Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rafter Tail Templates

The big topic at StuccoHouse this month has been rafter tails.

As a quick refresher, the rafter tails on my house were hacked off when aluminum soffits were added many years ago (hit the labels below for the full story). Last summer I pulled down all of the aluminum trim and have been oh-so-slowly restoring the original wood soffits, rafters, half-timbers and bargeboards.

According to old photos, the house originally had plain rafter tails. I'm generally a bit of a restoration purist. If it wasn't part of this humble, working class bungalow to begin with, then it not going to be added now. No fancy-shmancy upgrades.


I really, really, really want decorative rafter tails. Did I say really?

I have spent the past few weeks driving & walking around my neighborhood. Between you and me, I'm a little surprised I haven't hit a parked car as I've been driving slowly down the blocks gawking at rafter tails.

Approximately 20% of the houses have decorative rafter tails. Many others look like they once did and they were cut off due to decay or aluminum/vinyl trim (what were they thinking?). I'd say probably half of the houses originally had decorative rafter tails.

It was kind of interesting. Bungalows on blocks that also had tudor houses were less likely to have decoration. But, there were whole blocks of bungalows were every house on the block had designed tails.

I've added a drawing of the most popular designs I saw. I'm personally leaning towards the "fin" design. Keeping in mind that on the front of my house, because of the odd front door overhang, I only have a bargeboard (rafter) end on the right side. Going too fancy would seem like it would throw this off balance.

It took me a while to figure out how the "fin" design worked. I finally ran across a house whose paint was peeling and I was able to see that the "fin" is actually a little piece of board that is added to the bottom of a regular rafter tail.

I have 7 "tails" that need to be restored. I plan to leave the smaller "tails" over my buffet bump out plain.

More as it comes......


Josh said...

The fin design you like would be a nice subtle change-- go for it!

My bungalow used to have notched rafter tails exactly like the third example in your photo. Because the tails were rotting, the previous owner cut off the bottom side tip that formed the notch. He did this using a decorative curve cut that actually looks quite stylish. (I don't believe they knew about wood epoxy as a possible fix.) I have thought about restoring the original look of the rafters, but the current look is nice enough that I haven't felt much urgency to do this.

Omar said...

Ooh I like the fin design too! In my humble opinion, if it's been ripped out/replaced/etc, then it's ok to embellish a little on the original design. I think that'll look just awesome..

StuccoHouse said...

Josh - That notched design was probably the most popular in my neighborhood. The solution they came up with on yours sounds nice - I'd also probably just leave it.

Omar - I think that's what I need. Permission from other old house purists that adding a design would not be wildly inappropriate.

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