Tree sapling roof rafters

This is a first for me in 26 years! This small 1930 house has SMALL tree saplings used for roof rafters. The braces are the only thing holding this roof up. You can see it once had cedar shakes now replaced with plywood and architectural shingles. And yes there was a significant roof sag visible from the out side. Saplings were from 2" to 3" in diameter.


So I’m curious what you tell the buyers when you find something like this? Its been there for 90 years - but the braces were likely added later for support (roof sag). It could be just one major snowstorm away from disaster.

And everyone worries about a little wood checking in a rafter in a modern home. :roll_eyes: The house will be there in another 90 years.


Alan, The buyer attended the inspection today so I was able to explain from a structural perspective how weak the roof structure was. I told him addition 2x6 roof rafters were needed at a minimum to strengthened the roof, however to eliminate the roof sag completely the existing roof structure would likely have to be removed and replaced.


Them ol’timers were pretty resourceful back in the day that’s for sure.


We all had a treehouse when we were kids! :smile:


Makes me remember when I was probably 10 or 11, '69 or '70 I think and there was a new apartment complex being constructed, over the creek and through the woods of our neighborhood. Us kids “borrowed” scrape lumber, roofing etc. and made a 2 story tree house that would probably still be standing today if the ATL airport didn’t raze the neighborhood… :wink:


Haha, I’m sure we all borrowed a few things for our treehouses. I visited the sawmill a few times, through the back woods entrance! :smile:


Yep, we were all wood bandits at that age.LOL. :grinning:


I told the clients similar to what Randy said above and the LA said “The house hasn’t moved in 100 years and it won’t for another 100 years.”

And I said, “Think Mount St. Helen’s” and that shut him up.


I cannot tell a lie :wink: I never took anything from a construction site to build a multi story tree condo. :joy::rofl::joy::smirk:


My grandfather built some sheds back in the day with basically the same concept…the rafters were just trees that were growing around the property…strip it out with 1x’s and put some tin on it…the posts (into the ground) were just bigger trees he found laying around…he parked his car, his tractor and used one bay as a woodshed until he started using oil to heat his house…people have it so good these days and don’t know it…back then you had to make due with what you had…


2 billion still do so everyday. People in the “western” world have it good, so good they forget and completely dismiss the other parts of the world.


A few years back I inspected an old hunting cabin now being used a residence that had been built up in the mountains in the 20’s. It had several 12" spruce logs with bark and all as beams under the house. They almost certainly were installed “green” at the time. It was working…mostly…if you don’t mind your floors looking like a rippling pond surface. The buyer thought it was charming.


Cool, thanks for sharing.
Note the 2x6 PT sistered rafter just barely visible.

It looks like some of the cross braces are missing on the right side.
I suspect though that the saplings are long since dry and will keep doing their job.
The braces though look like they might be toenailed. And do they form a proper truss,
or are they just bearing on nothing?

Morning Randy.
Hope this post finds you well.

What a wonder investigative field we are in. History has so much to offer. A provenance research might get you more data on the home if the municipality has a historical homes archive.

I have run into this type of whole lumber building on several occasions while inspecting churches commercial and residential buildings on and off the islands of Montreal.
Its a gift to have been fortunate enough to buildings such as the one you inspected. Even the skip sheathing are loges sawed on two sides and not traditional dimensional lumber.
If the log rafters and skip sheathing stood this long without bowing buckling or decay, I suspect they will last just as long, so long as moisture and live loading do not damage this architectural Dimond in the rough.
Great find.

A friend lived in a traditionally Indian long home for over a decade and moved further North to escape the riggers of the city. I would visit regularly and stay as long as we could with a fiend that worked CP Rail, Lindsey Rock. Bob heated the house with a pig stove. The flue ran up the stone fire place and chimney. Many a winter morning you woke up to freezing temperatures were he would drive into the city to work at CP as a millwright machinist. 6.4" Bob Plackariean. 4 dogs guarded the home where he kept his beloved Harley.
The mayor sold Bob the Indian log cabin house after talking to Bob seeing he worked for CP rail for 25 years and squatted on a vacant lot all winter in a Army tent with a pig stove and running brook for water and electricity. He hated they city. Everyone from Police to Bikers would harass Bob because he was one big bad ass looking dud that just wanted to be left alone. I have to go look up Bob living in St. Michael du Saint on the North East side of Mont Tremblant. Thanks for the reminder.

Good for you.

Randy, over the past 35 yrs I’ve run into tree saplings, logs, etc being used for floor joists or support beams in rural Missouri in areas like Booneville, Waynesville, the Lake, etc BUT never rafters. That would be a new one for me also. Good catch.

Dan, I have seen several log floor joists over the years but never as rafters even in the oldest 1866 house I have inspected.

I’ve seen them as rafters once, which was in the original part of the house that was built in 1803. I had to do a little digging for these pics, I inspected this back in 2011.

As you can see, they had Powder Post Beetle damage.

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