Gregory Tatsch Shares His Expertise
The following information was extracted from our conversation with Gregory:
I like to break what is called gingerbread house trim or exterior house trim into three groups.
The first of those groups would be the balustrade components, that is, the individual upright
balusters (or pickets) assembled into complete sections.
Those sections extend from one post to another, except in front of the porch steps.
The second group is comprised of decorative components and
we define these as the decorative components used between the tops of porch posts.
The third area is porch eave decorations.
These are installed to project out away from the post or beam. One could say they are turned on edge.
You could also include porch posts because even though they are structural they are also quite
Decorative Balusters (Railings)
Balusters are the upright evenly spaced pickets between your handrail and your bottom rail.
There are a lot of choices; however, it is important to protect the ends of the porch balusters from premature
damage, which can be caused by improper water drainage or
by a lack of paint on the ends of the balusters.
A lot of people put up their complete
balustrade before they do any priming or painting which is not the proper way to
approach it. In fact even after three decades of sharing the correct way to install
balusters, we still get calls from disgruntled customers because their balusters have decayed.
Decorative porch railings by Vintage Woodworks.com
We find they installed their balusters on a flat
bottom rail or worse yet, maybe they are installed in a bottom rail that has a small channel
to receive the balusters. This is a common type of rail for interior bottom railing (like an interior staircase) but
outside it's just pretty much guaranteeing that you are going to have problems.
Using a sloped top and bottom rail is the solution. This is a two-part item and we notch
our balusters when requested to perfectly fit over the top of the slope top of the rail. And that in and of
itself goes a long way to ensuring proper water drainage.
Wood end grain is more susceptible to moisture and filtration and so it is still very
important to paint both ends of the balusters before installation.
We developed a balustrade assembly and installation system that we think maximizes the
efficiency of assembly. It permanently hides most of the hardware from dew and possible
corrosion. And it protects your handrail from damage during construction. It allows the
assembly process to easily be reversed because it's put together with screws rather than nails.
If later you discover that your strapping teenage son has broken a baluster out playing
touch football on your porch you can take the whole thing apart very easily and replace
just one or two balusters as needed.
Post-Top Gingerbread House Trim Ideas
We define post top items as those things which are between pairs of
posts and running basically inline with the porch. The most common of these are post brackets.
Although the size of brackets is a matter personal taste, it's important to keep in
my mind that a bracket that might seem very adequately sized when you
are holding in your hand.
Ornate brackets on Victorian-style front porch
When you view post top trim from the street it might just almost
disappear if it is too small. We have a simple and inexpensive way to let
our potential porch customers test what different bracket sizes they might want,
before they actually order.
triangles of the same width and length that is the bracket that you're considering.
Tape them temporarily in place on either side of your posts and then view
them from the street. And I think you very quickly get a feel for the size
that works best on your porch.
Post brackets are almost always a good porch idea but there are several other
post top components that can help really turn a plain porch into an eye catcher. And perhaps
the showiest of these is spandrels.
We define spandrels as spindles or balls and dowels with top and bottom rails.
Fancier spandrels may feature cut work at both ends or sometimes even in the middle of each spandrel.
These are typically installed directly below the beam and they extend from one post top
to another. Brackets can also be installed beneath plain spandrels. Because spandrels span the
distance between the posts they unify the various decorations at
the top of the posts.
Also note the gable decoration in the photo above. Gingerbread trim can be used on other areas of your home as well.
Running trim is characterized by its repeating pattern but unlike spandrels, the pattern is comprised
entirely of cutwork. And typically there are also no bottom rails. They can be used below spandrels,
or you can install running trim from bracket to bracket. They can also be used without
Spandrels with running trim beneath
The Third Dimension - Eave Decorations
The third group of decorative porch parts may be the most overlooked of the different decorative gingerbread
house trim components. It provides the authenticity and completeness
that is just hard for the porch owner to achieve in any other way. Of all the decorations
that are used on a porch I think eave decoration may create the most dramatic effect.
Brackets creating the 3rd dimension
Although we live in three-dimensions we tend to plan our porches in
only two-dimensions. We sometimes have customers call and
explain they love their new vintage exterior house trim but somehow it just doesn't
have the same feel as the older porches they admire.
We frequently discover these customers have completely
forgotten the third dimension.
To achieve the third dimension, you need to install decorative porch trim, primarily post face brackets and cornice
brackets. A post face
bracket, just as the name implies, is mounted on the front face of the post. It sticks out away
from the porch to create
the beginnings of this third-dimension and better if they can extend across the face of the
Post face brackets should be centered
on each post (as pictured above) and are typically long relative to their depth. Normally, they're not
framed and are an inch and a half thick. So they are beefy bracket. We really believe
that if a customer tries those they will quickly see it is literally adding
another dimension to their porch.
The other main part of the third dimension are cornice
brackets and these also are installed at right angles.
They're typically installed on the face on the visible beam and are perhaps between 12
and 24 inches apart.
You want them pretty close together because the effect when you view them particularly at an angle,
is a very pleasing repeating pattern. It's a little hard to convey how pleasant they are just the spoken
word. A row of repeating
cornice brackets really starts pulling out that third-dimension.
Contemporary Gingerbread House Trim Options
Brackets on contemporary front porch
We are often asked how we can add appeal but minimize the vintage look.
It is one that we actually get very frequently at Vintage
Wood Works and there's two different ways that I can address that. First would
be to steer clear of the more frilly, lacy decorations that most people would
identify with a Victorian look.
Because even though it's near and dear to my heart, I realize that a
lot of homes just don't support that look.
Gingerbread trim on contemporary home
Brackets would be a solid
or at least a very plain design. You might still want to do some third dimension
but probably use only face brackets rather than repeating cornice