the dimensions of rafters, with steeper slopes usually requiring larger rafters to ensure sturdy structural support.

Types of Roof Rafters

Roof rafters come in several forms, each suited to different roofing frameworks. Here are five common types of rafters that are worth familiarizing yourself with.

Common Rafters:

Simplistic and evenly spaced, these rafters support the main framework of a roof by extending from the eaves to the ridge board, supporting the roof deck.

Valley Rafters:

Fixed at the intersection between two roof slopes, valley rafters channel rainwater while concurrently offering structural integrity for the valleys of a roof.

Jack Rafters:

These rafters are shorter than most and run from the wall plate to a hip or valley rafter. Jack rafters are purposefully designed to fill the framework between common rafters and a roof’s more complex intersections.

Collar Ties:

Unlike traditional rafters, collar ties feature horizontal beams connecting opposite pairs of rafters. This prevents rafters from spreading apart while supporting the mass of a roof, improving the overall stability of roofing structures.

Hip Rafters:

These are angled rafters connecting the corners of a roof to the ridge board. This supports the sloping hips of a hipped roof structure.


Below are some noteworthy pros of roof rafters to consider.

Present Extra Room

Roof rafters enable the construction of spacious attics, offering the potential for expansive storage space and additional living areas in your home.

Versatile and Adjustable

Roof rafters can be installed in various architectural styles and constructions, offering significant versatility and flexibility. Whether you’re embarking on a commercial or residential project, roof rafters can be adjusted to align with your intended type of construction.

Minimal Planning

In comparison to the intricacies of roof truss systems, rafters are notably more simplistic. This makes it easier to plan construction projects, offering a straightforward and time-efficient process.

Thicker Insulation

Due to their structure, rafters present thicker insulation, offering enhanced thermal energy efficiency in your building and fortifying a cozier, warmer interior environment.

Simple Conversions

The open and adaptable design of rafters allows for easier modification, ensuring future renovations are straightforward, without the need for any complex structural alterations. This offers you the freedom to convert your attic space into a liveable space in the future.


To aid your comparison, below are some key drawbacks of roof rafters that are worth considering.


Rafters typically cost more than a roof truss system because they require specialized labor, such as a structural engineer, which presents higher expenses.


Crafting and installing rafters can be time-consuming, unlike trusses that are pre-constructed. This can restrict you from reaching construction deadlines.

Weather Risk

During installation, the structure of the roof rafters is exposed to weather conditions. This can implement the quality and integrity of rafters during the construction process.

Require a Professional

Roof rafters require skilled professionals, such as structural engineers and expert carpenters, to ensure all processes, including measurements, are correctly performed. Finding and hiring skilled professionals with specialized expertise can be challenging and expensive, resulting in additional strain on your construction project.

Similarities and Differences Between
Trusses and Rafters

In this section, we’ll unveil six key similarities and differences between truss and rafter construction.


Because they’re mass-produced, roof trusses are often more cost-effective than rafters. Rafters present higher costs because they require skilled professionals and custom cutting, which incurs higher expenses.


Trusses and rafters alike are constructed using metal and wood. A roof truss is often crafted with lighter materials, particularly for longer spans, whereas rafters are constructed with heavy-duty materials, such as solid timber, for shorter spans.

Ease of Use

In terms of installation, trusses are easier to use due to their prefabricated structures. This can streamline your construction projects and require less on-site labor. In contrast, rafters must be custom-built, requiring skill-intensive on-site labor.

Installation Time

Because of their prefabricated nature, trusses arrive ready for assembly, making them easier and quicker to install. On the other hand, rafters require extended time for custom cutting, precise placement, and fitting.


Combining high-quality materials with expert craftsmanship, rafters boast unparalleled durability, offering you a reliable and long-lasting roof structure. However, the durability of trusses depends on the materials used and the manufacturer.


Rafters and trusses both work to support roofing materials while providing buildings with structural integrity. However, construction professionals often consider trusses stronger and they offer a greater load-bearing capacity for longer spans. On the other hand, rafters are best suited to smaller projects with smaller spans and unique designs.

Roof Rafter Vs. Roof Truss: Which is Better for Your Home?

Your choice between rafters and trusses depends on several factors, including design preferences, construction timeline, and budget.

If you are seeking an efficient and cost-effective solution, trusses may be your ideal fit. However, if your roof project involves a unique architectural design, roof rafters can provide you with adequate flexibility and customization. Assessing your specific needs and aligning them to the qualities of trusses and rafters will help you unveil which structure is best suited to your project.


Is it Possible to Substitute Trusses With Rafters?

Yes, trusses can be substituted with rafters, especially if design flexibility and customization are a priority for you.

What Distinguishes Ceiling Joists From Rafters?

Ceiling joists are specifically designed to support ceiling structures, whereas rafters support roofing structures and create a roof’s slope.

When is the Best Time to Utilize Roof Rafters?

Roof rafters are best used for unique architectural designs as they can be customized to achieve different roof shapes.

When is the Best Time to Utilize Roof Trusses?

Roof trusses are best utilized if you have a strict budget and need speedy installation. They’re also suited to longer roof spans.

Where Can I Use Roof Rafters?

Roof rafters are exceptionally versatile and can be used for home and commercial construction projects, allowing you to customize the rafter structure in accordance with specific roof designs.

Where Can I Use Roof Trusses?

Due to their pre-constructed format, roof trusses are best suited to traditional roof structures. If you’re seeking greater flexibility, roof rafters will likely suffice.

How to Decide Between Roof Rafters and Trusses?

The individual needs of your construction project will dictate whether rafters or trusses are better options. Considering factors such as your budget, project timeline, and design preferences will help you choose the most suitable choice.

Can I Use Roof Rafters and Trusses Together?

Yes, you can create a hybrid roof system with rafters and trusses. In doing so, you can combine design flexibility with structural efficiency. However, be mindful that combining the two structures will require extensive engineering, which may mean that you incur additional costs and prolong your construction project.


Boasting customization and design flexibility, rafters cater to those seeking a unique roof aesthetic. In contrast, truss roofs provide a cost-effective and time-efficient solution, especially for roof structures with longer spans.

Are you seeking high-quality construction components? Discover HB ELEMENTS Inc. today and find innovative solutions to aid your project.