The Decorative Bargeboard

Since this house style is a Gothic Revival it would have been common to have a decorative bargeboard, also called vergeboards, which hang from the projecting end of a roof and are often ornamented. This house didn’t have that feature or so that appeared to be the case. But if you looked closely, even from the ground as you gazed up to the roof line you could see the uneven edge of the bargeboard where it had been cut off at one time. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to recreate the bargeboard which is such an important decorative element on this style house? But what did it look like? If only I had a photo! Well I got lucky and found a photo of the front of the house with the bargeboard still there! ! It was one of the photos Lulu had donated to the museum that was taken around the turn of the century. There was a later photo taken as well and in that photo the bargeboard was gone. Who knows why it was removed – maybe it was out of style or maybe some of the boards had broken off and it was decided to remove all before more broke off. Whatever the reason I was so fortunate to have this wonderful photo! Now to figure out how to construct and install this bargeboard… The original bargeboard consisted of individual redwood boards about 13″ wide that hung vertically. Each one consisted of an individual “flower” design. The angle of the roof line or gable determined the angle of the how the flower hung. The front gable, side gable and the horizontal front roof line all have different angles so the flower could hang straight down. To determine the size of the flower and how far it hung down I used the siding on the house in the photo as a scale. The photo was fairly clear and I did some research online and this flower shape was typical. (Interesting note – two Gothic Revival houses in the neighborhood have very similar bargeboards – but mine was built first). I could see from the photo there was a small cutout inside the flower. I decided to leave that design element off as one way to distinguish the replacement from the original. To construct the bargeboard in the same manner, with individual boards, would not have been practicable. There was concern they would easily break off since today’s redwood is not the quality it was over a hundred years ago. We decided to use marine grade plywood and run it in the eight foot lengths. This plywood is strong; doesn’t have any internal gaps like regular plywood; and we could get it a full one inch thick which was close to the size of the old redwood boards. Using a piece of the old bargeboard I figured the angle of how the flower should hang and we took a measurement of the length needed from the roof line. From all that I created a template which we traced onto the plywood. We then cut out the design, sanded and primed the new bargeboard. To install the bargeboard we had to remove the old crown molding. I was able to restore some of the crown molding and I also had some made to replace the damaged crown. The crown on the front of the house is original. There were also square blocks from which finials hung at one time at the corners of the house. The original finials on the house were not visible in the photo as they were covered by the trees. Some of the corner blocks had also been cut short so we replaced those as well.I found some finials that would work with the design, an acorn which was in keeping with the plant motif. At first I planned on only installing the new bargeboard on the front of the house but it made such a difference that I decided to replace the cutoff bargeboard on the sides as well. Now the house is beginning to look like it once did over a hundred and fifty years ago! To view the photos click here.

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One thought on “The Decorative Bargeboard

  1. The bargeboard is INCREDIBLE. That’s so amazing how you recreated it from a photo. The house’s character is really coming together with your detailed restoration.

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