Eaves, Awnings, and Home Exterior Weather-Resistance

Eaves and awnings with sufficient reach are features I see lacking far too often on homes. Granted, one can argue that it’s more often than not a matter of style or design. True, and I don’t want this to come across sounding like it’s a crime if your house doesn’t have a 1 meter awning on every window. But at times one must choose between fashion or style and durability when designing a structure. Ideally, a skilled architect will achieve an artistic and structurally sound balance.

We all at least vaguely understand the functions of eaves and awnings, but perhaps we don’t fully comprehend all their benefits. First of all, you should look at eaves and awnings as your first line of defense against rain and sun-induced rot and

Typical garden-style Awning

decay. This is true of all exterior walls of your home, as well as the interior sections of your house that are exposed via your windows and doors.

As tough as your exterior walls can be, they are never impervious to the power of the sun and rain! In truth, NOTHING you do to the exterior of your home will keep it from eventually succumbing to the sun and rain, but there are some things you can do to make it last significantly longer. And when I say significantly, I mean the potential difference between a house lasting 20 years and 100+ years!

I suppose it doesn’t take a genius to deduce that falling rain will first land on your roof, subsequently flow downward into your rain gutters and then continue on into your drainage system. But the one variable that we mustn’t forget is the wind! Rarely does rain fall at a completely vertical angle. The wind will to varying degrees, drive the rain – or snow – against your house. This is where your eaves and awnings play a large role!

In terms of durability, the further your eaves extend past your exterior walls the better! Obviously, there is a drawback to your eaves protruding too far in that it will block direct sunlight. Plus, once an eave extends past a certain point, it will begin to require vertical support posts, and will then become what is known as a canopy instead of an eave or awning. Aesthetics are another important factor as well.

Skillfully incorporating durable features into your design is tricky, but nothing is more important if you desire a long-lasting home. For me personally, there is something invitingly “homey” about extended eaves and awnings on a house. Perhaps I’m not alone in this perspective. I don’t know, but it just seems to scream warmth, a hot meal, and hospitable hosts.


2 Responses to Eaves, Awnings, and Home Exterior Weather-Resistance

  1. A Aman says:

    Our home was built in 1939 without any overhang (sometimes called eaves, right?)
    We are having a new roof installed and are wondering if we should have an overhang added at this time? And if so, how far out is a reasonable distance for the “added on” overhang to extend? to make it worthwhile but still not require a canopy?

    The exterior of our house is brick in front and hardi-board on the sides which was painted by the installers and we have a lifetime warranty for the paint. Hardi-board has been on three sides of the house and is wearing VERY well. We have gutters on several sides (or partial sides) of the house.

    House is relatively small – one floor, 1900 sq foot. Attic space is very spacious – doesn’t have a ridge vent so we are looking to have that added (comes included with roof). Also, edge vents added. Roofing contractor who we found because of good references answered a lot of our questions very well but seemed reluctant to recommend that we have an overhang added. We’re trying to get as many opinions as we can. Thanks in advance.

    • freehandyman says:

      Hi,

      Due to the various reasons listed in the above article, I believe having at least 50 centimeters of roofing overhanging (awning) the house walls will do nothing but good for the overall lifespan of the exterior walls. However, as you mentioned, you have a lifetime guarantee on the paint job and your hardi-board base seems to be holding up well, and may be able to get by without the help of an extended awning.

      I would however, ask the contractor exactly why he was reluctant in recommending this course of action – did he lack the expertise (though unlikely), will it be expensive and he’s simply concerned about the bill (again, unlikely), or perhaps the bone frame on which the present roof is attached isn’t strong enough to support a cantilevering awning? Or it could also be a matter of design and aesthetics.

      Some people, including some contractors, simply have a lot of faith in the quality of the exterior skin of a house whether it be the roof or the walls, and believe they don’t need any assistance in resisting the elements. But again, I personally cannot see any substantial reason for any awning being a bad idea. The two considerations in deciding how long it should be is the canopy factor and the sunlight blocking factor.

      Your roofing contractor should be able to tell you the optimal awning depth considering your upper windows, but just remember that the structural requirements for your existing roof and wall framing go up as your awning extends outward due to the gravitational pull as well as wind loads. Good luck with the new roof and feel free to ask more questions!