I've been a potential homebuyer for a while now and I must admit that I love house hunting. My wife and I find delight in seeking out a potential new home and partaking in a short-lived design charrette with each home we tour. Upon entering the home-for-sale we both begin mental demolition of spaces that seem unappealing. 70’s wood paneling – gone! Canary yellow linoleum - gone! Like all potential homebuyers, we begin mentally moving in and making the space our own. In the search for new homes, we both have our quirks, our wishes, and our deal breakers. The first thing my wife looks at are the rational things like cost, location, and amenities. Good thinking. I tend to focus on the “bones” of the home. How well was it built? How’s it going to last? What kind of maintenance will it require? And, of course, is there ample space for a man room dedicated to sporting events, beer, and company? Along the exterior, my eyes immediately seek the roofline in search of generous overhangs with character. With a good roofline, the house has potential. It may be a dog on the inside with bad flooring and poorly colored walls, but at least the outside structure is correct.
In my current neighborhood, overhangs are hard to come by. And like most new developments, the neighborhood and newly constructed homes don’t seem to have many of the desirable characteristics of homes from our past (i.e. overhangs, inviting front porches, established trees, signs of hope). The typical roof in my neighborhood provides a 12" overhang, which makes the home appear bare and banal. In the world of Residential Architecture and fine home building, correctly sized and proportioned overhangs are one element that Architects, Designers, and Craftsmen all understand to convey quality and craftsmanship. Although a roof with deep overhangs can increase material and labor costs, these costs are typically minor as compared to the total budget, and the benefits of good roof details are a wise investment. Beyond delivering aesthetics and curb appeal to a home, their main purpose is to protect the entire home, which after all is your single biggest financial asset. Overhangs keep water away from your siding, windows, and building foundation, and keep you from dealing with numerous moisture issues over the long term. They are shading devices, which can block out unwanted solar heat gain during the hot summer. They will also assist your mechanical systems by reducing the need for cooling, resulting in lowering your utility costs.
Good overhangs are simply good affordable fundamentals of architecture. They’re a sign of design and purpose. They should be valued and upheld, not overlooked and certainly never traded for a home with stainless steel appliances or trendy granite surfaces.