The use of fancy cut decorative shingles exploded with Queen Anne Victorian architecture.
Although used in many locations, one of the most popular areas of use for these shingles was in the gable.
The house to the right looks really great with these fancy cut decorative shingles in a colorful pattern but as nice as it looks, this is not the right way to do it.
The problem is that today these decorative shingles are being overly used on all types of houses including ranch houses and installed in many incorrect ways.
Here you will learn how to do it right to give your home the best curb appeal, for the wrong way can result in an awful look.
Decorative Shingle Styles
On the right you see the many fancy cut decorative shingle styles to choose from.
At times you will see only one style on a house but many times different shingles styles will alternate in rows.
Patterns will also be designed out of different decorative shingles.
In this article we will focus on the use and placement of decorative shingles in the gable of a house. This is where they are most common and this is where there are the most problems.
How to do it Right
Important points to understand when using decorative shingles in the image above:
- Shingles are at the same surface level as the clapboard below although today builders will add shingles on top of the clapboard. This is wrong as it results in the shingles looking raised from the facade.
- There is a horizontal piece of trim separating the decorative shingles from the clapboard. This trim distinguishes the two different surfaces and allows use of a different paint color since the shingle is a different texture than the body.
- This horizontal trim is located in an architecturally logical and structural location. It connects to the eaves where the attic floor begins which is at the base of the gable. It is not below the gable or above it but is at a point where there is a natural beginning and end.
- Decorative shingles must all be painted the same color unless there are different shaped shingles. In other words two rows of square shingles and two rows of fish-scale shingles alternating can be different colors. In the colorful example at the beginning it is wrong to paint a design in one type of shingle.
In the image above the fish-scale shingles alternate with other styles in rows and are painted as such. While the alternating paint colors are not really correct, the shingles as a whole differ from the clapboard and are separated by a horizontal trim.
This is a historic house and the decorative shingling is done correctly. To understand what is done one must study and understand what is happening with the architecture.
Notice that the horizontal trim is not in the logical location where the eaves of the gable meet the sides of the house. There is not a perfect triangle as in the preceeding image. The horizontal trim is much lower terminating at the top of the windows which is the next logical architectural point.
This section of decorative shingles does not just end abruptly but wraps around the sides to complete a separate enclosed section. This is important for without this the shingled area would appear random and illogical.
The problem is that homeowners like decorative shingles and add them to their home in the worst ways.
In this example the decorative shingles are raised away from the house but good fine carpentry on the horizontal trim transitions the different sidings effectively.
Also notice that the decorative shingles end at a point lower than where the rake of the gable meets the corner of the house.
This is because there is a frieze board that wraps around the house which makes everything appear even.
The arrow points to the frieze board that connects to the decorative shingled gable resulting in a balanced look.
Design Mistakes Using Decorative Shingles
Ignore the other problems with this house but as you can see this house is vinyl sided. When vinyl decorative shingles are installed they are installed in such a way that they appear to be on top of the siding. Here the decorative shingles come away from the house and makes it look like it was added on as an after-thought. There is no horizontal trim transitioning the decorative shingles to the clapboard. Therefore to improve this house the decorative shingles and siding should be the same color.
It is obvious that this historic house did not, nor was never meant to have decorative shingles. First notice that they are installed away from the house on top of the siding. Second there is no horizontal trim. That trim however does not matter because the decorative shingles end right in the middle and there is no architecture there to have a logical end point. If the decorative shingles did extend down lower to the ends of the gable they would be interrupted by the doors, therefore this house did not and should not have decorative shingles. This is a clownish look.
Why do homeowners want to turn their Ranch houses into Victorians? This is surely a clown house.
Never ever put decorative shingles under the eaves of the house. Notice how it collides with the windows and ugly shutters. At least they are not a contrasting color.
This is a Sears catalog home built circa 1932 but looks like a Victorian wanna-be. This gabled roof is designed to gracefully come down and sweep to the side to cover a sun-room. What you see now is a horizontal trim separating two different types of siding which makes your eyes stop there. This prevents the viewer from experiencing the facade as one unit as it was designed. I said earlier this horizontal trim is good but it has to be in the right place architecturally. There are a lot of things that need to be considered.
Why couldn’t they move the horizontal trim down just a bit lower? That would almost do the trick. See with vinyl elements you are not able to accomplish what you can with wood. Notice how thick the horizontal trim is. You are taking vinyl elements and repurposing them in hope to make them look like something good. Notice how choppy it looks.
I thought I would confuse you and throw in a good one. Notice how the gable siding transitions to the body siding so smoothly while the horizontal trim connects with the house so nicely.
You may be thinking that boy, this house would look better if the decorative shingles were in a different color. Well if you look on the left side, 2nd floor, you will see there are also decorative shingles there. That is the reason for only one body color. You can change colors when you change siding providing there is a separation or horizontal trim. On this house the siding changes many times in many places so you need to have one color.
I would say this house originally had a horizontal trim in the correct place but it is covered up with vinyl siding. They left the decorative shingles uncovered but hid that all-important trim. Therefore, as it is now, the decorative shingles should not be picked out in a different color let alone with ugly colors like these.
If you really need to put decorative shingles on your house keep them one color unless they are different shapes of shingles.
This house is a Foursquare from around 1918. This is not a Victorian house however the homeowner tried to make it one. Do NOT add a valance under the eaves with decorative shingles. It’s just stupid!
What’s wrong with this house? The decorative shingles in the gable are actually done correctly for they are contained in the gable. What is wrong is that if the gables were totally removed this house would look much better. Both of the gables are randomly stuck on to the roof without any regard for the architecture. Notice that they do not line up with the facade of the house.
By now you should know what is wrong with this house. Notice that the horizontal trim does not connect properly to the gable on the right side. This house is owned by an architect who totally remuddled it. You can read the full story here.
As you can see this is one area where homeowners and contractors really fail in their attempt at curb appeal. All of the problem houses are vinyl sided which shows the application method makes a big difference. If you have a newer home and plan to do this hopefully these mistakes will help you avoid them yourselves. We at Old House Guy offer a virtual house painting service so you can make sure your house and your decorative shingles are painted correctly.