Image by andreas N from Pixabay 

I’m always searching for new ways to utilize small diameter poles, which are abundant throughout western US forests and elsewhere. Because of poor forestry management, U.S. forests are now choked with small diameter trees. Thinning these trees has become a Forest Service priority to reduce the risk of forest fires that destroy around 5 – 10 million acres of timber every year and endanger many communities. What a waste! With an inexpensive firewood permit (about $25) anyone can obtain this wood for building. Even though this wood could be used for firewood, it’s more valuable as a building material. This article describes an alternative roof design for those building in areas without building codes.

This double pole roof design is very simple. Roof poles are raised on a frame wall to create sufficient space for a superinsulated roof. From below, the sloped ceiling features exposed wood poles, and tongue and groove wood. The drawing is pretty much self explanatory, but a few points are worth noting.

A center pole design such as this is suitable for round, octagonal, hexagonal and similar shaped structures. Instead of a center pole, you could build a column using CEBs, adobes, stone or other suitable material. I have one house plan (see Native Spirit design) that uses a high mass column like this with a wood stove pipe going up the center. For rectilinear designs, a similar double pole roof could be built with a bearing wall or beam down the center.

Choose poles that are straight as possible. You may want to use a power planer, circular powersaw or chainsaw to straighten out the top surface. Otherwise, the T&G ceiling and roofing will be wavy and more difficult to build.

Wood in the round is about 20% stronger than standard dimension lumber. Just be sure to look carefully at each pole for defects: cracks (especially those perpendicular to the grain), insect damage and any soft areas. Remove the bark and always keep the bow up for maximum strength.

11/15/2010 7:25:33 PM

You need to consider the house shape, span, type of wood, quality of wood, snow load, weight of roofing materials and other details. But it's not as difficult as it sounds. Talk to local carpenters in your area, especially those who know how to work with roundwood, and get their advice.

11/13/2010 6:19:08 PM

What sort of spacing would you use and what dimension poles would you recommend? Do you have any figures for the span a 6 inch pole can handle?

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