Prefab Trusses Versus California WUI regulations

Here’s one for the Contractors and Architects out there or anyone about to build in a WUI zone.

Kentfield California Craftsman, eaves featured
Kentfield California Craftsman, eaves featured

In our effort to maintain a higher degree of finish quality or improve the sustainability of a design, I tend to venture into areas that I suddenly realize nobody has seemingly bothered to investigate. I’m always exhilarated by the discovery that I’ve stumbled into an aspect of our trade that has not been pushed.

So here’s the challenge: Find affordable prefab trusses that meet WUI code with open eaves.

I’ll explain a couple terms there for those of you that may not know, otherwise skip to the next paragraph. There are new rules for homes built and remodeled in areas near “wild lands” adopted recently in California: WUI (Wildland Urban Interface) regulations and get this… the majority of the enforcement and oh-so professional people in the trades are are pronouncing it “woo-ee or woowee”. Try looking professional while saying “ we need to comply with woo-ee.” When I say ‘open eaves’ I’m referring to what you see in this picture. Prefabricated Trusses are becoming more commonly used even in custom homes due to the sophistication of the software used to design and engineer the product.

If you’re using trusses for your roof (in an effort to reduce cost, improve efficiency, and reduce the use of wood and thus improve sustainability), AND you’re in what is called a WUI zone, then you need to provide fire rated assemblies at the eaves. Our California Craftsman homes typically have open eaves with the rafter tails showing. This happens two ways, either you 1) run the top member of the truss out to the fascia or two 2) ‘scab on’ or attach a rafter tail to the truss. These trusses are made of regular lumber and they’re ridiculously expensive if they’re made entirely with exterior grade fireproof lumber. You might as well hand frame or ‘stick frame’ the entire roof.

I’ve worked with Tim Carley when he was at Peidmont Lumber (Capella Truss Division) which, despite their great service and product, succumbed to financial ruin during the great recession, so he’s at Kelseyville Lumber’s Truss Division now. Recently when I called him I realized during our conversation I was wondering off into new territory with him. What on earth could be new and innovative in the production of trusses (or even interesting)?  Talking to Tim, I gathered that at this moment, no truss manufacturer in California is producing affordable trusses on a regular basis with rafter tails that meet any kind of exterior fire rating. They can but they don’t.

WUI has been on the books for several years, yet nobody is doing it, yet. Does anyone see an business opportunity here?