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A-Frame House Problems – They Hide at First

English Conversation About Architec...
English Conversation About Architecture
A-frame house

A-Frame House Problems | Here’s an eye-catching A-frame house on Mt. Desert Island, Maine. You might not recognize the problems that come with a home like this because you're mesmerized by how unusual it is. You'll need a few opens in a new windowroof framing basics when building an A-frame house. (C) Copyright 2021 Tim Carter

A-Frame House Problems - They Can be Aplenty

QUESTION #1: I’d like your honest opinion, Tim. A-frame houses have always appealed to me and I think I want to build one. I’ve done scads of research on these unusual homes and I’m convinced it’s the right decision. I want you to be the devil’s advocate and try to expose any flaws in my thinking before I make this large financial commitment. Feel free to share any pros as well as cons. Leslie S., Silver Spring, MD

Have you ever been faced with a decision like Leslie’s? It’s fairly easy to let emotion rule the day when it comes to large purchases. It’s usually a great idea to get lots of input from friends as well as professionals.

In this case, Leslie should be talking to the top real estate agent in the area where she plans to build this A-frame home. She may discover that an A-frame has a very limited appeal which would directly affect the home’s resale value.

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Should I Rent an A-Frame Before Buying One?

The first thought that came to my mind when I read Leslie’s question is, “Have you ever stayed a week in an A-frame home?” A month would be even better, but that could be problematic for a person that doesn’t have lots of vacation time stored up.

The Internet makes it so easy to find any number of A-frame houses you can rent. I’d probably stay in two or three different ones to see how they really work on a day-to-day basis.

What are the Top A-Frame House Problems?

In my opinion, here are the top five problems:

  • massive summer heat gain if the large windows face south (assuming you're in the Northern Hemisphere)
  • lack of large amounts of vertical walls to hang things
  • hard to re-roof - staging required
  • acoustic issues with sound bouncing off hard wall surfaces
  • energy loss through huge window walls

Are A-Frame Houses Functional?

I feel a home needs to be functional before you consider its form. That’s a struggle in architecture where form and function tend to tug at one another. As a builder, I can take just about any floor plan and then make the outside look contemporary, Victorian, Tuscan villa, etc.

Are A-Frame Houses Strong?

A-frame houses are very strong because they're a basic geometric shape used by Mother Nature.

From a construction perspective, A-frame homes are simple triangles. Triangles are perhaps the strongest of all things you can build so long as all the connections between the three sides are engineered. Huge bridges employ triangles. Tension cables or steel beams create triangles in large open steel buildings so they don’t collapse in a windstorm.

How Do You Minimize Exterior Maintenance?

If you choose a durable roofing material like steel or virgin polymer roofing shingle, you can end up with minimal exterior maintenance as two of the four walls are also the roof. That’s a big plus in my book.

Do A-Frame Houses Have Open Floor Plans?

Many A-frame homes sport an open floor plan. I’d be very sure this concept works for you. What about visiting guests? Will the A-frame provide enough privacy so the social fabric doesn’t start to fray in a matter of hours or days?

How Can you Hang Things on Sloped Walls?

As silly as this sounds, you even have to consider artwork and other wall-hung things you might take for granted. Yes, you can hang pictures and art on slanted walls, but be sure you’re okay with how they might look.

Should I Hope I'll Like an A-Frame House?

My last piece of advice is to base the final decision on cold hard facts. Don’t hope an A-frame is going to work out. You hope for things you can’t control. You can test-live in an A-frame to see if you really like the day-to-day encounters with the high-angle sloped walls.

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