11 Types of Trusses [The MOST Used]

Different types of trusses and which members act in compression and tension

Trusses are commonly used in roof and bridge structures, but there are a lot of different types.

Also, not every type suits the purpose of the structure.

And before we can design a truss like a timber truss roof, we need to pick the best truss type.

So in this post, we’ll show all types of trusses, their static systems, which members act in compression or tension and other features.

Overview of 11 different types of trusses.
Overview of 11 different types of trusses.

Without further ado. Let’s talk TRUSSES. πŸš€πŸš€

What Is a Truss?

Trusses are structural elements that can carry loads with relatively long spans compared to beams. Trusses are characterized by having tensions and compression members. These structures are often used in roof, floor and bridge structures.

Let’s have a look at one example of a truss and its different members. In the picture, you can see the Howe truss, which we will explain later more in detail.

Truss member names - top and bottom chord, post and diagonals
Truss member names.
  • Top chord
  • Bottom chord
  • Diagonals (sometimes called strut or tie depending on compression or tensions)
  • Post

Different Types of Truss Structures

Trusses are primarily used in a building to transfer the roof loads such as wind, snow, dead and live load to the walls or columns which will then transfer the loads further down to the foundation and soul.

From my personal experience as a structural engineer and calculating many different types of trusses, I learned that each truss type has different characterisics and benefits.

In the following I’ll share the knowledge I gained about each truss type.

1. Warren Truss

The Warren truss is a very familiar type for most of us. They are often used for steel railway bridges.

In the picture above you can see a static system of the Warren truss which has hinges at every connection.

However, nowadays, the top and bottom chords are often manufactured as one piece and due to advanced Finite Element programs it’s become easy to design trusses with fixed connections.

You are maybe wondering why the connection type is so important?

It’s because trusses with hinges only are statically determinate, which means that we can calculate the internal forces by hand.

The Warren truss with fixed connections however can’t be calculated with the 3 equilibrium equations because it’s statically indeterminate.

So, be aware that the type of connection has an influence on the design of the truss.

Let’s have a look at some of the key features of the Warren Truss.

Static System
Support types

1 Pin and 1 Roller support

Reactions

Pin support: Horizontal AH and vertical reaction force AV
Roller support: Vertical reaction force BV

Loads

In most cases the Warren truss is used as a bridge where the load (dead and traffic load) is applied on the deck which distributes the load to the bottom chord

Tension members

Bottom chord, diagonals (see picture below)

Compression members

Top chord, diagonals (see picture below)

Compression and tension members of Warren truss

In the case that the Warren truss is used as a railway bridge, the static system could look like in the picture below.

A line load which represents the self-weight of the bridge itself and the traffic load is applied to the bottom chord.

The line load leads to compression in the top and tension in the bottom chord.

The diagonals are in tension πŸ”΄ and compression πŸ”΅, as you can see in the picture below.

Compression and tension members of Warren truss due to a line load.
Compression and tension members of Warren truss due to a line load.
Where are Warren trusses used?
  • Railway bridges

2. Fink Truss

Static system of the fink truss with hinges, a pin support and a roller support
Static system of the fink truss

The Fink Truss is mainly used for roof structures, where the dead, snow and wind loads are distributed from the inclined top chord to the diagonals, bottom chord and then finally the pin and roller support.

It is characterized by its inclined top chords, which are supported roughly at midspan by 2 diagonals.

In the static system above, all connections are modelled as hinges, which makes the structure statically determinate and easy to calculate by hand.

However, the top chord is often one element and then a continuous element is more realistic.

Let’s check out some of the key features of the Fink Truss.

Static System
Support types

1 Pin and 1 Roller support

Reactions

Pin support: Horizontal AH and vertical reaction force AV
Roller support: Vertical reaction force BV

Loads

In most cases the Fink truss is used as a roof where the loads (dead, live, wind and snow load) are applied on the top chord.

Tension members

Bottom chord, inner diagonals (see picture below)

Compression members

Top chord, outer diagonals

Compression and tension members of Fink Truss

In the case that the Fink truss is used as a roof structure, the static system could look like in the picture below.

A line load which represents the self-weight of the roof itself (tiles, insulation, etc.) is applied to the top chord.

The line load leads to compression in the top and tension in the bottom chord.

The diagonals are in tension πŸ”΄ and compression πŸ”΅, as you can see in the picture below.

Compression and tension members of Fink truss due to the roof dead load.
Compression and tension members of Fink truss due to the roof dead load.

❗Be aware that the snow and wind load both get applied differently than the self-weight. Read our extensive guide about roof loads to learn more.

Where are Fink Trusses used?
  • Roof structures

3. Howe Truss

Static System of Howe Truss.
Static System of Howe Truss.

