Upon completing this section, you should be able to identify the types of cornices and material used in their construction.

Exterior trim includes door and window trim, cornice trim, facia boards and soffits, and rake or gable-end trim. Contemporary designs with simple cornices and moldings contain little of this material;

traditional designs have considerable y more. Much of the exterior trim, in the form of finish lumber and moldings, is cut and fitted on the job. Other materials or assemblies, such as shutters, louvers, railings, and posts, are shop fabricated and arrive on the job ready to be fastened in place.

The properties desired in materials used for exterior trim are good painting and weathering characteristics, easy working qualities, and maximum freedom from warp. Decay resistance is desirable where materials may absorb moisture. Heartwood from cedar, cypress, and redwood has high decay resistance. Less durable species can be treated to make them decay resistant. Many manufacturers pre-dip materials, such as siding, window sash, door and window frames, and trim, with a water-repellent preservative. On-the-job dipping of end joints or miters cut at the building site is recommended when resistance to water entry and increased protection are desired.

Rust-resistant trim fastenings, whether nails or screws, are preferred wherever they may be in contact with weather. These include galvanized, stainless steel, or aluminum fastenings. When a natural finish is used, nails should be stainless steel or aluminum to prevent staining and discoloration. Cement-coated nails are not rust-resistant.

Siding and trim are normally fastened in place with a standard siding nail, which has a small flathead. However, finish or casing nails might also be used for some purposes. Most of the trim along the shingle line, such as at gable ends and cornices, is installed before the roof shingles are applied.

The roof overhangs (eaves) are the portions of the roof that project past the sidewalls of the building. The cornice is the area beneath the overhangs. The upward slopes of the gable ends are called rakes. Several basic designs are used for finishing off the roof overhangs and cornices. Most of these designs come under the category of open cornice or closed cornice. They not only add to the attractiveness of a building but also help protect the sidewalls of the building from rain and snow. Wide overhangs also shade windows from the hot summer sun.

Cornice work includes the installation of the lookout ledger, lookouts, plancier (soffit), ventilation screens, fascia, frieze, and the moldings at and below the eaves, and along the sloping sides of the gable end (rake). The ornamental parts of a cornice are called cornice trim and consist mainly of molding; the molding running up the side of the rakes of a gable roof is called gable cornice trim. Besides the main roof, the additions and dormers may have cornices and cornice trim.


The type of cornice required for a particular structure is indicated on the wall sections of the drawings, and there are usually cornice detail drawings as well. A roof with no rafter overhang or cave usually has the simple cornice shown in figure 3-8. This cornice consists of a single strip or board called a frieze. It is beveled on the upper edge to fit under the overhang or cave and rabbeted on the lower edge to overlap the upper edge of the top course of siding. If trim is used, it usually consists of molding placed as shown in figure 3-8. Molding trim in this position is called crown molding.

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Figure 3-8.-Simple cornice.

A roof with a rafter overhang may have an open cornice or a closed (also called a box) cornice. In open-cornice construction (fig. 3-9), the undersides of the rafters and roof sheathing are exposed. A nailing header (fascia backer) is nailed to the tail ends of the rafters to provide a straight and solid nailing base for the fascia board. Most spaces between the rafters are blocked off. Some spaces are left open (and screened) to allow attic ventilation. Usually, a frieze board is nailed to the wall below the rafters. Sometimes the frieze board is notched between the rafters and molding is nailed over it. Molding trim in this position is called bed molding. In closed-cornice construction, the bottom of the roof overhang is closed off. The two most common types of closed cornices are the flat boxed cornice and the sloped boxed cornice (shown in figure 3-10, views A and B, respectively).

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Figure 3-9.-Open cornice.

The flat boxed cornice requires framing pieces called lookouts. These are toenailed to the wall or to a lookout ledger and face-nailed to the ends of the rafters. The lookouts provide a nailing base for the soffit, which is the material fastened to the underside of the cornice. A typical flat boxed cornice is shown in figure 3-10, view A. For a sloped boxed cornice, the soffit material is nailed directly to the underside of the rafters (fig. 3-10, view B). This design is often used on buildings with wide overhangs.

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Figure 3-10.-Closed cornices:
A. Flat boxed cornice;
B. Sloped boxed cornice.

The basic rake trim pieces are the frieze board, trim molding, and the fascia and soffit material. Figure 3-11, view A, shows the finish rake for a flat boxed cornice. It requires a cornice return where the cave and rake soffits join. View B shows the rake of a sloped boxed cornice. Always use rust-resistant nails for exterior finish work. hey may be aluminum, galvanized, or cadmium-plated steel.

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Figure 3-11.-Cornice construction:
A. Finish rake for boxed cornice;
B. Rake soffit of a sloped box cornice.


Because cornice construction is time-consuming, various prefabricated systems are available that provide a neat, trim appearance. Cornice soffit panel materials include plywood, hardboard, fiberboard, and metal. Many of these are factory-primed and available in a variety of standard widths (12 to 48 inches) and in lengths up to 12 feet. They also maybe equipped with factory-installed screen vents.

When installing large sections of wood fiber panels, you should fit each panel with clearance for expansion. Nail 4d rust-resistant nails 6 inches apart along the edges and intermediate supports (lookouts). Strut nailing at the end butted against a previously placed panel. First, nail the panel to the main supports and then along the edges. Drive nails carefully so the underside of the head is just flush with the panel surface. Remember, this is finish work; no hammer head marks please. Always read and follow manufacturer’s directions and recommended installation procedures. Cornice trim and soffit systems are also available in aluminum and come in a variety of prefinished colors and designs.

Soffit systems made of prefinished metal panels and attachment strips are common. They consist of three basic components wall hanger strips (also called frieze strips); soffit panels (solid, vented, or combination); and fascia covers. Figure 3-12 shows the typical installation configuration of the components. Soffit panels include a vented area and are available in a variety of lengths.

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Figure 3-12.-Basic components of prefinished metal soffit system.

To install a metal panel system, first snap a chalk line on the sidewall level with the bottom edge of the fascia board. Use this line as a guide for nailing the wall hanger strip in place. Insert the panels, one at a time, into the wall strip. Nail the outer end to the bottom edge of the fascia board.

After all soffit panels are in place, cut the fascia cover to length and install it. The bottom edge of the cover is hooked over the end of the soffit panels. It is then nailed in place through prepunched slots located along the top edge. Remember to use nails compatible with the type of material being used to avoid electrolysis between dissimilar metals. Again, always study and follow the manufacturer’s directions when making an installation of this type.