Gingerbread House Trim is a Delight
Gregory Tatsch of Vintage WoodworksGingerbread house trim isn't just meant for Victorian-style homes. You will be surprised how exterior house trim can add appeal to almost any home and front porch.
Although typical Victorian homes have some pretty ornate exterior trim, adding just a bit can enhance the overall look of your home.
We talked with Gregory Tatsch of Vintage Woodworks, an expert on exterior house trim and other porch parts. Gregory shared his immense knowledge and expertise about the various types of trim and how easy they are to use.
Exterior house trim on front porch and gable
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Gregory Tatsch Shares His ExpertiseThe 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.
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 WoodworksWe 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 IdeasWe 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.
Post BracketsAlthough 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 porchWhen 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.
Make cardboard 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.
SpandrelsWe 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 TrimRunning 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 brackets entirely.
Spandrels with running trim beneath
The Third Dimension - Eave DecorationsThe 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 dimensionAlthough 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 visible beam.
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 porchWe are often asked how we can add appeal but minimize the vintage look. It is one that we actually get very frequently at Vintage Woodworks 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 house trim on contemporary homeBrackets 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 brackets.
We welcome you to explore more of our gingerbread home pictures on our site. Thank you!
Listen to our audio program with Gregory Tatsch to learn more about exterior house trim ideas and porches, of course!
Vintage Woodworks is you one-stop shop for all of your porch parts. Established in 1978, Vintage Woodworks has been transforming porches from the ordinary to the exquisite with handcrafted, custom made items for your porch.
Learn more about Vintage Woodworks and the products and services they offer - including gingerbread house trim.
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