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Photos at the end of the post.

On an old house (new to me and my partner) there are ~2' eaves extending all around the house, supported by knee braces made of 6"x6" beams and a few 2"x4"s. Inspecting the house, it was noted that on one edge of the house a knee brace had fallen off (appears to be a while ago and painted over, and the fallen knee brace is stored in the house). An inspector saw that the roof was in good condition, but because of the missing knee brace, one part of the eave along the flat edge of the roof was a little higher (as if the roof was swollen), explained as a result of the adjacent eave sinking slightly where the knee brace was missing. They explained reinstalling a knee brace where one was, and potentially adding more braces, should stabilize the eave in that area.

For a variety of reasons behind us now this hasn't been fixed yet, and snow season is upon us in northeast USA. Is there a DIY solution or at least patch for this, to avoid further eave sinking and potential roof damage this season? Or going with a pro, what price range should we expect? Getting a few estimates is always a good call but we're not sure how many carpenters we'll get out here to check it out, to get a proper fix before heavy snow falls. It seems difficult to reinstall the old knee brace, because a) the spot to install it is 2 stories high; b) the knee brace is heavy enough where it requires two hands just to place it carefully; and c) it isn't (yet) known exactly where and how far behind the siding there's a beam to bolt the knee brace on to, though other knee braces around the house give clues.


Photos:

West facing wall, highlighting eave with braces and where one fell off on the norhtwestern wall edge. west facing wall

Fallen brace. Paint isn't in good shape but the wood there is solid. The piece of wood separate from the knee brace was stored in the same place, painted same color, and has a tare (inch of wood mising) along the grain in the back. fallen brace

North side of roof, looking toward the northwest corner with missing eave. Note the swollen appearance under the satellite dish. North side of roof, looking toward the northwest corner with missing eave.

Another view of north-northwest side of roof. another view of north-northwest side of roof

Zoom in of north-northwest roof. zoom in of north-northwest roof

North side of roof looking northeast, to show more of roof line which should be (and is mostly) flat. Where there is a slight swelling to the east, there had been water damage in the past, but it was inspected and is dry on the inside and reinforced with sistered joists in that area). Rest of the house seems nice and dry too. north side of roof looking northeast, to show more of roof line which should be (and is mostly) flat

Northwest edge from the ground. northwest edge from ground

West facing wall, highlighting existing and missing braces. west facing wall

Hard to notice any of the differences in the eave's height from the ground. As you can see from above there is some up-and-down a few inches around that area of the roof where the brace is missing.

  • Have any photos? You mean the whole part of the roof that extends away from the house is curved down in one part? Generally roof lines should be straight, so that doesn't sound good. – Xen2050 Nov 17 '17 at 0:18
  • Added a bunch of photos, should make the situation clearer – cr0 Nov 17 '17 at 16:16
  • The sunken area in the photo looks to be on the end of the truss ends. Most knee braces are decorations and as your photo shows there are no braces across the rest of the end where they would be needed there is something far worse happening from what I can see in the photos. – Ed Beal Nov 18 '17 at 1:54
  • That's a kind of weird roof, some of it seems to be missing the piece of wood that goes along the ends of the rafters (or whatever their special "roof name" is) where the eaves troughs are usually against. Maybe the only thing holding up the eaves is the thin sheathing. I wouldn't want to walk up there – Xen2050 Nov 18 '17 at 3:05
  • @EdBeal what's your guess on something worse happening, as in where would you recommend taking a closer look? If the sunken/raised area on the northern roof near northwest corner is not from the northwest corner being unsupported, I'd think there's an issue with the rafters or truss having water issues. I can try to take a closer look up there with a moisture sensor. Our initial looks and moisture readings showed no leaks – cr0 Nov 19 '17 at 0:47
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I'm choosing to use the answer location because here I have more space to write. I'm going to go out on a limb here, (by the way, great pictures. Makes a world of difference to actually see what we are talking about.) and suggest that the original roof design is inherently flawed. The overhang is just to long for the structural strength of the base roofing material. I still maintain that the knee braces are architectural design elements for appearance only. If they were the real thing, there would be a lot more of them. You can see where others, in the past, have jury rigged in make-shift supports, the single stick items.
My recommendations for the fix: #1 Simply cut the roof back to about 8". Reinstall the fascia, the asphalt roofing drip edge and any other design elements you would like. I believe the roof shows the strength to support this much. #2 Take this as an opportunity to design, build and install real support knee braces to match the original look of the house. They will have to be designed and built for strength and will have to be bolted through the exterior wall. Any good builder should be able to do this for you. He would be able to jack the roof back up to true horizontal. You could keep the original roof design. It would be structural strong. It would look great and last for 100-years. P.

  • Thanks for the tips Paul. We were able to have a contractor put the knee brace back with a 4" bolt going through the exterior wall (the layers of sheeting behind the cedar siding), and put up two more single stick supports in that area. That's a solution for the season. I'll keep your suggestion in mind as we sturdy this up over the next few years and redo the roof within ~5. Sounds like a project fit for when shingles are already being replaced. – cr0 Nov 19 '17 at 0:49
  • Good insight. Roof has held for many years now, a few more are not going to be a problem. Because this will be a major repair, combining it with other routine tasks is a good way to maximize the repair dollar. – Paul Logan Nov 19 '17 at 21:11
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If the knee brace has simply fallen from its original position then it was clearly never meant to support anything. These things are often uses as appearance items much the same way window shutters are used. It is understood that the shutters will never protect the windows, but still they go up for appearance. If you have a problem with the roof heaving and sagging, I suspect that the cause is something else. P.

  • Thanks for the info. It does seem like the knee brace was mostly decorative, but I'm not sure all of them are. Some seem wedged against the wall nicely (2"x4"s too, not just decorative knee braces). I added a bunch of photos to clarify. There isn't major sagging, but the roof line is not totally straight around the area the brace is missing. – cr0 Nov 17 '17 at 16:19
  • Taking a closer look, it seems like this knee brace must've been structural (the overhang extends pretty far, sides of the roof all either have trusses extending under the eave or substantial knee braces). Looking at the knee brace, my guess is it fell because the nails used were only 2" and thin. Contractors looked at it and suggested putting it back up with 4" screws this time (other braces are bolted on so that sounds smart), at least for the season. – cr0 Nov 17 '17 at 20:04

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