The Holy Truss


The Holy Truss

Ever have one of those component jobs where everything went exactly to plan, only to have a hiccup at the last moment?

A lot of truss repairs can fit that bill, and this one is no exception. The key is ensuring you have a strong focus on customer service when dealing with the unexpected when it comes. This is a brief look at how one component manufacturer addressed an unusual truss repair.

“The project was a light-frame commercial building located in a heavily wooded area that was part of a religious camp,” said Glen Etchison, a Sales Product Manager for ProBuild in Clackamas, OR. “They specified attic trusses at either end of the building to be used for storage.”

After being awarded the job, Etchison produced the layouts and truss profiles, and after a few rounds of revisions, got the green light for production. Even the production went smoothly. In fact, the only real challenge was actually delivering the trusses. “The campgrounds were located in a remote area in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains,” said Etchison. “It took the driver a good hour and a half to reach the camp from the closest highway.”

In the Oregon market, roof trusses are delivered above the top plate using a boom crane truck. Between the drive and the unloading process, it took the driver a full day to finish the delivery. Still, that’s not so bad for a job well done. That is, until Etchison heard the building failed its final framing inspection.

“The project supervisor contacted me, letting me know an issue had come up during the walk through,” said Etchison. The supervisor emailed Etchison two pictures of the source of the problem (see photos at right). He couldn’t believe what he saw.

“The supervisor said that he didn’t think it was a big issue,” remembered Etchison. “He said they always drill holes in the bottom chords to run wiring.” To give you a sense of scale, the bottom chord of each truss is made of 2x10 Doug-Fir Select Structural. “I asked them if they typically drill that many holes in their bottom chords, because, in this case, they had removed all the load bearing capacity of the trusses.”

“We quickly worked with our third-party engineers to develop a repair for the trusses,” said Etchison. “Unfortunately, they rejected the first repair solution.” The first repair called for scabbing a 24'-long piece of 2x10 LVL to each bottom chord after removing all the wiring and plumbing. “The supervisor didn’t approve the repair, citing it would cost too much to remove and reroute all the wiring and plumbing. There were also concerns they wouldn’t be able to get the 24'-long LVL up into the attic.” So, Etchison went back to his third-party engineers and found another solution.

“I did my best to convince the supervisor that the repair was necessary as a matter of structural integrity, and that the cost needed to be a secondary issue,” said Etchison. “It was a challenging conversation.”

In the end, the project supervisor approved the second repair, which called for two separate 2x10 Doug-Fir Select Structural scabs to be affixed to each bottom chord, allowing for a prescribed number of 1" holes to be drilled into the bottom chord and scab.

“We have an internal process in place to determine whether we are at fault when something goes wrong in the field,” said Etchison. “In this case, it obviously wasn’t our fault. Still, we worked with the customer to get a repair they found acceptable. If it had been something we had done wrong, we also would have provided the framing crew to do the repair.”

Truss repairs are necessary more often than they should be. In most cases, the truss damage requiring repair is no fault of the component manufacturer. However, good service on every repair helps ensure a happy customer and a strengthened relationship that can pay dividends far into the future.