Cedar Gable Brackets on Historic and Contemporary Homes
Home styles rarely go out of style as time passes, and if they do, it takes them ages. Even with modern, minimalist designs being favored by many, homeowners still show old-fashioned ones some love. From the American craftsman of the late 19th century to the Cape Cod design that took off in the 1930s, historic homes are here to stay with their contemporary counterparts.
Keeping their timelessness in a rapidly changing world requires incorporating design elements that define them. For example, a craftsman design can’t be called one without the iconic cedar gable bracket (also called a gable pediment). Despite not adding any structural benefit to a house, this slab of beautifully crafted wood can enhance it in another way.
A Touch to the Gable-Front
It’s hard to talk about the trend of adding gable brackets without discussing the rise of gable-front homes. As the term implies, these homes have the gable—the part of the wall where it intersects with the roof slopes—facing the main entrance side.
Gable-front designs were introduced as early as the 1820s amid the Greek Revival movement, where ancient Greek temples inspired house designs. About 20 years later, the Gothic Revival trend kicked in as people sought to remind themselves of the simpler times amid the fast-paced industrialization. Architects believe this is when gable brackets began being used.
Gothic-inspired houses are about not skimping on the ornamentation, especially concerning the gable. With roofs having steeper pitches for a more castle-like aesthetic, the design leaves a big space that could use some decor. Gable brackets are ideal for this purpose, a low-cost method of contrasting the dominant hues.
Roof Pitch Is Everything
A gable bracket that doesn’t fit the roof slope’s underside is no good. Fortunately, measuring is as easy as getting the roof’s pitch or the ratio of its horizontal run and vertical rise. As the run is typically a constant figure of 12 inches, that leaves finding out the rise.
To find the pitch of a roof, you need a level bar and a measuring tool, which can be either a tape measure (if roof access is possible) or a builder’s square (if limited to the roofline). Alternatives include taking measurements inside the attic or using mobile apps. These methods also apply to dormers, which are gable roofs for windows.
As the brackets only benefit homes with gable roofs, the minimum pitch for installing one should be 3/12, meaning the roof rises by three inches for each 12-inch run. Some manufacturers require the pitch to be at least 4/12, which is fairly common among American classical abodes. Pitches of 6/12 and 8/12 are also customary for some old designs.
Size It Up
You might think that a gable bracket should fill every inch of gable space for the best effect. But experts’ take on this is as varied as bracket designs in the market today. Some may argue in favor of that, while others believe it should occupy no more than 50% of the gable.
One viable approach to this conundrum is to observe the gables from a distance, preferably from a sidewalk or street. The farther they are from passing cars and passersby, the larger they need to be for increased visibility. The more complex the roof design, the more varied the bracket sizes.
Alternatively, you can use the following as a rough basis. The measurements refer to the length of the bracket’s base.
- Large (60 inches and above) – for large or two-story residences
- Medium (49 to 59 inches) – for one-story or narrow two-story homes
- Small (48 inches and below) – for dormers and porch and cottage gables
Of course, choosing a cedar gable brackets still boils down to personal preference. You won’t find any shortage of inspirational ideas on the Internet, not to mention insights from professionals.
Can’t Go Wrong with Wood
Being an exterior product, a gable bracket has to maintain its elegance amid exposure to harsh elements. Modern, inorganic materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are suitable for such uses, given that they don’t rot when exposed to moisture and are generally easy to clean.
However, PVC isn’t a good choice for homeowners who want to preserve their classic houses’ timeless appearance. You can argue that PVC was discovered in the late 1800s, but the material didn’t become commonplace until the 1950s, thanks to advancements in plastic extrusion.
As such, some brackets continue to be fashioned out of wood—though not just any type of wood. Aware of the risks of outdoor exposure, manufacturers choose lumber that’s inherently resistant to decay and pest infestation. Some noteworthy examples include Western red cedar, teak, black walnut, and redwood. For added protection, they often undergo pressure treatment.
That doesn’t imply that cedar gable brackets aren’t without their fair share of downsides. For starters, they’re more expensive than their PVC counterparts, and design variety is limited. Nevertheless, if timelessness is your aim, wooden brackets get the job done.
Old-fashioned houses remain standing today to remind society what life used to be centuries ago. For people who’ve called them home for the longest time, rebuilding them to suit modern tastes is out of the question. That’s why it’s good to know that they’re still shown enough love in many ways, such as a market for classic wooden gable brackets.