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Installing large trusses without a crane

CombatRescue's picture

Hi all,

Received some bad news from several crane companies in my area - they can't/won't install my trusses due to the proximity of power lines and trees.  There has to be a 15' safety factor between the boom and a line, and though there is enough room to meet this factor, the area is tight and the crane people don't want to bother with it.  I'm building a detached garage in an old, established neighborhood with overhead lines, and 99% of their work is cookie-cutter new construction in areast with no overhead obstructions.

My trusses are 8:12 pitch, span 24' with two foot overhangs on each side, so they're about 28 feet long and 10' tall.  Weight is about 170 pounds each.  The roof is a simple gable style, but the gable end walls are balloon framed and go right to the roofline.  This, it seems to me, makes getting the trusses on the roof more difficult as the two gable end walls will be in the way.

My question is: Is it reasonable to try and place these trusses by hand?  I can probably get about 6 guys to help me.  Alternatively, I could have the power line that goes from the pole to the house disconnected, which would provide a crane more working room, but I don't know what's involved with that.  Would that be a better option?

Thanks a lot in advance!


(post #93591, reply #1 of 11)

Yes, you can set them by hand easy enough, more fun with a crane, though.  Building a garage, we often leave the headers off above the garage doors, that end left completely clear, then use the forks on the tractor to just drive in and carry the truss. 

Sounds like this is your own place.  Often, you will find that a contractor can get stuff done, i.e. convincing the crane co. to set them, that the co. would never do for an owner-builder.  Kinda late for that, though.

(post #93591, reply #2 of 11)

Yeah, that's exactly the situation I'm in - I'm an owner-builder and people assume I'm an idiot because of it.  Based on their experience, and my previous experience in the industry, that is probably an overall accurate assumption.

That's a great idea to leave one wall off - but you're right, it's too late now.  I guess I should have known there would be crane problems.  :(


(post #93591, reply #3 of 11)

When I saw the title to the thread, I envisioned someone trying to set 50'~ trusses by hand. I don't see anything 30' or less as being much of a problem. A 24' truss definitely isn't a "large" one.

Heck, I've actually set 24' trusses BY MYSELF once. Wasn't fun, but you do what ya gotta do when you don't have help.

I'd definitely get some help if you can- About 4 guys sounds pretty good to me. Carry the trusses in one at a time, and turn them upside down. Set the heel of the truss up on the wall on each end. Then push the peak up and over with a 2X4 about 14' long. Have someone up on the peak of the trusses that are already set to catch it as it comes up. Tie a rope to the peak and the guy up top can help pull the peak up.

The other option that comes to mind is to rent/hire/borrow a rough terrain forklift and use it to set a bundle of trusses on the end wall. Then stand them up one at a time and drag 'em over to where they go.

Make sure you do a good job of bracing them. Check out these 2 threads, and you'll see what I mean:

Taxation WITH representation isn't so hot, either

(post #93591, reply #4 of 11)


It's not that hard for the power company to temporarily disconnect the service drop from the house to the pole(the drop in the way is yours right?).Call them and ask them how much to do it.They should be willing to disconnect it in the morning and come back in the afternoon to reconnect.You just have to weigh the cost vs. difficulty factor.I've done it with a rope and come-along but it isn't much fun.The drop conductors aren't fused so if you're doing it hot and make a mistake it's a boatload of trouble.


(post #93591, reply #5 of 11)

my trusses was 5/12 38 feet long 160 lbs at 24 o.c. We did it with three people, no problem.

(post #93591, reply #6 of 11)

Thanks for all the replies everyone.  Lots of good information there.  I haven't used trusses before, so it's all kind of new to me.  I know they're kind of fragile and gangly and my main concern about doing them by hand is not to wrack them and dislodge a connector plate.

Thanks again!


(post #93591, reply #7 of 11)

We had a rough terrain forklift on site for a while (we are also owner/builders) and I can tell you that it would really be a big help to you right now. If you are doing the work yourself, you'd be able to make quick work of roof by

o installing the trusses

o lifting all the plywood onto the roof for you

o finishing fascia soffit in a hurry

o siding the gables

My husband built a nice, sturdy platform for the one we had that was big enough to put his saw on. Saved tons of time and it was much safer than ladders or scaffolding. I know the pros are used to working 35 ft off the ground, but we weren't! You might find it worth its weight in gold to have it for a few days. I almost shed a tear when the thing left our house. :-)

Good luck with your garage.

(post #93591, reply #8 of 11)

you might rent a rough terrain fork lift.

the OSHA minimum crane clearance for high voltage lines is 10ft. I have seen the burned hand prints of two dead men on a piece of painted metal beam they were moving and the crane cable touched an 8000 volt line.

(post #93591, reply #9 of 11)

You should not have a problem with 6 guys.  Some good scaffolding, weather the store bought type (rented)  or some that is just banged together 2x4s, 2x12s etc helps a lot. 



(post #93591, reply #10 of 11)

Boss Hog and Dirishinme described the method I have used many times. One caution is not to hang to many trusses upside down between the outside wall unless they are really well braced. Even with the peak resting on the floor they push your walls out. The more trusses, the more thrust on the walls.

What I do is build a temporary wall under the first truss in, or if I have the extra scaffolding, lay it on the scaffolding boards. That way you have three points supporting the truss. Bring in the next truss and flip it over to lay on the first one. Sort of like laying playing cards half lapped over one another. Do this for three or four trusses and then nail a 2x4 brace to the bottom cord of the fourth truss. Continue the stacking and layering with bottom cord bracing until you have all the trusses layered up on the wall. The last truss up is the first one raised and braced to you ballon framed end wall. With a ten foot bootm cord to peak height you will reach a point where you don't have enough room to flip them up. Stand the rest of them up and brace the hell out of what you have up, so you can lean the last five trusses agianst them in the upright position. Now drag the last one to its mak and brace it agianst the other gabled end wall. The last four are a piece of cake then.

Hope you overhead door is at least a 9x8 to get those tall trusses through.

Sorry for the long winded explanation. I have set more trusses that size by hand than with a crane. I would figure with six experience men, about four hours.


(post #93591, reply #11 of 11)

Thanks Dave, that's a good explanation.  I should have about six guys, but only two will be experienced.  The others are "beer and pizza" help, if you know what I mean.  I'm experienced, but not with trusses.  The actual distance from the bottom of the bottom cord to the peak is 8'7" - 10 ' was a guestimate including the drop of the rafters.  My doors are standard size, but I should be able to squeeze them through if needed by tilting at an ange..  I'm looking at getting an all-terrain forklift to quickly get the trusses up above the 8' walls if I can't get a crane.

That's a great tip on wall bracing - I never would have thought of that.

Thanks again to you and everyone for your helpful replies.