Trusses are the foundational component of a roof. They bear the load of the decking and roofing material, as well as snow, ice, and water. I’ve built them by hand through the years, bought them from suppliers, and even had them custom-made. I’ll lend you my experience building and installing roof trusses and give you some insight into the material cost, installation cost, and what factors contribute to it.
If the trusses on your house are in poor shape and need to be replaced, or you’re just ready for a new roof, consider checking out my recommended roofing companies:
What Is the Cost of a Roof Truss?
For an average 1,700 square foot (sq. ft.) house, the average cost for a complete set of roof trusses and installation is $6,460 – $8,500. The price of an individual common truss will vary according to span and type. (Note: this is only the installation of the trusses themselves. Installing roof decking, underlayment, shingles, and flashing is a separate cost.)
|$6,460 – $7,140
|$7,140 – $7,480
|$7,480 – $8,500
|*For average 1,700 sq. ft. open gable roof with 26’ span, 6/12 pitch, 24” O.C, wood Fink trusses. Costs for end trusses differ.
What Is the Cost of a Roof Truss by Type?
Two types of materials to make trusses are wood and galvanized metal.
|Material of Roof Truss
|$45 to $275 per truss
|$240 to $947 per truss
Wood trusses are the standard truss in residential homes. Wood is light, strong, and flexible, making it an ideal material for the load-bearing aspects of house framing. It’s also cost-effective, economical, and widely available. The North American lumber industry utilizes sustainable harvesting methods, like selective cutting and tree farms, making the industry more environmentally friendly and, importantly, reducing consumer costs.
Galvanized metal is rare in residential buildings. It’s mostly used in industrial and commercial buildings where interior spaces need to be bigger, without obstructions from structural supports, and to allow vaulted ceilings to increase vertical space. It’s not unheard of for a roof (and usually the entire house, in those cases) to be framed in metal, but it’s exceedingly rare.
However, metal is a strong and durable material. Steel trusses perform very well. The only exception is for coastal homes. Metal is susceptible to corrosion from the salty environment created by abutting an ocean. In that case, wood is the preferable choice.
What Is a Roof Truss Cost by Roof Span?
Span is the most important cost factor. Large spans require more material and hardware. I compiled a chart below to show the differences in cost by span. These costs are for 4/12 and 6/12 pitches, which are the most common. Price differences between the two are negligible, and some manufacturers don’t even bother to price them differently.
|$45 – $50
|$49 – $55
|$54 – $67
|$63 – $73
|$78 – $85
|$79 – $96
|$92 – $104
|$95 – $116
|$107 – $137
|$133 – $169
|$162 – $203
|$225 – $275
Which Factors Impact How Much a Roof Truss Costs?
Truss cost is driven by span, style, and complexity (when ordering trusses for an entire roof). Span greatly increases the material needed to construct the truss. The kind of truss also plays a role here, as certain trusses require more material than others for the same roof pitch and span.
When purchasing the entire complement of roof trusses for a new build or reconstruction, the complexity of the roof is another major variable in costs. Simple roofs, like an open gable, are cheap because all the trusses are the same. Complex and custom roofs are more demanding and varied, meaning more variance in the dimensions of the trusses needed. So, for those, you can expect to pay additional costs.
Span is a driving factor for truss cost. While pitch plays a role, the material differences in various pitches are smaller than differences in length. For example, on a 20’ span, the difference in rafter length between a 5/12 and an 8/12 pitch is 14 ¼”. That’s roughly 1.3 board feet (bd. ft.) difference in lumber. The material cost difference is almost negligible at $1.50 – $2.00 per bd. ft. for pine.
With larger spans, board feet per truss can increase appreciably, doubly so for material-heavy styles. More board feet means more material and higher costs. This isn’t a huge factor if you need to buy a truss or two, but it can increase the total cost by a thousand dollars or so on a full roof.
Truss type is another major difference. Some trusses are more complicated to build, either by hand or in a factory, as they require more lumber and hardware. A simple style like a king post truss requires less material than Howe or Fink types, and it’s easier and quicker to construct, so naturally, it’s cheaper to purchase or build.
The difference mostly comes down to what’s called webbing. The webbing of a truss is the material on the triangle’s interior. It supports the top chord of the truss in various ways to transfer the load to the bottom chord (ceiling joist) and then to the seat cuts where the truss sits on the exterior wall.
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Some home designs have complex roofs. In those cases, it’s not uncommon for carpenters to make trusses by hand, as the manufacturing ordering process and lead times are complicated and less than ideal. Scheduling in construction is already a byzantine affair, so adding something like a complex, custom truss design order can cause real headaches if everything doesn’t go exactly right. Workers can usually work around it if other types of material are late because of scheduling and shipping problems. With roof trusses, there is no working around it. The process of building the roof can’t continue without trusses. For that reason, it’s often simpler, more efficient, and less prone to compromising the building schedule to build the trusses by hand.
