Q: I’m attempting to design and build a small, simple, rectangular two-story house with a gable roof, likely with a roof pitch of either 6/12 or 8/12 and an overhang, on a very tight budget. I love old houses -- especially the old farmhouses; they’re beautiful in their simple but classic designs. I’m trying to figure out a way to build my little house but not have it look like most of the ugly subdivision houses that are being built today. I would like to have the option to "dress it up" in future years.
Is there a roof rake/eave design that you might suggest that would be relatively inexpensive and somewhat simple to build but maybe could allow more detail to be added in later years that would help make a boring ugly little house into something more beautiful? And would this be dependent on whether or not you used a rafter or a truss roof construction? The builders seem to all want to go with the raised heel truss (energy truss) construction, and I’m trying to educate myself on how this affects the look of the eaves etc., if at all, as opposed to a more traditional rafter roof construction.
Wendy of Madison, WI
A: You’re correct in concluding that the roof and the resolution of its eave and rake details are critical to your home’s appearance. (The eave, for readers who are not familiar with the term, is the roof’s horizontal edge along the exterior wall. The rake is the sloped edge that travels up the exterior end wall of a gable or shed roof.) An overhanging roof, which I gather is your preference, can help protect the walls of your home from roof runoff, provide some shade from harsh mid-day sun in the summer, and lend your home a sheltering look with a pronounced shadow line at the roof-wall intersection.
I’ve actually written a couple of design articles for other publications about eave and rake design. In this article I wrote for The Journal of Light Construction, I define two general types of eaves and rakes: clipped and extended. Those can, in turn, be open or closed. I mention in the article that “often the design of the eaves drives the rake design.” I focused specifically on rake design in this article for Fine Homebuilding magazine. It’s the resolution of the intersection of the eave and the rake that is the primary challenge with eave and rake design.
An all-too-common builder default is to pair an overhanging eave that includes a flat soffit with a clipped rake, and then to resolve the eave transition to the sloped rake with an awkward triangular piece of rake trim. Instead, in your case, where a simple to construct, classic, yet budget-conscious solution is desired, I would suggest a closed, modestly extended overhanging eave with a sloped soffit that follows the rafter/roof slope, and a closed, slightly shallower extended overhanging rake. This allows for a clean transition from the eave to the rake. The eave and rake overhanging dimensions would be a function of the soffit board widths. The eave soffit might be comprised of three 1x4 boards running perpendicular to the rafters, and the rake soffit boards might be comprised of two 1x4 boards running parallel to the rafters, attached to short look-outs. Depending on your insulation approach, you might want to incorporate eave venting in the eave dimension. (I would not recommend trying to “dress up” the eaves and rakes later, since the roofing and its edging/flashing along roofing trim should happen contemporaneously.) I would assume a 1x6 fascia on the eave and rake with a wrapping 1x3 shadow board. You would also want to include continuous wrapping frieze trim.
Whether your builder is stick-building your roof with conventional rafters or using raised-heel trusses, he or she should be able to incorporate the eave and rake treatment I’ve described above as framing sistered or applied to the roof framing. As with all construction, the desired design feature would need to be identified prior to construction in order to incorporate it into the builder’s planning/budget.
by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast
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