How to Eliminate Truss Design Backcharges

How to Eliminate Truss Design Backcharges

Part of our mission in Gould Design, Inc. (GDI) is to increase the proficiency level of our clients providing them information useful as the use of details. It is also to provide alternative ideas to current methodologies to help with profitability and builder-friendly designs. What better advocate of requesting a specific manufacturer than the one responsible for actually “setting” the trusses on the walls?

Of course we don´t want to change the way a company works. In fact, we do a deep investigative research to learn how and why our clients require certain design types so we can become an extension of the design department for each client.

To accomplish this, we use a questionnaire which help us to develop a manual with the standards need for each one (as heel heights, materials, splicing, layout preferences, etc.). Learn more about this amazing tool we offer for your use, at no cost to you here. In this research we also ask the customer how they prefer to use certain details as Top Chord (TC) bearing or Piggybacks.

2 common suggestions GDI suggests are:

Use of filler chords to cover areas for “stepped” trusses

This allows the manufacturer make more efficient and modifiable designs. Take this stepped girder for instance:


The blue marked section is nonstructural filler chords, this way we can fulfill architectural requirements assuring the structural integrity of the truss. And this type of design will also allow for some field error and a design that can be repaired, not replaced.

After all, a 2×4 girder like this that carries the wall and trusses above leaves little room for repairable modifications. Usually a truss like this would have to be replaced…usually after everything has already been attached to it!

Roof truss ribbons

Also we call attention on details not so common but very useful for each truss company. We have all heard of floor truss ribbons, right? But what about the roof truss ribbon? This type of ingenuity helps to create the difference that could be the reason your framer chooses your truss package. Much appreciated is the framer who has a truss guy thinking about his well-being for his time as this detail represents:


This detail shows how to deal with different heights for the bearings. In this case we don´t use filler chords but we do allow for some play with a non-structural Bottom Chord (BC) extension and use a vertical to cover the area. The important part of this detail is the 1-1/2” setback for the BC and the vertical.

The vertical is held in place per the plan dimensions, but the BC is held back to allow for a ribbon. This allows the framers to run a ribbon making the set of trusses a single piece and avoiding the use of blocking between trusses to nail drywall to. This detail helps to increase installation speed and makes an important difference for a framers time.

Simple considerations like these two examples represent provide 3 important benefits:

  1. A truss that can be easily modified
  2. A truss manufacturer that is thinking of its customer’s installation ease
  3. A builder/framer that feels his concerns are considered in the design, from his own point of view

Why am I telling you all this? Because it’s important to help you understand that it’s the “little things” that could be the reason a builder decides to go with your truss package or not. The education of these factors is contingent upon the sales representative’s understand of and need for these types of considerations. I could list many more, but I chose these two simply because these are common areas of field modification.

At GDI, we provide all of these tools to your company as part of our new client setup package. Our client then has the opportunity make marks and annotations on these detail sheets to suit your particular preference for each detail we send. We will then take that detail and modify it and include it in your customer criteria used in the design. GDI has an entire library and assortment of documentation and tools that we have created over the last decade to ensure proactive communication.

“Little Things” like this are how we assure we are inside the specifications of the end customer, your builder/framer. If there´s any condition changes (by codes or regional regulations) customer can notify us not only written but just making annotations on the detail sheet and we implement immediately so not to disrupt the flow of work.

After all, when a builder/framer stops on the jobsite due to a truss issue and has guys standing around, he is looking to send someone a bill, right? All it really takes is an educated salesman and a few simple tools like this to prevent that from ever happening again.

Are you ready to stop paying backcharges and start increasing your profit?

Javier Dominguez – Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.

One thought on “How to Eliminate Truss Design Backcharges

  1. Good Morning;
    My name is Lance Stout and I am a truss designer for Nelson Lumber Company Ltd in Canada.
    I just finished reading the latest article about eliminating truss back charges and how to be more profitable and I would like to receive the Canadian version of the customer preferences document.
    I believe that is a great start.
    Lance Stout

    Lance Stout, Truss Designer | Nelson Lumber Company Ltd.
    #1 Kam’s Industrial Park
    Highway 16 West | Box 620 | Lloydminster, AB | T9V 0Y4
    P: 780-871-6377 | F: (780) 871-6398 | E-mail:

    [Nelson Lumber]

    [Work Safe Alberta]