Trusses built on-site are more costly because the labor cost is higher. Manufactured trusses are the product of automated and machine-assisted processes that greatly reduce the human labor needed to create them. As such, they’re quite a bit cheaper.
However, if you order custom trusses — especially for a whole roof — it’s still much more costly than manufactured trusses for a simpler or common roof. With custom orders, the carpenters or architects must design the roof truss system and send the design to manufacturers. Then, there’s a whole process on their end for turning the designs into manufacturing specifications. All this added time and labor increases the end expenses.
What Are the Benefits of Investing in a New Roof Truss?
Trusses aren’t an investment; they’re a necessity. The choice is never whether you should but rather whether you need to. A failing truss is a major structural issue that must be addressed immediately. So whether you’re remodeling, renovating, or repairing a house, if you or a roofer find a failing truss, it’s a required expense.
Barring that, replacing the trusses in a roof likely costs much more than it’s worth. If the trusses are doing their job and there’s no structural issue, the cost of replacing them (learn how to create a budget for roofing project) likely outweighs what you’ll gain.
A truss replacement requires tearing off the entire roof: shingles, underlayment, and sheathing (decking). Essentially, it’s a complete reconstruction and replacement of the roof and a major project that would likely require you to find somewhere else to stay until the project is complete. Constructing a new truss in place is possible, but that’s a rare occurrence and only done as a matter of repair.
Read also: DIY Roof Inspection for Replacement
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Professional Vs. DIY Roof Truss Cost
Trusses are a job to let the pros handle. On the one hand, installing a manufactured truss often requires a crane. On the other, building them requires a firm understanding of carpentry and basic trigonometry. A homeowner can do it, but I wouldn’t recommend it for such a major structural component of a house. Roofs do fall in, and the only reason it rarely happens these days is because of the competence and high standards of roofers and carpenters, so this is one project I’d let them handle.
Installing a Roof Truss Yourself
Installing the roof truss is relatively easy; building it requires skill and knowledge. But for manufactured trusses, the process is as easy as swinging it up with a crane and setting it. You’re mostly done once it’s in place, bracketed, and nailed off.
All you need to do next is set and affix the bracing or ridge beam that runs between each truss and keeps them stable. The last component is attaching the decking, which stabilizes the trusses. (Some roofs use purlins, which work in conjunction with decking or battening to the same end, but I’ll leave that for another time.) It’s also important to get the decking on to put down underlayment, providing basic protection against rain. It’s not a permanent solution, so you’ll want to lay the shingles (see our Premium Asphalt Shingles Overview), metal roof, or other roofing material as soon as possible.
Remember, be careful. Construction is dangerous, and so are roofs, so be sure you know good safety practices before undertaking a project like installing trusses.
Hiring a Professional for a New Roof Truss
Two types of professionals will do work on trusses: roofers and carpenters. Because roof framing intersects both trades, either one can do it. As with all professionals, be sure they’re licensed and insured per your state laws and know your local building codes.
- Find local experts near you: For trusses, you can call a roofer or a carpenter. The roof framing intersects both trades, so either professional can handle it.
- Get a quote from a few options: Always shop around and get quotes from a few companies. It’s the best way to ensure you get a fair bid.
- Consult them about their recommendations: If you have any questions or concerns, ask. They’re providing a service, but you’re paying for it, so don’t be bashful. Otherwise, the roofing contractor will give you an overview of their plan, reasoning, and projected timeline.
So, Is a Roof Truss Worth the Cost?
If you need a truss, it’s always worth the cost, whatever it might be. Trusses have become more popular as of late and they are a foundational component of a house’s structure. A failing or compromised truss seriously jeopardizes the integrity of the structure and the safety of the occupants, so the cost — whatever it may be — isn’t something to balk at. But do ensure you’re getting a fair deal by shopping around. One or two bad trusses are a problem and need remedying quickly, but you can still afford a few days to call around.
FAQs About Roof Trusses
How many roof trusses does my house have?
That depends on its size, dimensions, stories, and complexity. Generally, trusses are placed every 24” for modern residential platform framing, though they can sometimes be as close as 12”. If you know how long your roof is (or roof sections if there are multiple), you can divide the number by 2’ and get a rough estimate of the number of trusses.
What is the best type of roof truss?
There is no best time. Each has its application. Something like a king post or queen post truss is well suited to smaller homes that expect little vertical or lateral load. More robust truss types, like Fink, are the most common in residential construction.
Is it cheaper to buy or build roof trusses?
In most cases, it’s more economical to buy them. Standard truss types and dimensions are mass-produced and stocked by construction suppliers and even some big box stores. In some rare cases, like certain custom roofs, it makes more sense to construct them. It’s not a given that building them will cost less, but it’ll decrease the potential for scheduling issues that slow the project down.
What is the difference between rafters and roof trusses?
Rafters are an element of a roof truss. All pitched roof trusses have rafters. If you imagine a roof truss as a triangle, the rafters are the two sides of the triangle that come to a point at the top.