Rafter Tails....What???

vfishMarch 23, 2007

So here we are, finally framing in the second story of our home and I get a call from the framer asking me about the rafter tails. I had originally specified I wanted some sort of decorative rafter tails, but I thought the roof trusses/beams just came that way.

Boy was I wrong. The rafter tails, if you want them decorative have to be dovetailed into the roof trusses/beams that run the slant range of the roof. It's a lot of work and the added decorative measure can really add up.

I need about 100 rafter tails around my house. The length of the "tail" has to be a 3 -1 measurement, this will equate to approximately a 6 foot "tail" that needs to be dovetailed onto the existing roof truss. I honestly had no idea how these work. I am writing this thread to inform you, if you want the look, it takes more planning then to just say, yeah, that looks good, do it. I had to go to the local lumber mill (dixieline) and give them the drawing for the rafter tail design. The cost is approximately $60 per "tail". Aghhhhh. that's 6K I had no idea I was going to spend.

Has anyone else experienced this? What are you doing about your rafter tails? My home is a Med. meets southern Ca. with a sassy modern look....hey, I'm not making this up (my landscape designer told me this today). I would love to know what your experience is with this...anyone?

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jasonmi7

I'm not sure I'm following you at all; do you have trusses or rafters? You wanted fancy tails, okay....what is specified in the contract? What is in the plans and in the specs? The tails have to be DOVETAILED into the existing roof trusses? I don't think so. What beams are you talking about?

I'm not trying to give you a hard time....but your to this old framer, your post is very confusing as to what you're trying to achieve, and what someone is telling you can and can't be done.

In my experience, fancy, 'detailed' rafter tails are designed and determined beforehand. If they are in 2x material, the carpenter generally does it right there, on site, from the rough 2x stock. If in a larger material (e.g., post and beam/timber frame), they are created at the factory. And I have even seen them done in trusses. Trusses are generally 2x4 or 6 material (in this area), and the contractor/builder specifies a different 'over the wall' size; a 2x10 or 12 as the tail that can be altered on site to get the decoration.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 10:41PM
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rollie

Exposed rafter tails is a complicated system, especially with a truss layout. Even if you add the tails to the trusses, you are going to be subject to the layout of the truss in whaich you sister onto.

Were doing a project, with 3 inch cedar tails (24 inch overhang), and they are thru bolted eight times in 6 feet of length onto the truss. Truss layout had to be manipulated for the final exterior appearance to be balanced and spaced equally. Even if your trusses are layed out with equal spacing, it will be skewed when you factor in the thickness of the tail, depending on which side you sister to.

Along with the added expense of the tails, you will be looking at additional thickness of the roof sheathing in the overhang area, and possibly even a decorative pattern in the bottom side. The additional thickness is so that the roofing nails wont protrude thru the sheathing, into your decorative overhang.

I think you are only getting started with the expense of a exposed rafter tail with decorative sheathing.

The overall layout and final appearance shouldve been thought about months ago, not after the trusses were set.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 10:47PM
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jasonmi7

I don't know, Rollie. We did detailed, exposed rafters three times. The best one was this 'fish' thing that was on every rafter of a cabin. The architect designed it, sent us a full scale drawing that we made a template from, then ordered all the rafter stock 4' longer. Framer cut the rafters, then we just screwed the template on, routed out the majority with a bit PC router, then jigsawed the rest....then on to the next rafter (and no, we didn't use any Dewalt jigsaws. :)).

I guess I'm confused. Yes, it can be VERY complicated, but it can also be a very inexpensive, classy design, if thought out and planned for. I don't understand the original post enough I guess.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 10:54PM
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rollie

Youre correct, Jason, It doesnt have to be an expensive detail. If done with trusses, then the tails shouldve been specifed with either a 6 inch or 8 inch top chord extending out the overhang,(possibly a diffferent species also) and then you could simply cut any configuration you wanted to onto the the exposed tail, like you did with the fish.(sounds interesting, maybe I'll build anther fishing shack)

Another area that can eat up some time and $ is how to address the heel area of the truss. Typically, there is a frieze board installed between the rafters, and the cladding butts up to the frieze board.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 3:32PM
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vfish

OK, sorry to confuse you. I'll try and explain this differently. We are putting on 6 X 8 rafter tails, 32" on center. What this means is that we frame the roof as normal, and where the rafters stop at the wall line, we will block the rafter tails, spaced evenly, onto the rafters and rest them on top of the wall. Then we will be building the roof over on top of that. This will give us evenly spaced "thicker, decorative rafter tails" around the eaves of the house. The only thing we are doing differently from non decorative rafter tails is that we are replacing the standard 2 X 6 ends and adding a 6 X 8 decorative rafter tail, to achieve an even spacing around the house.
Hope this helps and sorry again about the confusion.
My point being, however, is what other people have done wrt the rafter tails?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 4:57PM
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lorraineal

We did a similar thing. We blocked and/or sistered 4x6 and 4x8 rafter tails into all the eaves. In some places the tails extend up under the roof sheathing a good 5 feet or so. In other places they are blocked in and bolted in place on top of the wall. The patios are just the rafter tails extended and resting on beams on the outside ends. We used 2x8 T&G for the exposed sheathing. I seem to remember that the decorative tails had to be set slightly lower than the radiant roof sheathing to accommodate the thickness of the T&G boards.

The rafters were Âfree-of-heart-center S4S douglas fir. We used one of Dx-lineÂs standard tail templates so the cost to mill the ends was nominal. Once you add the time and labor hassle to install the ends, however, they do get pricey.

How do you intend to finish the exposed wood?

We had ours sandblasted and stained with TWP before the stucco went on. It was a bit more work for the stucco crew, but it made for a nice clean look when it was all done.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 7:13PM
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rollie

Vfish wrote:

OK, sorry to confuse you. I'll try and explain this differently. We are putting on 6 X 8 rafter tails, 32" on center. What this means is that we frame the roof as normal, and where the rafters stop at the wall line, we will block the rafter tails, spaced evenly, onto the rafters and rest them on top of the wall. Then we will be building the roof over on top of that. This will give us evenly spaced "thicker, decorative rafter tails" around the eaves of the house. The only thing we are doing differently from non decorative rafter tails is that we are replacing the standard 2 X 6 ends and adding a 6 X 8 decorative rafter tail, to achieve an even spacing around the house.
Hope this helps and sorry again about the confusion.
My point being, however, is what other people have done wrt the rafter tails?

You will still need to address the roof sheating issues in a manner like lorraineal did. Thats a very classy look, but it comes with a cost and requires some forward thinking carpenters.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2007 at 7:18PM
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vfish

Thanks for the comments. I just can't explain clearly what it is we are doing , I know the end result I want, but since I don't speak the lingo, I can't explain how to get there very well. Thank goodness my framer is awesome and can understand me :>)
Lorraineal, your experience sounds just like ours.
We were planning to stain and seal the tails prior to installation, however, my friend at Dixie line said the wood for the rafter tails that they use is quite green and if we seal the tails right away, they won't dry adequately. With that being said, I think we will seal the ens prior to installation, and then we will wait for the summer months to dry them out, then stain and seal the rest of the tail prior to stucco. We asked for the smooth cut vice the sawn cut to facilitate the wood receiving a good stain and seal.
When it's finished I'll post pictures.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 1:02AM
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Happykate

Hey, vfish, do you have those pictures to share, please? What did you do about gutters? This is very confusing area to me . . .

Hope it all went well for you ~ Kate.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 1:44PM
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