A Little House at No. 18

The ins and outs and inbetweens of building a new house in Little Howard St, Fremantle


Truss Me

Holy moly, what a day. In some ways we have reached the pinnacle of our ambition for this house and while we always trussed, ah trusted, this day would come, sometimes it seemed a long way away.

The truss puns were flying thick and fast in the days leading up to standing up the trusses (truss Greg to come up with some good Dad jokes). The remaining timbers were transformed from big lumps of wood to critical elements of a structure as they were cut, shaped and bolted together with the steel plates rebated at each joint. There were also countless discussions on how to get these massive structures from the horizontal to the vertical plane with the correct alignment and support – you do not want to see one of these free falling down on top of you, truss me.

Once the crane arrived at about 10 am there was no more fiddling around with ridge beams it was straight into it. I (Alice) was doing a bit of multitasking that day as chief photographer, caterer and tending to a nearly six-month old baby. The first truss took the longest, as expected, as the finer details of slinging each truss was worked out. The trusses are assymetrical and finding the pivot point took a bit of trial and error. By the time I had taken a few photos and given Matilda a feed, bum-change and put her down for a sleep though the boys had it sorted. Watching these massive timber structures glide, almost gracefully, into the air was amazing – so many hours of planning and work has gone into each one. From purchasing the timber over 12 months ago, getting it into our storage unit, getting it on site and then finally starting work on each one…wow.



Then came the heart stopping bit – would it fit? I should have trussed in the skills of our carpentry team. It was entirely satisfying watching each truss slide into it’s place, correct to within a few millimetres with only a tiny bit of adjusting required. Greg will be able to tell you the fine detail of where we shaved a bit off here and there but from where I was standing, bravo boys, job well done.

The second truss went up as I handed around ham and salad rolls for lunch. It took a little bit of adjusting to make sure the second truss lined up with the first and then get the ridge beam up and bolted into place. As each truss progressed, we built up a set of scaffold to rest the truss on while it was bolted into place and to allow a safe work platform at the peak.

Matilda had had enough of being carried from pillar to post by the time the third truss went up so we went for a quick walk and swing in the park. Looking back down the street at the trusses standing up gave a great perspective of our house in context with the street scape. We have always aimed to design and build a house that was sympathetic with the street and while from the eastern side it appears to tower over the low brick and tile 19060s dwellings, from the western side the rise in roof level is in keeping with the rise of the other buildings as you go up the street. We certainly had lots of positive comments from people walking past.

The fourth and final truss went up in a flash, in the time it took for me to give the baby a feed (and truss me, she’s an efficient little feeder), it was up. We didn’t quite get the final ridge beam done in time so we supported the last truss with a bit of blue pine (the ridge beam has since been put in). Sitting up on the mezzanine with a well deserved drink in hand we were all able to look around and see the difference even a skeletal structure makes to the house. You can feel the sense of space and the shapes of the mezzanine rooms now. Once again the things that we have been imagining and seeing on the plans for so long have come to life.

As I write the carpenters continue to work on the roof structure, installing purlins and rafters. Within a couple of weeks (it would be less but there are a few public holidays coming up!) we will have a complete roof and can stop going up with our build and can start filling in and finishing off the bits in between. It’s been a while from getting to the bottom of the rainwater tank to the top of the roof but we are there now and golly it’s a good feeling.