Last week I was in the attic of a local house completed in 1678. I was
surprised that there were no ridge beams and had never been any. Rafters
just butted to each other with a lap joint and a wood pin. After 350 years
no roof sag. Why do we use ridge beams now?
Because it's easier to frame the roof when using 2x dimensional
lumber. Without a ridge you have to put up both rafters at the same
time. The ridge serves little if any structural purpose if the
sheathing is of adequate thickness and the framing was cut correctly.
Some people refer to ridge boards as ridge beams. I'd bet dollars to
donuts that is what EDS meant. If he had been talking about a ridge
beam, he wouldn't have been asking why it wasn't there. It would have
been there, or there would have been a framing system that would take
the loads and would have been obvious to someone in the trade. Don't
take my "word" for it, ask him. ;)
17th century timber framing practices and architectural styles can
mask what's going on structurally if someone is trying to make sense
of them viewed through "modern" stick framing practices. They might
not realize that those short knee walls in the attic are actually
extensions of the timber frame posts from the first floor. The
horizontal ties are at the floor level - the floor joists set down
below the wall top plate - and those ties are what resist the
spreading load from the rafters. That only works with a steeper roof,
stout posts and good connections.
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