The Howe Truss is mainly used for bridge and roof structures.

When used as a roof structure, the loads are applied on the top chord of the truss.

That’s different if it’s used as a bridge structure, because in most cases the loads are now applied to the bottom chord.

The Howe truss is characterized by its horizontal top and bottom chords, which are connected by an inclined diagonal.

The nodes/hinges are connected by vertical members and diagonal members, which are “outward” facing.

Let’s check out some of the key features of the Howe Truss.

Static System
Loads

Roof structures: Loads (dead, live, wind and snow load) are applied on the top chord.
Bridge structure: Load (dead and traffic load) are applied on the bottom chord.

Tension members

Bottom chord, vertical members (see picture below)

Compression members

Top chord, diagonals

Support types

1 Pin and 1 Roller support

Reactions

Pin support: Horizontal AH and vertical reaction force AV
Roller support: Vertical reaction force BV

Compression and tension members of Howe Truss

In the case that the Howe truss is used as a bridge structure, the static system could look like in the picture below.

A line load which represents the self-weight of the bridge deck is applied to the bottom chord.

The line load leads to compression in the top and tension in the bottom chord.

The diagonals/verticals are in tension πŸ”΄ and compression πŸ”΅, as you can see in the picture below.

Compression and tension members of Howe truss due to the bridge dead load.
Compression and tension members of Howe truss due to the bridge dead load.
Where are Howe Trusses used?
  • Roof structures
  • Bridge structures

4. Pratt Truss

Static system of the pratt truss
Pratt Truss: Static System

The Pratt Truss is very similar to the Howe truss. But instead of having the diagonals outwards facing, they are facing inwards.

As for Howe trusses, pratt trusses are used in bridge and roof constructions.

The Pratt truss is characterized by its horizontal top and bottom chords, which are connected by an inclined diagonal.

The nodes/hinges are connected by vertical members and diagonal members, which are “outward” facing.

Let’s check out some of the key features of the Pratt Truss.

Static System
Loads

Roof structures: Loads (dead, live, wind and snow load) are applied on the top chord.
Bridge structure: Load (dead and traffic load) are applied on the bottom chord.

Tension members

Bottom chord, diagonals, outer posts

Compression members

Top chord, posts except outer posts

Support types

1 Pin and 1 Roller support

Reactions

Pin support: Horizontal AH and vertical reaction force AV
Roller support: Vertical reaction force BV

Compression and tension members of Pratt Truss

In the case that the Pratt truss is used as a bridge structure, the static system could look like in the picture below.

A line load which represents the self-weight of the bridge deck is applied to the bottom chord.

The line load leads to compression in the top and tension in the bottom chord.

The diagonals/verticals are in tension πŸ”΄ and compression πŸ”΅, as you can see in the picture below.

Compression and tension members of Pratt truss due to the bridge dead load.
Compression and tension members of Pratt truss due to the bridge dead load.
Where are Pratt Trusses used?
  • Roof structures
  • Bridge structures

5. King Post Truss

static system of the king post truss
King Post Truss: Static System

King post trusses are primarily used in timber roof structures, where the loads (dead, live, snow and wind) act on the 2 inclined rafters connecting the supports and the ridge.

The vertical central member connecting the bottom chord and the ridge is the king post, and the diagonals are called struts.

A tie beam supports the struts and the king post at midspan, transferring the loads to the supports.

Now, let’s check out some of the key features of the King Post Truss.

Static System
Loads

Roof structures: Loads (dead, live, wind and snow load) are applied on the 2 outer inclined rafters.

Tension members

Bottom tie beam, King Post

Compression members

Rafters, diagonal struts

Support types

1 Pin and 1 Roller support

Reactions

Pin support: Horizontal AH and vertical reaction force AV
Roller support: Vertical reaction force BV

Compression and tension members of King Post Truss

In the case that the King post truss is used as a roof structure, the static system could look like in the picture below.

A line load which represents the snow load is applied to the rafters.

❗Be careful with the load direction: Dead, wind and snow load are applied differently to inclined members. Check out this guide if you want to learn more about it.

The line load leads to compression πŸ”΅ in the rafters and the stuts, while the bottom beam and the king post act in tension πŸ”΄.

Compression and tension members of King Post Truss due to the snow load.
Compression and tension members of King Post Truss due to the snow load.
Where are King Post Trusses used?
  • Roof structures

6. Queen Post Truss

Static system of the queen post truss
Queen Post Truss: Static System

Compared to the king post truss has the Queen Post Truss less diagonals and more vertical members.

Instead of having 1 king posts, this truss has 2 queen posts – the 2 vertical bars.

Loads such as self-weight, wind, snow and live load apply on the inclined rafters, which then distribute the loads through the various members down to the 2 supports.

