Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My Tailless Rafters

There are a lot of people restoring their old houses that start a project and stay on task until it is done. Then they start & complete another project.

I'm not one of them. I have a project(s) in progress in every room in my house. There are a variety of reasons why these projects seem to linger:

a) I am still on the hunt for the perfect item to complete the project (e.g. lights for my bathroom, stove for my kitchen, storm windows);
b) I'm waiting for funding (repairing my kitchen ceiling, get the plumbing ready for my new bathroom sink);
c) It's the wrong season (exterior painting, stripping my salvage medicine cabinet); or
d) I need to figure out how to do it.

d) is usually the most time consuming reason. I talk to people, pour over books, scour the internet, and then spend a lot of time just mulling over things.

In a fit of boredom last Fall, I pulled down some of the aluminum trim on my house. I discovered the the wood, at least the limited amount I saw, was in repairable shape. However, the rafter tails had all been cut off in order to put up the aluminum (things could have been a lot worse). The plan is to take down the rest of the aluminum this coming Spring.

I've been trying to figure out how to correct this rafter tail situation on & off for the past few months. There is very little information available on how to do this. I suppose I could hire a carpenter, but it seems like it would be so easy.....

There are a lot of rafter tail templates available, so that isn't a problem. My house is simple, so I'd choose a simple template....so cutting out the design isn't a problem. The problem is how to go about attaching it to the existing "tailless" rafter.

Last summer I made a small repair to a rafter-like board while working on my front door overhang (click on the overhang label below to see that whole saga). I have no idea if the approach I took was right or wrong, but it seems to have done the job. I've been thinking that I might be able to use that same approach on the tails.

In the case of my front door overhang, the end 5" of rafter board above the bracket had rotted out and been repaired in the past. The old repair was a new board butt to the end and attached by nailing a short piece of 1x2 to the back face of both pieces. The end was then wraped in aluminum. I discovered that the old repair had rotted out again, so I pulled it off. You can see the attached repair in the photos, as well as the board once I pulled it off.

I repaired the end of the rafter with Liquidwood & WoodEpox and then sanded it flush. I then cut a 5" piece of 1x6 cedar. I drilled 3 holes into one end of that piece. Into those holes I put short pieces of dowel. I cut the dowels off so that 1" was hanging out of the board.
I then drilled three corresponding holes in the repaired rafter. I put exterior wood glue on the end of the dowels and into the rafter holes. I put some fresh WoodEpox along the edge where the boards would meet. I then attached the short 1x6 board to the rafter by sliding the dowels into the holes and pounding the short board flush.

When the glue & WoodEpox had a chance to cure, I used additional Wood Epox to create a seemless transition between the two pieces. Then I primed it.

I've kept an eye on this repair all winter. It seems to be quite strong and holding up fine.

It seems like I might be able to use this same approach in attaching new rafter tails to my tailless rafters.

Are there carpenters wringing their hands & grinding their teeth reading this, or does this make sense?


derek said...

http://historichomeworks.phovi.com/ this video shows someone doing something similiar with a beam. They use fibreglass rods, I'd think dowels or biscuits would be strong enough for rafter tails, especially with the epoxy.

StuccoHouse said...

Hmmm....that guy regularily spams old house boards with his company info. & I've seen some not so tactful info/response from him. I personally think there are probably better resources out there ;-)

Hey, thanks for the opinion of dowels or biscuits! I trust other bloggers :-)

roofpics said...

I am not a carpenter, although I pretend on weekends.
I like the repair. But,as long as the wood is being painted, I think you would get a stronger repair by running your wood grain the other way. Vertical, or perpendicular to the rafter. This would also make it harder for water to soak into the end grain of the rafter tails.

Greg said...

Before I even got to the part where you mentioned dowels, I was thinking dowels. So long as the tails aren't going to be supporting any weight (rain gutters full of ice), I think this is a great way to go. Even if they are going to hold some weight this would work with the right adhesive. Tight Bond II is an excellent wood glue for wet areas. You could even use 3M 5200 Marine adhesive caulk. The wood grain of your new pieces should run in the same directions the wood you are attaching it to. Even going with the same species of wood would be good. Different woods expand and contract differently, and the different directions of grain expand and contract differently.

StuccoHouse said...

Thanks for the advice & ideas! It is much appreciated. As I read your comments, it dawned on me that I probably should have primed the end piece before attaching it to protect the attached end from water. The 3M Marine Adhesive is also something I'll need to look into.

I have a total of 2 gutters on my house (I have a weird roofline), so that shouldn't be a problem. I'll have to see once the aluminum is down, but I think there is barge board over most of the eaves. This would leave maybe 6 exposed rafter tails.

I know what each type of wood is inside my house, but I'm not sure I know what the exterior trim is. I'm guessing old growth pine. I know I can't use new pine in this climate - it would last 5 minutes. I had planned on using redwood or cedar for the new ends, but I'll have think that over.

1923bungalow said...

Someone in the Twin Cities Bungalow Club completed a very similar project 2-3 years ago. Since you link to their website, you may have already seen it. You can access it using the following link: http://www.bungalowclub.org/roof_revelation.html

StuccoHouse said...

1923 - Yeah, I've read that article, but their situation was a bit different. They had extended rafters and were able to just remove the bad end by cutting their rafters off shorter. My rafters were cut off in the end in such a way (see photo) that that solution does not work for me. Just a personal thing, but I'm not sure that even if I had long rafters, I'd want to cut them off.....I'd still be inclined to build them back. Just a personal preference thing.

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