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Kaplan ITA's Monthly Inspection Tips - Free Electronic Newsletter

February, 2008
Open Web Trusses
Issue #70
Open Web Trusses
by John Bouldin

Most of us are pretty comfortable with trusses in our inspecting, but it is worth commenting on our truss inspection process. It may sound extreme, but technically, a damaged truss is no longer a truss at all! Remember to take advantage of the patterns provided by open-web trusses during inspections. Sometimes we find trusses installed 180 degrees out of alignment, or find missing webs/chords by noticing a change in the pattern of the trusses. In inspecting roof trusses, I try to circle the perimeter of the attic once, generally in a clockwise direction, followed by going up and down the center of the attic. This routine helps minimize the risk of overlooking truss defects. Of course, in existing homes, we often cannot see the bottom chords because of the insulation. Do keep in mind while walking around an insulated attic that electrical wiring may be draped across metal gusset plates in the V’s formed by intersecting webs. It is possible to damage the wiring insulation by stepping on the wiring, which could lead to disastrous consequences.

I try to look for the gusset plates on both sides of each truss at each joint– this forced discipline helps me to concentrate on each truss individually, and improves my chances of finding missing, loose, or offset gusset plates as well as damaged chords or webs. In addition, it is worth double-checking the trusses at their bearing points, which is often just on two exterior walls in a simple attic. A truss normally should not rest on an unsupported chord – it should rest on or very near a gusset plate joint where another chord or a web provides bearing support.

I try to photograph each damaged truss and mark it with a lumber crayon or a bright ribbon to make it easier for the engineer to find these trusses after the inspection. I also try to write it up in a specific fashion – such as ‘missing gusset plate at the intersection of the top chord and middle web on the rear slope of the third truss in from the left gable end’. I’m sure that many damaged trusses that we identify are never found by builders or engineers following up on our inspections. This detailed description helps to minimize the client’s risk of having damaged trusses go unrepaired.

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