A-Frame construction question?

Started by toolguy454, January 19, 2005, 09:38:37 AM

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My wife and I have decided on an A-Frame cottage.
I have a few quick questions.
Because the walls are the roof or vice versa, do you vent it, or treat it as an exterior wall?

John Raabe

I would suggest you vent it as a roof. Especially if you are in a warmer climate. Alternatively. if you are using something like foamed in place insulation (Icynene: http://www.buildinggreen.com/products/icynene.cfm) then you can fill the entire cavity.

I still might do the roofing on skip sheathing to get a bit of ventilation air behind it.
None of us are as smart as all of us.


Does Icynene still use Isocyanates as a blowing agent?

Fine if you aren't sensitive to them.  Probably still OK if it is completely dry or outgassed or whatever before you got near it.

But automotive type paints had a really bad reputation in the 70's and 80's because of them.

I remember a truly stupid conversation with the DuPont tech rep on the subject in the early 90's.  He said "Oh, we don't use isocyanates any more, we use POLYisocyanates."  Which I always assumed meant "we hope they've all clumped together."

I had severe asthma at the time, never been sure whether that stuff played a role.


This makes me think that SIP panels might be the way to go with A-Frame construction.  Talk about going up fast!  Is this feasible or does anyone know of anyone that has done it?


I really like - frames anyone have more info or links on them I am going to build one this year I can not find to much on the web. In Bothell WA a kit was being sold and they had a model built it was a three story this was in the 80s.                              
First time posting here but have been reading for sometime now.    


I seriously considered building an A-frame, and I'm still attracted to the idea although I'm now planning to build a square structure.

So previously I searched high and low for everything on A-frames. Here are the two best books that I found:

  (1) "A-frame" by Chad Randl. Just published. Mostly a picture and nostalgia book (A-frames were big in the 70s), but still informative and it has a set of real A-frame plans in the back of the book and pictures of homes built from these plans.
  (2) "Cabins" by David & Jeanie Stiles. A chapter is devoted to how to build a simple A-frame.

As for A-frame plans, an excellent source can be found by clicking the "Free Ag Plans" link on the home page of this countryplans.com website. It leads to an Ag Extension site with tons of plans of all types, including a few free A-frame plans from past decades.

I've seen another plans site that sells a few A-frame plans, but I don't recall the URL. The best google keyword search is "an a-frame" because otherwise you'll get everything with the words "a frame" not specifically a-frame with a hyphen.

If you search the old forum on this website, you'll find some discussions about A-frames. Elsewhere on this countryplans.com website, there is a story of someone who started building an a-frame but ended up building one of John's countryplans.com plans instead. The problem, IIRC, was that his A-frames collapsed when he was trying to lift them up and tie them together.

The advantages of an A-frame include possible ease of construction and its ski chalet alpine look (more appropriate in a mountainous area), which admittedly may not appeal to everyone, but I like it.

One disadvantage is that you'll have no windows on the sloping sides (unless you do a hybrid A-frame instead, which may reduce the "ease of construction" advantage somewhat). If you like a lot of light, this may be a drawback. OTOH, if you want privacy from close neighbors on both sides, you may not mind.

I believe another disadvantage is that, with a 2-story or 3-story A-frame, very long timbers would be needed. Long timbers are costlier per foot than shorter timbers, although you may be able to splice shorter timbers together. Plus, AFAIK, it could be unwieldy to get those tall A-frames up and tied together.

People also say there is some loss of usable square footage due to the sloping walls. This did not particularly bother me, as I felt that the walls were a design feature and that I could make creative uses of the shorter areas. For example, you could push a dresser against the wall and use the sloping space behind it to store things.

Resale value is another variable. I have no idea whether an A-frame would appeal to many, some, or few...
Lady Novice


Having lived in an A-frame, my opinion is that you're getting a lot of pretty to lose a lot more practicality.

Limited standing headroom floor space around the edges - means you either build shoulder walls well in from the perimeter to put appliances, fixtures and (kitchen) work surfaces.

As mentioned, no side windows unless you use skylights or dormers, both of which are expensive.

The very high peaked ceiling makes for extra heating cost in winter and potential for chilly floor levels (installing a ceiling fan is virtually mandatory!). We had a ceiling fan and it could still take an hour or more of running the woodstove before we could start pulling warm enough air down.

A-frames don't lend themselves to additions, except on the front and back of the "A". This can mean interior rooms become buried - no natural light access (unless you go back to those skylights/dormers). "Turning the corner to make an L-shaped A-frame can be very costly - a lot of material to build the dormer for the extension that adds zero square footage until you build out past the old perimeter.

On the plus side, you get loads of storage behind all those shoulder walls and potential for a spectacular view out the ends of the house!

My plan is to build a conventional house (probably based on "Victoria's Cottage") and then put a bump out "bay window" window seat arrangement on one end or the other - or both! (House entry will be on a long wall.) That way, you can get right out into the view but can also pull a curtain across the inside of the alcove on chilly nights and save on heating costs.


Although I LIKE THE LOOK of an A frame, I would not build one.   I thought about it.  

But after looking at several, I decided they were just too inefficient.  Both in terms of materials and labor.  For the amount of money, you just do not get much retrurn for your investment.

My college rommate`s dad has an A frame cottage on Lake Burton in the North Gerorgia Mountains.  it is VERY nice but even he says he would not do it again.

"Too steep a pitch ...you wind up with tiny loft bedrooms and all the guests wind up camping on the floor or sleeping in the boathouse/diving area"

That is what Ralph  and his son Adam, (my roomate)  both said .....