I am cutting rafters for a shed roof. The rafters will be 16o.c 2x6.
The rise is 3:12 (or 3 inches for each 12 inchs of run)
My question concerns the birdsmouth cut. If I cut a 1 and 1/2 inch
heel cut and a 3 and 1/2 inch seat cut, I am in compliance with the
code for Height Above Plate for the rafter. If I make this birdsmouth
cut, doesn't this alter the pitch of 3:12? Would I also have to alter
the rise in some way to account for the birdsmouth cut out of the
Thanks for any assistance.
This is where experience counts. You have correctly identified a
problem that often results in roofs that are 2-3/4" per foot or other
odd slopes. The easiest way to deal with this is to simply measure
1-1/2 less for the top of your ridge, because that is how far down the
exterior bottom of your rafter is when it seats on the plate.
Example: 3/12 pitch roof with a 20' span = 30 inch rise
If you mark a vertical line at the vertical cut of your birdsmouth, you
will find that it is approx. 4-1/8" to the top of the 2x6 rafter from
the plate (or from the seat cut). So 30" + 4-1/8" = 34-1/8" to the top
of the ridge from the top of the plate.
Since your birdsmouth is 1-1/2", you can measure from the bottom of the
top plate to the bottom of the rafter at the ridge for your 30" and then
add your rafter for the top of the ridge. (A 2x6 rafter with a plumb
cut of 3/12 will measure approx. 5-5/8" along the plumb line.) I
usually cut a pattern to mark the top of the ridge.
Hope that makes sense and hope it helps.
That is what most people do. That is why you see so many rafters that
have gaps at the ridge and the birds mouth only sets on the plate at one
I pay a little more attention to detail. The curse of being both a
framing carpenter and a cabinet maker. It also leads to everything
fitting better in the long run, and all the way through the building
Just a quick story related to cutting birds mouths...
Many years ago my brother-in-law's family took the summer off to build
a "cabin" on some land they owned - a 2-story, three bedroom cabin.
They sent out invitations a year earlier, inviting friends and family
from across the country to come down for whatever time they could
during that summer, camp out and help raise the house. I spent almost
three weeks helping out and it still ranks as the best vacation I ever
Anyway, over the course of the summer, people of various skill levels
came and went, pitching in wherever they could. On the day we were
raising the rafters, I was cutting the birds mouth after birds mouth
with a circular saw when I was approached by a new-comer, asking me
how he could help out. I took this as an opportunity to take a break
and started to show "Cousin Jeb" how to layout the birds mouth and cut
Suddenly out of nowhere, appeared a family member who knew who this
guy was, and who sent him off to perform some menial task. The family
member then came back to me with this information: "Be careful what
jobs you give him. He's dangerous with hand tools, deadly with power
I'm glad I never actually handed him the circular saw!
Any gap at the ridge or poor fit at the plate would be due to piss
poor layout work, not ignoring a very minor, nit picking, point in the
calculations. There are points in construction where such finicky
calculations are needed. In rough framing (and rafters are just
that), it is not only not needed, it is wasted time. I have been
kickign around both amatuer and pro constuction for most of my life
off and on (55 years) and have never seen anyone worry about that much
less do it. The carpentry couse I took conducted by professionals,
did not even mention it.
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