June 22, 2022
When it comes to joinery, birdsmouth cuts are generally one-of-a-kind. Hollow spars come naturally to this joinery method! It can hold anything from eight, twelve, to even sixteen pieces.
If you’re familiar with birdsmouth cuts, you know that they’re great for roofing and rafters. However, they should be used sparingly for the latter. Large timber or roof loads don’t mesh well with birdsmouth cuts! However, it can be a good idea for rafters and roofing in areas where weather can be volatile. It can prevent regular compression.
But even with all this information, many people seek out alternatives to birdsmouth cuts. The size of your project and the time you’ve got to dedicate to the entire thing aren’t always compatible – and birdsmouth cuts may not be up for them.
For example, you may need a more modern home with lighter rafters and roofing. As a result, doing birdsmouth cuts results in too much wood wasted!
Top 4 Recommended Alternatives to Birdsmouth Cuts
1) The Simpson VPA
The Simpson VPA is best as an alternative when making rafters! The finish is usually galvanized – it’s made of stamped metal. When using the Simpson VPA as an alternative, you should install it on top of a wall plate. Do this while setting the rafter. That way, it can run to the wall’s outside corner.
When using the Simpson VPA as an alternative, you can have it as something that can help you while engineering some joists.
A Simpson VPA can accommodate you more with its flexibility as well. Engineering won’t be too hard, and it eliminates the entire need for a birdsmouth cut to happen for roofing. If you need TJI’s or BCI’s for your rafters, consider using the Simpson VPA instead!
2) Stud Cutting
Studs are great alternatives, too! However, you have to exercise some precautions. You have to cut them all at the same angle if you want the studs to work – and the joists to sit properly.
While cutting, uniform angles are a must. You also need to make sure the weight will be supported no matter what! Alternate stud use with VPAs and HCPs to keep proper proportions in place. It’s easier, quicker, and does the job well!
3) Hurricane Ties
You may come across this connector as a Simpson Strong-Tie in hardware stores! That’s the common manufacturer name of hurricane ties – otherwise called hurricane clips. Whatever you may call them, they’re one of the best alternatives for birdsmouth cuts on rafters!
Use hurricane ties to connect all the joists you need. It can also be used to overcome wind forces that may damage your home – like uplift forces! To secure everything better, you can also use compatible pressure-treated lumber and cantilevered beams. High-strength winds have no match for them then!
If you use hurricane ties, you’ll see them running from the top to the bottom of a building. It looks somewhat like a continuous path, and it helps out with all damage greatly! It basically ties the entire roof down.
4) Rafter Ties and Tie-beams
Weight and gravity are not your roof’s best bet with anything. Rafter ties and tie beams can help with that!
Use a rafter tie to join opposing rafters together. This way, you can resist all outwards forces between roofs, walls, and ceilings from any building. The walls will thank you. If you live somewhere with up-thrust forces from winds and a lot of snowfall, then use rafter ties and tie beams!
Usually, you place these ties at the bottom of the building. However, you can also use these ties to secure joists! That way, they won’t push out and down, and your roof won’t cave in the long run. However, using these alternatives with these causes in mind has to have one thing: size. Keep the size of your roof in mind to make sure it’s all compatible!
We’ll give you a heads-up, now, though. These alternatives are best for sheds and small homes, preferably ones you can add metal framing into for extra security. The joists can balance on the plate – just make sure you do some calculations beforehand. Installing these alternatives should also come with some security!
5) Ridge Rafter Connector
The ridge rafter connector is a handy connector that you could use to attach rafters at the roof’s peak to the ridge beam. You can also use it to connect rafters with your top plates. A ridge rafter connector is usually fashioned out of a sheet metal strip that grasps or encapsulates the rafter’s sides and is usually connected to the top and side of the ridge beam.
You attach these connectors to the top plate’s lip using galvanized nails via predrilled holes. Then, you insert the rafter onto the bracket connected to the plate. You can secure it using nails through predrilled holes.
The toenailing method is quite similar with the stud cutting method that we have discussed above. The toenailing applied by nailing the nails instead of stud at the 30 degree to 45 degree range to tie the rafter to the top plate.
The art of toenailing is relatively easy to understand and learn. It is one of the most common ways to secure the rafter to the top plate. It is done by driving nails through your rafter onto the wall cap at a certain angle on the opposite sides of your rafter to attach your rafter to your top plate.
Due to the wall studs, you must use this method because it is impossible to drive straight the nails through the plate onto the rafter. The number of nails you use usually depends on the top plate’s size. If your top plate is 2×4, you can use three toenails on alternate sides.
Using a 2×6 top plate, you can use five toenails with each alternating nail side. You can also utilize an 8d nail and drive every nail at a 30-degree angle. Ensure that 1/3 of each nail pierces into the rafter with 2/3 of the nail onto the wall cap. These nails usually get referred to as slant-driven.
