Exterior Trim for Period Homes, continued
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.
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
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
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.
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 author's panelized houses vary in
size and span several architectural styles, but all use
authentic period details.
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
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 Connoris a home designer and owner of Connor
Building Co. in Whiting, Vt.