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Exterior Trim for Period Homes, continued

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A typical entry system consists of three separate components. First, the pilasters are positioned and nailed to the framing (top). The preassembled pediment is then positioned and nailed in place above (bottom). Corner boards and their bases are shipped unattached.

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Once the corner boards are fastened in place, the stock is trimmed with a circular saw (top) before the base is nailed on below (middle left). Where proper proportioning calls for a two-part frieze, the seam is covered with a special molding milled in the shop (middle right). A cedar — not plastic — starburst is a good-looking and authentic detail on the gable end (bottom).

Exterior Trim Package

For the most part, it's the exterior trim that separates our homes from lesser colonial reproductions. We make sure the framing and panels are perfect, so the trim will fit and we won't have any surprises on the site. We run the molding and preassemble the components in our shop. Everything is primed on all six sides. We use several stock moldings, but we also make our own profiles when we need to. Generally, the trim is made from preprimed, finger-jointed pine. We convinced our local supplier to stock a finger-jointed pine with two coats of acrylic primer instead of one. The extra primer makes the trim look and hold up better.

Entries. A lot of time goes into making the entry millwork. We start with simple prehung fir or oak doors before building the transoms and flanking pilasters. The pilasters and transoms are two of the identifying details of a colonial, and they're the first things people see when they come to look at one of our homes. Simple fir or oak doors continue the period look.

Columns and corner boards. Porch columns and traditional corner boards are made from 5/4-inch primed pine and are assembled with lock joints and yellow glue. The bases are made from three layers of 4/4 pine and are fastened to the columns before shipping. Corner-board bases are installed on site to ensure proper fit.

Cornices and overhangs. Colonial homes generally have simple overhangs and cornice returns. Our version uses stock crown and bed moldings. We often add a two-part frieze board underneath the overhang for visual interest. We prime the components in our shop before sending them to the job site and prime all cut ends in the field.

Windows. We generally use putty-glazed, true divided-light windows from Brockway-Smith Company (www.brockway-smith.com) and install our own pediment heads in the shop. Although the single-glazed windows aren't as energy efficient as an insulated glass unit, they look great. We add an optional hard-coat, low-e energy panel that improves their energy efficiency to a .43 u-value. The glass panels don't detract from a home's exterior, and they're removable for cleaning. We make Palladian and other custom windows in our shop.

Siding

We generally use prestained A-grade cedar clapboards with a 3-inch or 4-inch exposure. A local company machine-coats the bare clapboards with any of Cabot's factory prestain colors. Our siding supplier arranges transport to the prestainer, and when we get the clapboards about a month later, they're ready for installation. The claps have a smooth and a rough side; we encourage customers to select the rough side for exposure because it holds paint better. Occasionally, we install cedar shingles or fiber-cement siding, but most homeowners want wood clapboards, which are in keeping with the home's historic look. Many homes have a starburst on the gable end.

Although the current trend is toward maintenance-free exteriors, our homes definitely require upkeep. We are careful to explain to clients that a home built of natural materials will require painting down the road, and most are happy with the trade-off.

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The author's panelized houses vary in size and span several architectural styles, but all use authentic period details.

Cost

Completed homes in our area generally range in price from $145,000 to $305,000 (not including land). Our panelized packages range in price from $41,000 to $106,000. The packages include the floor systems, interior and exterior walls, cedar roof shingles, primed hemlock clapboards, exterior trim, windows, and exterior doors. The builder who assembles the house is responsible for mechanical systems and the interior.

Nothing gives me more satisfaction than when a prospective buyer or real estate agent comes by a job and asks when the home was built. When I say a few weeks ago, they usually reply, "No, I mean when was it originally built?" Sometimes I don't think they believe me.


Mike Connor

is a home designer and owner of Connor Building Co. in Whiting, Vt.