The straining beam is the top horizontal member, while the lower bar is called tie beam.

πŸ’‘Be aware, that there are other variants of the queen post truss with diagonals from the tie beam to the rafter or with a vertical post from the ridge to the centre of the straining beam.

So, let’s check out some of the key features of the Queen Post Truss.

Static System
Loads

Roof structures: Loads (dead, live, wind and snow load) are applied on the 2 outer inclined rafters.

Tension members

Bottom tie beam, Queen Posts

Compression members

Rafters, straining beam

Support types

1 Pin and 1 Roller support

Reactions

Pin support: Horizontal AH and vertical reaction force AV
Roller support: Vertical reaction force BV

Compression and tension members of Queen Post Truss

In the case that the Queen post truss is used as a roof structure, the static system could look like in the picture below.

A line load which represents the snow load is applied to the rafters.

❗Be careful with the load direction: Dead, wind and snow load are applied differently to inclined members. Check out this guide if you want to learn more about it.

The line load leads to compression πŸ”΅ in the rafters and the straining beam, while the bottom beam and the queen posts act in tension πŸ”΄.

Compression and tension members of Queen Post Truss due to the snow line load.
Compression and tension members of Queen Post Truss due to the snow load.
Where are Queen Post Trusses used?
  • Roof structures

7. Flat Truss

Static system of a flat truss
Flat Truss – Static System

Compared to the previous trusses, are flat trusses used in buildings to support floors.

Loads such as self-weight and live load apply on the top chord, which then distribute the loads through the various members down to the 2 supports.

The flat truss is characterized by having vertical members at both ends.

So, let’s check out some of the key features of the Flat Truss.

Static System
Loads

Floor structures: Loads (dead and live load) are applied on the top chord.

Tension members

Bottom chord, diagonals

Compression members

Top chord, vertical members

Support types

1 Pin and 1 Roller support

Reactions

Pin support: Horizontal AH and vertical reaction force AV
Roller support: Vertical reaction force BV

Compression and tension members of Flat Truss

In the case that the flat truss is used as a floor support structure, the static system could look like in the picture below.

A line load which represents the live load is applied to the top chords (horizontal beams).

The line load leads to compression πŸ”΅ in the top horizontal beam and the vertical members, while the bottom beam and the diagonals act in tension πŸ”΄.

Compression and tension members of Flat Truss due to the live load.
Compression and tension members of Flat Truss due to the live load.
Where are Flat Trusses used?
  • Roof structures
  • Floor/slab support

8. Scissors Truss

Static system of the scissors truss
Scissors Truss: Static System

The Scissors truss definitely has additional aesthetic features to its shape.

It’s mainly used as a roof structures where loads such as self-weight, snow, wind and live load apply on the top chord, which then distribute the loads through the various members down to the 2 supports.

The flat truss is characterized by having both the top and the bottom chord inclined.

So, let’s check out some of the key features of the Scissors Truss.

Static System
Loads

Roof structures: Loads (dead, snow, wind and live load) are applied on the top chord.

Tension members

Bottom chord, top vertical post

Compression members

Top chord, outer vertical members, horizontal beam

Support types

1 Pin and 1 Roller support

Reactions

Pin support: Horizontal AH and vertical reaction force AV
Roller support: Vertical reaction force BV

Compression and tension members of Scissors Truss

In the case that the scissors truss is used as a roof structure, the static system could look like in the picture below.

A line load which represents the snow load is applied to the top chords.

The line load leads to compression πŸ”΅ in the top chords, the horizontal bars and the 2 outer vertical bars, while the bottom chord and top vertical post act in tension πŸ”΄.

Compression and tension members of Scissors Truss due to the snow load.
Compression and tension members of Scissors Truss due to the snow load.
Where are Scissors Trusses used?
  • Roof structures

9. Fan Truss

static system of the fan truss with hinge connections and pin and roller supports
Fan Truss: Static System

The fan truss is mainly used as a roof structures where loads such as self-weight, snow, wind and live load apply on the top chord, which then distribute the loads through the various members down to the 2 supports.

It’s characterized by connecting 5 bars to 1 node in the bottom chord.

So, let’s check out some of the key features of the Fan Truss.

Static System
Loads

Roof structures: Loads (dead, snow, wind and live load) are applied on the inclined top chord.

Tension members

Bottom chord, inner diagonals

Compression members

Top inclined chord, outer diagonal members, vertical posts

Support types

1 Pin and 1 Roller support

Reactions

Pin support: Horizontal AH and vertical reaction force AV
Roller support: Vertical reaction force BV

Compression and tension members of Fan Truss

In the case that the fan truss is used as a roof structure, the static system could look like in the picture below.

