Roofs: I find weird and difficult

Dear All,

I have looked within the internet, and have found many discussions of roofs (rooves?). The sources I have found are by roof designers and manufactures. These sources are full of useful information to the roof cognisenti.

Unfortunately, I am a biologist.

Are there any sources for ‘basic’ roof design that you all can recommend to read/buy/download. I don’t want to know the details of truss design. I am looking for simple stuff like ‘framing a shed roof’ preceded by ‘what the hell is a shed roof’.

Lastly, here is a contribution to the community:

This is a great book. You should be able to find it cheaper on ABE or other used book sources.

Thanks tons for all your help in the past and now.

Happy Independence Day*!


Chip “Tom” Cookie

*PS. I don’t think this is political, but just in case I put it as a ps: Coming up on 250 years of most folks wanting to get along with each other!

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Lots of stuff in Fine Homebuilding over the years. One of the best compilations on wood framing is The Very Efficient Carpenter by Larry Haun. Another great general reference is Dwelling House Construction by Albert G. H. Dietz.

Dear All,

I forgot to attach the model I am working on. As you can easily see, the roof is sh*t. I am just practicing and trying to enhance my skills with this project. Any information on resources is greatly appreciated.

So please answer as SOON AS POSSIBLE because my boss will kick my ass if this isn’t done by tomorrow and then I will have to compete for food and shelter like a wolf except not like a wolf since they cooperate so more like a Starling because they are really harsh to each other like ducks. Ducks are tasty, but d*mn they scare me.

Thanks tons, and best to you and yours,

Chip “Haven’t slept in a bit” Cookie

House2.skp (1.1 MB)

You might need to be more specific about what you do want to know. For example, a roof like that could either be made with trusses or as a hand cut structure. You have chosen a low pitch and that will affect member sizes.

If it is hand cut, it will consist of rafters and possibly secondary members like purlins (ie. beams that carry the rafters and limit their span). Smaller rafter sizes are possible with purlins but the purlins need their own support and can end up quite large. Member sizes will depend on loads carried and spans.

Here in the UK, it is common to have roofs made entirely of 2x4 rafters with purlins at mid span. But usually these days, builders use trussed rafters for speed.

It’s not often you find a biologist being asked to design a roof by a boss! I guess he never thought to use an architect?

Architect here…

The first rule 3 rules of any design challenge is to understand the who, what and when.

Who are you designing this for? Your boss, as you said. Which leads to: What are their expectations for someone that isn’t a designer? Are you doing this for yourself? Well, congratulations! You’ve already chosen the correct tool and are utilizing this forum with a wealth of knowledge to pool from. Don’t just label yourself as a biologist, but a creative and it will change the way you fundamentally approach possibilities.

What are you trying to accomplish? Again, you stated a bit more in your last message, but this is key. Are you trying to give the client a 3D model? A set of drawings? It sounds like you are trying to deliver concepts at a level that can be further researched on construction and options for framing. Don’t be afraid of the power of SketchUp to deliver these concepts in a more sketchy style, along with precedents (finished projects) that reflect a potential design goal. Having a presentation with these elements will advance the discussions and good communication between all parties. Communication is the foundation of good design solutions.

Finally, the When. Tomorrow is here and it appears you might be out of time. That’s OK! Remind yourself (and your boss) that you are not an expert and still learning about potential pathways to help advance the ideas. If they are upset or it missed their expectations, then that’s more on them as a learning process to level those unrealistic expectations.

There are many ways to find out more information, as the previous posts have alluded, but quick internet searches with key terms can lead you to pictures, precedents and other websites that will expand your project.

Wish you well and I hope you have more time to explore this challenge with an open mind with easily the best tool on the planet for testing, iterating and collaborating.


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A bit like this Simon?


My take from the OP was just trying to model a project and having trouble getting it to look right, Not to learn truss design. Attached are a graphic of your model and the revised model using Medeek Truss Plugin. It took two minutes to create this roof!

House2A.skp (2.1 MB)

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For ideas to do without extensions See this SketchUp page on Youtube

Dear All,

Thank you all for your input. Some very interesting stuff. Guido, The cartoon was hilarious.

To clarify something, the part about my boss etc. was, apparently, a poorly executed bit of satire based on some posts I have seen here. I apologize.

In reality, I am a retired biology professor that does sketch-up projects for a hobby and for farm stuff like this equipment shed we are going to build.

Thanks again for all your input.

Best Regards,



LOL the shed roof should slope away from the openings. Just sayin.

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Unless OP is at property boundary or otherwise limited and open side is also ideal for solar… then the slope goes where it goes.

Otherwise I agree.

But I won’t LOL at OP.


There be dragons. I mean a fence and then a steep drop off behind the building.So for gutter and roof maintenance it seemed best to position it this way. If I decide to ditch the gutters I will turn it around.

Well bless your heart.

I have used calculators for several home projects involving roofs or stairs.

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Thank you!!! That is hugely helpful. That is quite a site.



Building Construction Illustrated — it’s basically my bible.
It is so well illustrated, written, and detailed that I find it just as helpful now as a professional as I did receiving it on my 12th birthday.
If you don’t want to buy it, I bet you can find an e-book version through your local library system.

Small preview—hopefully I obscured it enough to avoid copyright issues.


Architect weighing in,
The roof is not the only thing that you have to consider, (if you really intend to build this stucture). You have to take into account shear, (lateral), and uplift forces. The structure pictured could easily blow away in heavy winds without diaginal bracing between the columns and in the side and rear walls. I’m not even including gavity loads (downward loads) of snow buildup. What’s with all those individual conc piers rather than a continuous tench foundation. It would take a master carpenter to get all the piers squared, and if one slips a little, due to poor soil conditions, the structure will rack or twist and become unstable. The cartoon in this tread is hilarious but, there’s some truth behind it.:wink:
Have fun

As an architect for forty years I can say the Building construction illustrated is a text book for scholl and the go to for framed construction. Vali, architects has plugins for all sorts of architectural items.

How strange is it that days after mentioning the late Larry Haun and his great book, Fine Homebuilding announces they’re reissuing his video lessons on their platform:

Strange coincidence.

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(Toe)nailed with a 6 pennie!