If you are involved with a new build in a traditional style, the chances are that it will have bargeboards. Unless your roof is hipped sloped at each gable end or has clipped verges, you will need these practical, decorative features to add a defining stop to the ends of the building, protect the ends of the roof timbers and help keep water off the walls.

The modern alternative is something rather flat and dull in which the roofing material projects a few centimetres over the wall end. This affords little opportunity for creating attractive patterns of light and shade. Bargeboards do this as well as adding external character to your home.

Bargeboards also known as vergeboards are defined as projecting boards placed against the incline of the gable of a building, hiding the ends of the horizontal roof timbers. They are acknowledged as a key way to add interest to what is potentially one of the least interesting areas of the exterior and lead the eye towards an eyecatching roof.

“I recommend bargeboards to self-builders they are one of the key elements of house design,” said architect and H&R contributor George Baxter. “Bargeboards give a house interest and avoid what I call the municipal look. I tell my clients that, provided the house has a roof with a decent pitch, bargeboards should have decoration.”

Although decorated bargeboards are found all over the country, there are strong local traditions. Properties formerly belonging to a country estate, for example, might all have bargeboards decorated in the same style.

Elaborate bargeboards are just as prevalent in cities. Take a look at the housing in many of the better suburbs you will almost certainly see involved designs with ornate fretwork, pierced with elaborate holes perhaps clubs, clover leaves or quatrefoils. Bargeboards like this are bespoke items and cannot be bought off the peg from the PVCu or GRP manufacturers, who supply these items off the shelf in a variety of styles.

There is, however, a strong market for PVCu bargeboards in speculative building, a pattern which is beginning to enter the increasingly design aware self-build market.

Swish, one of the largest manufacturers of PVCu building products, reports a strong demand in the refurbishment market. One reason for this is that their products can be attached to existing timber bargeboards to embellish them, without having to create one off expensive designs in timber.

Although most of the PVCu companies produce only a limited number of designs, Swish claims it is possible to produce 27 different permutations using two basic designs of 45mm ornamental bargeboard.

Another major name in PVCu bargeboards is Kent based FloPlast. Their 500mm ornamental mouldings are usually attached to the underside of PVCu bargeboards.

Freelance site agent David Mugridge and his wife Jayne, whose Victorian style self-build in Southampton was featured in the August 2000 issue of H&R, used a system of this sort. “From the ground you cannot tell that it is not timber,” said David. “There is no need to paint it, maintenance is minimal and it was easy to fit the mouldings onto the underside of the lengths of plain bargeboard. Our chippy was sceptical at first but the result looks great.”

Off the peg PVCu bargeboards like this may well last longer than timber but only come in a certain number of designs and obviously do not suit every property. If you need something other than a standard moulding you have two choices have it cut from from cellular PVC board or do it the traditional way and use timber.

Cutting ornamental bargeboards in timber need not be a lengthy business, as self-builder Len Firth found. When he extended his house, the carpenter who built the roof was decidedly unenthusiastic about creating bargeboards with a scalloped pattern. So, using 40mm planking, Len cut his own using a large old jigsaw. “It took less than a morning,” he said. “Getting the pattern right was quite tricky, though, and involved a little simple mathematics.”

For the bargeboards of the many one off houses he has designed, Wimbledon based architect Richard Holden always uses timber. “To match the style of some of the wonderful designs we are faced with for restoration, there is nothing like timber,” he said. “There is no magic in creating attractive bargeboards for new houses. The problem is that all too often people do not have the imagination. It is really not that hard to find a good joinery shop that can make proper bargeboards. A little persistence will pay off.”

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