A line load which represents the snow load is applied to the top inclined chords.

The line load leads to compression πŸ”΅ in the top chords, the outer diagonals and the vertical posts, while the bottom chord and inner diagonals act in tension πŸ”΄.

Compression and tension members of the fan truss due to the snow load.
Compression and tension members of the fan truss due to the snow load.
Where are Fan Trusses used?
  • Roof structures

10. Double Fink Truss

Static system of the double fink truss with hinges as connection type and roller and pin support
Double Fink Truss: Static System

The double fink truss is mainly used as a roof structures where loads such as self-weight, snow, wind and live load apply on the inclined top chords, which then distribute the loads through the various members down to the 2 supports.

It’s characterized by having only diagonal members, aside from the top and bottom chords.

So, let’s check out some of the key features of the Double Fink Truss.

Static System
Loads

Roof structures: Loads (dead, snow, wind and live load) are applied on the inclined top chord.

Tension members

Bottom chord, diagonals inclined towards the center

Compression members

Top chord, diagonals inclined towards the supports

Support types

1 Pin and 1 Roller support

Reactions

Pin support: Horizontal AH and vertical reaction force AV
Roller support: Vertical reaction force BV

Compression and tension members of Double Fink Truss

In the case that the double fink truss is used as a roof structure, the static system could look like in the picture below.

A line load which represents the snow load is applied to the top inclined chords.

The line load leads to compression πŸ”΅ in the top chords and the diagonals inclined towards the outside, while the bottom chord and diagonals inclined towards the center act in tension πŸ”΄.

Compression and tension members of the double fink truss due to the snow load.
Compression and tension members of the double fink truss due to the snow load.
Where are Double Fink Trusses used?
  • Roof structures

11. Double Howe Truss

static system of the double howe truss
Double Howe Truss: Static System

The double howe truss is mainly used as a roof structures where loads such as self-weight, snow, wind and live load apply on the inclined top chords, which then distribute the loads through the various members down to the 2 supports.

Compared to the howe truss, the double howe truss has double as many diagonal member and posts. That’s where “double” in the name comes from.

It’s characterized by having outwards facing diagonal members and vertical posts.

So, let’s check out some of the key features of the Double Howe Truss.

Static System
Loads

Roof structures: Loads (dead, snow, wind and live load) are applied on the inclined top chord.

Tension members

Bottom chord, inner posts

Compression members

Top chord, diagonals, outer posts

Support types

1 Pin and 1 Roller support

Reactions

Pin support: Horizontal AH and vertical reaction force AV
Roller support: Vertical reaction force BV

Compression and tension members of Double Howe Truss

In the case that the double howe truss is used as a roof structure, the static system could look like in the picture below.

A line load which represents the snow load is applied to the top inclined chords.

The line load leads to compression πŸ”΅ in the inclined top chords, the outer vertical members and the diagonals, while the bottom chord and inner posts act in tension πŸ”΄.

Compression and tension members of the double howe truss due to the snow load.
Compression and tension members of the double howe truss due to the snow load.
Where are Double Howe Trusses used?
  • Roof structures

Advantage And Disadvantages Of Truss Structures

Pros

  • Great weight to span ratio: You can achieve longer spans with trusses with relatively small weight compared to other structural systems like beams which act more in bending. Efficient structures act mainly in compression and tension and try to avoid bending such as trusses.
  • Material use: Less material is used for trusses than for e.g. beams with the same span leading to a more sustainable and cheaper design.
  • Structural efficiency: Loads are transfered effeciently through the truss. Each member can also be optimized for the forces acting on it.

Cons

  • More complicated to assemble compared to beams
  • More connections: This leads to more room for error and maintenance
  • Fire safety: As the connections are made of steel, this leads to a lower fire resistance as hot steel burns wood quicker.

Conclusion

Now, that you got an understanding of what type of trusses we use in structural engineering, you can learn about loads, because every truss is exposed to loads.

  1. Snow load on a flat roof
  2. Wind load on a flat roof
  3. Wind load on walls

Because there are always multiple loads acting on trusses, considering these different loads in the structural design is done by setting up Load Combinations with safety factors.🦺

Once all load cases and combinations are set up, the structural elements can be designed. We have already written a guide on how to design a timber truss. Check it out!

I hope that this article helped you understand the different types of trusses and how to go further from here. In case you still have questions.

Let us know in the comments below ✍️.

Types of Trusses FAQ

What are the members of a truss?

– Top chord
– Bottom chord
– Diagonals (sometimes called strut or tie)
– Posts
However, this can vary depending on the truss type.

What are 3 types of trusses?

3 very common truss types are
– Howe truss
– Fink truss
– Warren truss
Read the full article to learn about the other types.

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