The roof can be one of the most defining elements of a house:
Look at any child's drawing, where a strong triangle atop a box
is likely to say "home."
The way the roof terminates at the eaves and rake contributes
greatly to both the practical function and aesthetic effect of
There are two basic types of eaves and rakes: clipped and
extended. Clipped eaves and rakes project no farther beyond the
exterior wall than necessary to cover the frieze trim. Extended
eaves and rakes project 6 to 8 inches for a short overhang, one
foot for a moderate extension, and 18 inches to as much as 3
feet for a more dramatic effect.
Extended eaves and rakes can be either closed or open —
depending on whether the rafter tails or lookouts are enclosed
with a soffit. If open, the rafter tails can be shaped and
trimmed with a shadow board, or the shadow board can be
Often the design of the eaves drives the rake design. There are
some useful rules of thumb to guide eaves-rake pairings (but,
as always, there will be exceptions). To start, consider a rake
that is similar to the eaves you've selected. If the eaves are
extended and open, an extended, open rake may be a good choice.
The rake needn't extend as far as the eaves; that could prove
excessive in many cases. There's nothing wrong with an 18-inch
eaves overhang coupled with an 8-inch rake overhang, for
example. Rarely, though, is it desirable for the rake extension
to exceed that of the eaves.
Likewise, clipped eaves generally work well with a clipped rake
— an overhanging rake with clipped eaves might appear
somewhat awkward. On the other hand (here's an exception), a
clipped rake can work with extended eaves.
When extended eaves have a level soffit, extra care should be
taken to resolve the intersection with a clipped rake. On the
flip side, when extended eaves with a level soffit are paired
with a similarly extended closed rake, the result can have a
heavy, boxy look.
Katie Hutchisonis an architect and the owner of
Earthlight Design in Salem, Mass.