What is a Ridge Board in Residential Construction? Part 2

March 10, 2024

The framing of residential roofs is a common source of confusion for many homeowners. There are two distinct types of roof framing systems used by builders and framers; stick framing and structural trusses. The most common framing deficiencies that VERTEX encounters in residential construction revolve around misunderstanding the function of both ridge boards and ridge beams. This three part article will discuss what is a ridge board, how ridge boards are supported and the difference between them and a structural ridge beam.

In conventional closed ceilings (like those found in traditional stick framing) a ridge board is non-structural and only serves as the nailing surface for opposing rafters at the ridge of the roof. Ridge boards are typically 1" thick or less and are dependent on the truss action of a closed conventional roof system for load transfer.

On the other hand, in open ceiling systems like those found in wood framed gable and hip roofs, a structural ridge beam is required to support the ends of the rafters at the ridge, transfer the roof loads to supports (such as a post or gable end wall) and provide later restraint to the walls. Structural ridge beams must be designed by a licensed engineer and their connections are detailed using prescriptive requirements set out in tables throughout the IRC.

It is often the case that a contractor, lumber supplier or architect may supply sizing and detailing for ridge beams that is not in accordance with code specifications. This is commonly due to lack of understanding of ridge beam behavior and the requirements of the code as well as a failure to recognize that actual site conditions may differ from what is assumed or anticipated. This can result in undersized ridge beams and/or convoluted and over-complicated framing layouts that do not serve their intended purpose.

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