Rebuilding Roof Trusses 1864

by Mathieu

Last week I had some good old fun with my friends rebuilding a roof. The client wants to install a studio in the attic but since the lower tie beams where a little bit too low for someone to pass them safely they needed to be lifted by I-don’t-remember-how-many-centimeters.

truss before

The tie beams needed to be cut out, new struts placed on both sides of the truss and the tie beam joined between the new struts. This means 8 mortices, 6 tennons and two half lap dovetails per truss. Four trusses means 32 joints in total.

For the new struts we used heavy green oak and we were happy to find this beautiful wheel crane which we couldn’t resist to put back to use. It wasn’t really in perfect shape being at least 150 years old but since we where only with the two of us it seemed like the only reasonable way to get the pieces up there. The other option would be to navigate the timbers true the house which would be an unpleasant endeavor.

wheel crane

Just before I was about to cut the first tie beam I noticed some pencil writings. After careful examination I could read a name, place and date “Alois Claes Aerschot 1864”. Aerschot is the old way of writing Aarschot, a city not too far from this job site. It is hard to say if this was one of the carpenters who originally build it. It could be anyone for that matter since this attic must have been used as a storage area hence the wheel crane and it might be plausible that many people have passed by, all potential graffiti artists.

tie beam marks

If you look carefully you can see the writings at the bottom of the tie beam. It is always a nice treat to find these marks and ponder on their history. The carpenters who build this roof frame back in the days sure knew what they where doing, it was al pretty well made for a simple roof frame.

I am sure you know that the Japanese Makita hollow chisel morticers are designed to work upside down. I read a lot about it in the manual and finally we had the chance to try it out ourselves.

Makita morticer

After almost five days of work with my two partners in crime we got it all done.

new struts

Tight joints, happy client, all is good.

Oh, I forgot to mention that one of my colleagues stepped next to the joists thereby falling through the ceiling and waking up the person who was sleeping in the room. The rooms resident had no reason to complain since it was already 10.30 am and it was time to get out of bed anyway.