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Having one of those moments


Robert Jones
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In newer construction, at least around here, that's called a lookout, and one is provided every few feet. However, based on the fact that I see 1 X roof decking, I am assuming that this is an older home from the 20s or 30s. In that case, what you really have is a gable bracket, sometimes called a corbel. (For the record, I'm not saying that's right.) In any case, gables framed with this type of bracket typically have a fairly large span between them. Unfortunately, it's missing the lower segments which provide the support. That's why it's sagging...

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The choice is up to you.

I used lookout because it's the nomenclature used to describe that detail in old craftsman era texts. This is no-doubt one of the many craftsman-era homes we see around here on a daily basis.

From the Illustrated Dictionary of Building Materials and Techniques

Corbel 1. A decorative wooden bracket used to support a projecting weight, such as a shelf or countertop. 2. Any weight-supporting structure projecting horizontally out from a vertical surface.

Lookout 1. A structural member running from the outside wall to the lower end of a rafter; used to support the plancier or soffit. 2. In a gable roof, a horizontal member attached to the last two rafters at the gable end and extending out to support the barge rafter. 3. A short wooden bracket that supports the overhanging portion of a second story.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Hi,

Yeah, they have a purpose; to support the overhang. There are typically 3 on a small gable and 5 on a large one. They look beefy but are typically secured to the building with mongo-sized spikes driven through the exterior sheathing into blocks in the wall cavity. Sometimes there are huge lags from the backside. Sometimes they're just toe-nailed to the sheathing without any blocks in the wall cavity and destined to fail.

Lots of aluminum and vinyl siding guys yank off the diagonal portion because it gets in their way and then the eaves start to sag more, and more, and more....

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Mike,

It depends. If the beam runs clear through the house, to or through the other gable end it would be a purlin. If it is only there to support the overhang and is attached to the gable end and/or first couple of rafters than yea, it's a lookout.

From the one shot I don't see how you could say it's not even close to a purlin.

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Where's the CF stamp?

Cary, if that is in fact a purlin it is very broken. If you look closely at the picture you can see what looks like damage from where the bottom angle brace was removed, and the rotation down and away from the gable sure does look to me like the "beam" is just nailed onto the gable. Besides, the high quality of the workmanship seen in that pic just begs the conclusion that someone hacked off the angle brace.

Tom

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From the one shot I don't see how you could say it's not even close to a purlin.

Because I'm in the same market as Rob and I know old houses here. It's not a purlin. In order to shield the walls from the rain, most old homes here have deep gable overhangs and eaves that are at least two feet deep. Lookouts are used to support those.

I don't know about Illinois but Bungalows and Craftsmans here aren't built with purlins. About the only time I've ever seen purlins here they were part of the framing system on an A-frame homes or real log homes and then they were a problem.

Purlins here are a sure-fire formula for disaster because they'll absorb a lot of moisture through the end grain and, during the rainy season which is about 6 months of the year sometimes, that moisture gets pulled deep into the member. That's when they come under attack from rot and insects.

We have a bug out here that trolls for targets of convenience like rotting lookouts or purlins - the Pacific Dampwood Termite. They don't nest in very large colonies but they are big and they can do a lot of damage to a home with purlins. I had an A-frame about a year ago where the purlins looked fine from the ground but the rot and PDWT had moved well beyond the gable end wall into the framing. Sometimes we'll have more modern houses built in the 60's or 70's here where the architect thought it was a good idea to extend 6 by 12 beams through the walls a couple of feet, and out beyond the barge rafters, to simulate the appearance of lookouts. Those too are often rotting and hollowed out by critters.

The only thing holding that piece of wood to the house now is a few nails driven into the end grain from the backside of the vertical portion of the lookout that's concealed behind the siding and is attached to the house. That plus a few nails toe nailed into it from that Barge rafter. Without that diagonal brace it's not holding up squat and if it's rotten one can probably yank it off by hand.

The roof sheathing that's overhanging the end of the house is what's holding up that barge rafter now. That's really only every other board because that roof would have originally been decked with skip and the short fill-in pieces only extend a few inches beyond the gable end rafter and don't provide any support.

Strike that. Correction; What I said above about stiffness of the overhang only applies if it's still got the original cedar shingle deck under whatever is there now. If the roof has ever been stripped down to the framing for a re-roof with asphalt, they've probably decked it with plywood or OSB, which will impart a little additional stiffness and resistance to bending than the skip can.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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with a lookout that close to the roof it should be tied to the next rafter back.

You would think, but it's not. They are a simple triangle. Depending on whether it's a 4-inch or 6-inch lookout, it's made up of a 2 by 6, 3 by 6, 2 by 8 or 3 by 8 vertical leg secured to the side of the structure as I stated above with a horizontal member and a diagonal brace secured to the vertical leg.

They're remarkably resilient; I've seen some that are over a hundred years old and they're still in great shape. It really depends on the care they get over their lifetime. On the other hand, I've seen new ones on installed on 10-year old homes that were called Craftsman Inspired" and they've already begun to rot. Inspired by craftsmen I suppose but not made by real craftsmen.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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