By driving nails this way, you can prevent the nails from quickly being pulled out. Besides, the roof’s weight will not likely shear off the nails.
7) Special 6-inch Screws—TimberLOK
You usually resort to toenailing if it is impossible to nail into the rafter through the top plate. But another option is provided by TimberLOK by producing screws that you can drive through the top plate onto the rafter.
TimberLOK produces six-inch-long screws that can secure the rafter onto the top plate. You only drive these screws at a certain angle, starting from the joint between the top plate and the wall stud. These screws should go through the top plate onto the rafter.
You might be asking if these screws are sufficiently strong. The answer, of course, is “Yes.” Besides, the screws of TimberLOK comply with the IRC 2012 code standards for rafter connections to the top plate.
Should You Get An Alternative to a Birdsmouth Cut?
Well, there’s one thing that gives it away. You’re right here! You must have your reasons.
However, we can try to guess some of them.
For example, with birdsmouth cuts, you can’t help the amount of force that goes through the rafter’s length. Unfortunately, the birdsmouth cut makes it so that the force is transferred onto the top plate right away! This situation renders two cuts for a birdsmouth technique a bit useless. You won’t save on any labor and if you don’t do it right, you might be wasting your time.
If you have deadlines, other projects, or just general life taking its course, a birdsmouth cut isn’t the best option for your wood projects! It’s quite time-consuming, and it’s not just the cut, either. There’s a lot of preparation involved! Factor this in before you start any work.
Aside from the labor power and time consumption, size is always a concern. Small projects don’t need to bear a lot of weight, and birdsmouth cuts aren’t necessary for them. You don’t need to accommodate steep heights and pitches!
To be honest, we recommend birdsmouth cuts to large projects and professional woodworkers. Otherwise, we don’t think it’s the best tool to bring out for rafters and roofing! Alternatives are here to support the roof otherwise – and also make your work much faster. Here is the article focus on outline the useful birdsmouth joint alternatives you can use instead.
Tips and Tricks to Having Successful Alternative Birdsmouth Cuts
Alternatives are here to make your work easier, but they don’t always work out the way we want them to! To make sure the entire process is stress-free, we have some tips:
Have a Mix of Alternatives
If you don’t know whether you should stick to one thing, don’t fret. One way out is to have a mix of alternatives to try. If you have enough time, you can try them out for yourself individually and see which one works best.
But to be honest, you can’t go wrong with a mix of one or two alternatives. At the very least, you’re securing a lot more than you think! There are some limitations when it comes to some of these alternatives, so you want to fill in the gaps with other options as well. You don’t want to trust one sole method! It may end up failing, and you’ll be wasting a lot of material and time.
For example, stud cutting or VPA alone can cause your joists to slip. If you use the two methods together, you minimize the chance of this happening. You can even add a birdsmouth cut if necessary! Angled cuts are great as well.
Whatever the reason, it’s great to mix it up and help out with the balance and connection of the entire project.
Yes, alternatives are great, but make sure to be safe first and foremost! You want to find something that does what a birdsmouth cut does – only quicker, faster, and hopefully, more efficient. Efficiency should never compromise safety!
Our one tip is to find a weight-bearing alternative. You want something that’ll hold up your structure! Otherwise, you’re left with a roof that has to deal with a lot of forces. It can end up collapsing, which compromises your safety – and whoever’s in the vicinity. You don’t want injuries nor death to happen just because of roofing!
Depending on some requirements, you may actually feel limited with your project. It can set some restrictions for you to follow. At times, you have to purchase a building permit and there will be some authorities looking over at what you’re doing. Make sure everything is safe, legal, and good to go!
After all, you don’t want to take the project down. When it comes down to it, hire an expert or specialist to help you navigate the entire issue.
Look Into Regulations About Alternatives to Birdsmouth Cuts
Constructing anything comes with some rules and regulations. Research your location! Different rules and regulations apply to different cities and counties. That way, you can see if you need to seek approval first.
Don’t go into birdsmouth cut alternatives without checking out regulations first! You might end up wasting a lot of time and labor power if it turns out that you’re not approved for a certain cut. Check with authorities – always!
Let’s Wrap It Up
Alternatives to birdsmouth cuts are there for a reason. For some people, birdsmouth cuts are hard to achieve. For some, there’s just that anxiety that the measurements and cutting won’t line up, so you might be wasting wood.
Whatever the reason, you can always get an alternative to a birdsmouth cut instead! Choose from our alternatives above. Many of them may be easier to do on your end. However, you still have to keep measurements and accuracy on hand.
Your alternatives should be doable, precise, and weight-bearing. To be more on the safe side, you can go ahead and try out alternatives together instead of settling for just one! In the long run, it may benefit you more in terms of security and longevity.
We hope you enjoyed this article! Birdsmouth cuts aren’t always the best option for work, so we hope you find the right match for you. If you need a refresher, save this link anytime you need to do roofing!
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.