craftsman-style exposed rafters vulnerable to rot?


T

Tom T

I am having an addtion put on my semi-Craftsman style house near Los
Angeles. I like the look of exposed rafters (at the edge of the roof)
and no gutters but wonder if they are too vulnerable to rot. Are
there techniques to prevent rot?

Our garage has exposed rafters and many of them have rotted. The
existing house has fascia boards over the rafter ends.
 
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J

james w lazenby

Tom T said:
I am having an addtion put on my semi-Craftsman style house near Los
Angeles. I like the look of exposed rafters (at the edge of the roof)
and no gutters but wonder if they are too vulnerable to rot. Are
there techniques to prevent rot?

Our garage has exposed rafters and many of them have rotted. The
existing house has fascia boards over the rafter ends.
As trends come and go, many older, great housing styles are
brutalized, cannibalized, or just plain covered over. The
extended rafter tails, common on craftsman homes, are a
frequent victim.

They are prey to water damage and are constantly exposed to
direct sun. Water off the roof can wick back up the top
surface, under the roof sheathing. Water on the extension
can hang on the bottom. All with constant exposure to the
elements. And, deterioration progress on the top surfaces
isn't often obvious, so maintenance is inadequate.

The best protection against "rot" is paint. I've seen to
tops of extended tails capped with metal. As if that isn't
ugly enough, it doesn't seem to provide much protection and
the rust is as objectionable as the rot. There are other
"obvious" remedies in evidence. All are too late for
adequate maintenance (paint) except replacement.

Two conditions created your problem. One, the lack of
respect or love for a style, resulting in no maintenance or
worse, is not as prevalent in California as elsewhere but is
not absent. The second, economic conditions, have an effect
almost universally. The neighborhood went to pot, lack of
maintenance followed as did the rot.

The reason for the facia on your house is failure to
maintain the rafter tails (and, likely, the remainder of the
house as well, but the tails suffer visibly). The rotted
ends were sawn off vertically and a facia attached. Gutters
may have been added, however, that is usually superfluous
(except over an entryway) with typical craftsman overhangs.
Gutters can cause their own problems. (Another subject.)

An all-too-typical repair of rotted rafter tail extensions
has been to cut off the rafter tail somewhere between the
roof edge and the wall; add a new tail piece abutting the
old and extending to the roof edge or beyond, supported by
the roof sheathing. This "works" providing only a few tails
are thus replaced. It is usually pretty ugly, however.

It is not too difficult to properly replace the tail to
match the original; however, it is a bit of a chore unless
the roof sheathing above the extensions is also removed and
replaced. This method is to "splice" with angular saw cuts,
keying one to the other, from the original tail to the
replacement portion. Old timber beams were often spliced
with a similar technique.

There are usually two reasons for removing the roof
sheathing over such a replacement project. The first is to
provide work clearance for making clean cuts and fitting at
the splice. The second is to take the opportunity to
replace that sheathing (really a flooring or bead board,
typically tongue and groove, placed with the finish down as
exposed) which is probably in terrible condition . . . at
least directly over the rafter tails. An additional
advantage is the opportunity to seal and prime the new
materials . . . "all six sides" . . . prior to installation.
(Well, consider the glue on the abutting end of the
replacement tail as one of those "six sides".)

In the OP's case, the presence of a facia indicates two
"errors" made by previous owner(s). First, the cutting of
the tails, and second, the addition of a facia to cover the
damage. Both, in their own way concealed or partially
abated damage and both concealed a basic, major
characteristic of the house.

The OP has an "opportunity" to remedy that abuse, and he
has, intact on the garage, potential templates for
replicating the original rafter tail extensions. I hope he
will take this as a genuine opportunity and do so. I hope
he will not settle for temporary or contrary solutions. He
has a widely sought-after prize worthy of proper and
continued maintenance, including continued, periodic
cleaning, prepping and painting the rafter tails.

Jim

The tail extensions are not difficult to replace when the ,
as trends come and go
 
T

Tom T

thank you very much for your detailed reply. We saw all of the
situations you describe when we replaced the roof on the garage.
However many houses in our neighborhood have the exposed rafters and
seem to be in good condition.

I assumed the fascia was original but maybe it's not as you say. The
house is not pure craftsman, was built in 1928.

The builder recommends fascias and warns about rot if they are not
used. We may have to go that way to maintain domestic harmony.

t
 
J

james w lazenby

Tom T said:
thank you very much for your detailed reply. We saw all of the
situations you describe when we replaced the roof on the garage.
However many houses in our neighborhood have the exposed rafters and
seem to be in good condition.

I assumed the fascia was original but maybe it's not as you say. The
house is not pure craftsman, was built in 1928.

The builder recommends fascias and warns about rot if they are not
used. We may have to go that way to maintain domestic harmony.

t
Why is following the builder's recommendation necessary to
maintain harmony, especially domestic? I assume you are
talking about a building contractor and not about the
original builder of the 1928 house. A lot of, especially
framing, contractors are not used to doing finish quality
work, which is required in the splicing I described. Reason
enough for them to recommend tacking on a board in lieu of a
proper job. (You don't even need them for that. It is an
easy DIYer.)

Very few craftsman homes are "pure craftsman." The style
was very popular in 1928 and for some time thereafter.
Preserving a particularly obvious feature of the style is as
important on your home as on a Green and Green "pure"
example.

This has gone beyond your original concern for potential
rot. I started that, I'm afraid, but I feel your preserving
and retaining the feature is more than worth the extra
effort, the extra expense (and it will cost you a bit more
than a board facia) and the possibility of being more
vulnerable to potential rot. Hope you do too.

Jim
 
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"Tom T" <tomtul2@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:fcd672c.0308032136.11eaedc2@posting.google.com... Gutters
may have been added, however, that is usually superfluous
(except over an entryway) with typical craftsman overhangs.
Gutters can cause their own problems. (Another subject.)
Jim, I wonder if you can elaborate (many years later!) on the subject of superfluous and potentially problematic gutters. We too live in an old craftsman style house with exposed rafter tails (which extend to but not past the roof line) but are struggling with rain damage to the rafter tail ends and to our home's siding. (We live in Texas, where the sun seems to constantly blister our paint.)

I have resisted gutters since I would like the rafter tails to remain fully exposed, but at this point I am worried that I am doing more harm than good to the house by not installing them. We would likely use small half-round gutters and attach directly to the rafter tails in order to avoid installing a fascia board. But what are the potential problems-- and alternate solutions-- that I should be considering?
 

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