Have you ever wondered what makes certain buildings so compelling to view? Victorian homes, for example, have a flashiness and uniqueness that has captivated people for decades. The details that attract the eye the most are the details along the roofing, around the windows and doors, and other exterior trim pieces.
These pieces that form the edifice of stunning residences across the world have names like soffits, fascia, and gutters. You might have heard these terms before, but do you know what they really mean or what pieces they are referring to? Do you know why certain exterior trimming components are necessary? Or which ones are purely for aesthetics?
If you want certain elements included on the exterior of your home, then you need to know what you are talking about, especially if you plan on hiring a professional contractor. This guide is for you to learn the ins and outs of exterior trimming on houses, so you can accurately describe the architectural style you want and communicate with the architect and contractors handling the project.
Exterior Trimming Design and Function
Most exterior trimming does more than add curbside appeal. The primary function of exterior trim protects the internal structure of the building from the elements. Having trimming that looks good is half the charm!
For instance, the roof and gutters on your home are a system. The slope of the roof sends water to the gutters, which transfers the water to the downspout and away from the foundation of your home. However, without other elements, the roof and gutter system would not be as effective.
Gutters & Boxends
One challenge for builders will forever be boxends. These are where the roof and trim come together—where the frieze and rake boards meet the soffits and siding. Moreover, boxends are where gutters start and finish.
Boxends are difficult because of the required miter cuts and could be comprised of several types of materials.
Meanwhile, gutters are an essential piece of the house. Without gutters, you would inevitably suffer from water damage in the basement or other sections of the building. Gutters could have a complicated design. Others are hidden. The style of gutters on your home depends on the climate.
Most gutters are made of metal and custom fit to the building and other trim pieces that will be introduced below.
Fascia boards are an essential piece of the roof. These sections of the roof tie the eaves, or overhangs, to the rafters and truss tails of the building. While this might not sound like a big job, it is crucial in keeping the roof from sagging or separating.
Fascia are also required for supporting the gutters. During rainstorms and snowstorms, a tremendous amount of pressure is being exerted on the shingles and gutters. Without fascia to hold up the gutters, they would detach from the roof. The two main kinds of fascia include:
- Exposed fascia – can be seen beneath the gutters. Exposed fascia is often used for decoration instead of providing support. Oftentimes, exposed fascia is finished-grade wood painted in a contrasting color for curbside appeal.
- Hidden fascia – used to tie truss tails together and are composed of framing lumber. The reason they are hidden is because the gutters drop below the fascia line and are connected to soffits.
Although mainly used for decoration now, frieze boards are the horizontal pieces you see where the siding meets an eave or soffit. Frieze boards jut out slightly to allow for siding to get tucked under. This creates a smooth line that is pleasing to the eye but also prevents water from getting under the siding.
In the past, frieze boards had a structural purpose—they divided the rafters or truss heels from the wall studs and top plates of buildings. The boards were then left partially exposed for a decorative effort. However, once plywood sheathing techniques became more advanced, frieze boards were no longer necessary for strengthening these sections of the roof.
No, this has nothing to do with lawn or garden rakes, though the pronunciation is the same. In terms of exterior trim, a rake is a piece of trim that is angled up along the exposed peaks and gables. Rakes can either be flat along a wall, extending off a frieze board, or they can jut outward as far as two feet away from the wall as part of a gable overhang.
Rakes are miter-joined to the ridge of the roof, and the edges are usually cut at 90-degrees to the horizontal plane of the roof or finished flush. Either way, the rakes add a decorative detail to the edifice of the home. Rakes are usually constructed from knot-free, tight-grain lumber that is painted or stained. On Victorian homes, rakes usually have crown and dentil moldings.
Coming from the French word “soffite,” meaning “to fix underneath,” soffits are an architectural element that sit underneath the eaves of the roof and protect this section from the wind and rain. Soffits also block ingress to pests like squirrels, mice, insects, and bats. Features like vented soffits aid in air flow to the lower edge of the roof and helps with controlling humidity in the attic, countering mold growth.
The style of soffits can alter greatly. Sometimes, you will see them only slightly exposed. Meanwhile, covered porch soffits could have a huge visual impact.
Soffits are available in a wide array of materials, such as PVC, vinyl, wood, and stucco, but synthetics and aluminum are the most popular. Metal soffits offer resistance against wind shearing. Aluminum soffits are also lightweight, and the finishes on the soffits are meant to last a lifetime.
Now that you understand the most basic of exterior trim terms, you will be able to communicate with the professionals to get the look you want. Depending on where you live and the type of materials available to you, you might end up having more than one of these exterior trim types used within the construction or renovation of your roof.
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Want to learn more about whole home remodeling in PA? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Remodeling Your Luxury Home.