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All About Exposed Rafters and Lofts

All About Exposed Rafters and Lofts

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August 3, 2007

Exposed rafters and lofts are a great combination. The exposed rafters usually found in a loft or attic can contribute to the open space concept many people enjoy. Rafter framing creates open space. However, all that open space means that the rafters carry most of the roof's weight, so you need to make sure you have a complete and structurally sound design.

Exposed rafters are common to an attic structure. Exposed rafters and lofts exhibit a number of basic characteristics you need to understand before you attempt to alter the current condition. These include collar ties, rafter ties and purlins. You must be able to identify these parts and understand the role they play in maintaining a roof over your head.

Collar ties are horizontal boards joining two rafters together. You can locate them on the upper third of the rafter span. Never remove them, although you can relocate them upwards by an inch or two. Rafter ties join rafters together on the lower third. They prevent rafters from spreading out. Purlins are horizontal boards placed at right angles to the rafters supported by struts. They allow the wood to be shorter for the rafters. You can replace these with knee walls. All these are integral components of the exposed rafters and the loft's integrity.

Exposed Rafters and Lofts  

When you are presented with the scenario of exposed rafters and lofts, you can do one of two things: cover the rafters or leave them exposed. Each has its negative and positive aspects; everyone prefers one or the other. Do not forget internal mechanicals. You must also take into consideration legal aspects such as building codes when you determine to use the space as a living loft.

Exposed rafters and lofts can work together to provide a dramatic look or a cozy room. If you build small knee walls extending from the attic floor to the rafters, but leave the rafters exposed, you create an aesthetic option. The rafters expand the visual impact of the ceiling-space relationship. It is a dramatic look, drawing the eye upwards. The shape of the loft changes with the addition of the walls, but it maintains the tall ceilings of the rafters and the raw energy. You, however, may have to add extra roof vents.

If you decide exposed rafters and lofts are not a viable combination, you can frame the area to create a flat ceiling. This will result in an increased workload, but provide a cozy space in your attic loft. You can add dormer windows to extend the space or skylights. In all instances, be careful with the exterior structure. You will also find it essential to strengthen the attic floor if its original purpose is a ceiling for the room below.

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