We have had various discussions about roofs in my latest blogs. But, I haven’t yet discussed the difference between an eave and a gable end roof of a house. What is the meaning of each of these and how do they differ? Well, let’s first talk about the definition of each.
Definition: An Eave is defined as the edge of the roof that overhangs the face of a wall. This is the portion of the roof that protrudes beyond the side of a house or building. In contrast, a Gable (or Rake) is the overhang of a building that occurs on the side that is topped by a gable roof. (Refer to my Architectural Roof Types blog.)
Function: Now that we understand where both the eave and gable overhangs occur on a building, why do we need them? Well, they are important features of a building and actually serve a purpose. The primary function of eaves is to keep rain water (or melting snow) off the side of a house. It prevents water from entering the house at the point the roof meets the wall. Gable (or Rake) overhangs pretty much provide the same sort of protection, but at the end wall of a house.
Some other purposes for eaves might be to prevent erosion of the foundation footings below the house by carrying the water away from the edge of the building. They also help to reduce splatter from water as it hits the ground below.
In some home designs deep roof eaves and gables may serve to protect the home from solar gain. They may also be designed to allow important sun angles in to heat the house in the winter and then keep the hot sun out in the summer.
History: In history, eaves haven’t been just about protecting a building. They have also been a place of decoration and ornamentation to define specific architectural styles. For example, a craftsman style home can be categorized by its large eaves and gables that contain decorative brackets. Also, back in the days of Roman and Greek architecture, the buildings contained cornices finished with decorative molding which served the purpose of eaves. In addition, in Chinese architecture they utilized dougong bracket systems which are unique structural elements of interlocking wooden brackets.
Parts: Eaves may terminate in a fascia which is a board running the length of an eave to protect the ends of the roof rafters. The underside of the eaves may contain a horizontal soffit fixed at a right angle to the wall to seal the gap between the rafters from weather.
I hope that this discussion involving eaves and gables (or rakes) gives you a better understanding of their differences and why we need them. Can you imagine how ridiculous your house might look without them?