In the months leading up to the roofing project, most attention was over something no one will ever notice. Hopefully.

Besides the failing shingle roof that had us playing attic shuffleboard with buckets during every rain, there was clearly serious problems with the bargeboard - namely, that most of it was either gone or rotted.

Bargeboard is the trim along the edge of the roof; when it's horizontal, it's called a fascia board and is the plank of wood behind the rain gutter. But when it's on a diagonal eave or gable, the same piece is called a bargeboard, rake board or vergeboard, and its purpose is to cover structural details, like the exposed end of the rafter. In the Carpenter Gothic style, the bargeboards were often elaborate mouldings, such as lacy "gingerbread." Here are the before and after pictures of the bargeboard on the west face of Comstock House (CLICK to enlarge):

Our bargeboard is an odd, custom shape that none of our experts had seen before, and isn't found in the E. L. Roberts millwork catalog that was published in 1903, just before the house was constructed. The exterior of the board is rather plain, so it wasn't intended to be decorative; architect and preservation expert Mark Parry thought that Comstock House architect Brainerd Jones used the bargeboard to hide the edge of the shingles to prevent a ragged profile. But the side of the bargeboard facing the shingles has a deep notch with an unclear purpose, the mystery made even more difficult to solve because all of the surviving pieces were in very rough shape. On some boards, it looked like the notch was intended as a channel to carry away rain that might otherwise wick up under the shingles. Or was the original purpose of the notch to create an interlocking system between the bargeboard and shingles to seal the roof? Whatever the intent of the original system is now unknown; the wood is so badly eroded by more than a century of weather that precise interpretation is possible. Jones didn't write about it in his specifications to the contractor, and those who reroofed the house in later years made no effort to figure out the purpose, either roughly nailing the old bargeboard on the rafter ends as trim or replacing it with ordinary 1x6 planks.

It was contractor David Jessen who (as usual) figured it out. The flat surfaces on the back were meant to be attached to 30° furring strips, long lost. If the bargeboard is nailed to that and the whole assembly is attached to the end of the rafters, it creates a bed for the outside edge of the shingles. The roof gains a clean visual line as seen from the ground, and there is no exposed bottom to the shingle for possible rain wicking.

LEFT: The profile, with outline corrected for weathering
MIDDLE: David Jessen holds a test piece of the bargeboard with the furring strip
RIGHT: The barge and furring strip attached and sealed

To mill these custom pieces (and others), we provided moulding profiles to Redwood Lumber Company of Healdsburg, who can actually supply wood from old-growth redwood trees that were felled in the same era as the construction of Comstock House. (Unsolicited endorsement: Highest quality work at great prices.) The outline above left shows one of the best surviving profiles of the original bargeboard, with the believed original profile sketched in.

LEFT: David Jessen and Oscar Zavala test the gambrel roof angle
RIGHT: Except for the starter course of shingles at the bottom, the edges are completely hidden from the ground view


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