Making Rafter Tails And A Pergola Home Improvement

Both of these projects are purely decorative, but are key to how I want this house to look. Early on, I decided that the craftsman style would strongly influence the design of the exterior, and these are common elements from that architecture.
The rafter tails do serve a functional purpose on the addition, they cover the gaps between the pieces of plywood soffit:

Making Rafter Tails And A Pergola

Since the overhang is longer than 12′, I left spaces between the 48″ wide sheets of plywood to cover the distance. Since these will be completely covered by the rafter tails, there is no need to fill the gaps between.

At the wall of the main part of the house, the tail needs to be coped into the siding and corner to fit properly. The cuts don’t need to be perfect, but should leave gaps small enough to be filled with caulk:

closeup of the corner
the cuts made in the rafter tail

I primed and painted the first coat before installing the rafter tails. They are made from 4×4 cedar posts, mainly because it is the only lumber of that size at my local home centre that is dry enough to work with. Pressure treated could also be used, but is usually soaking wet.

After installing the one at the wall, the other three go up quickly:

the first rafter tail installed
all of the rafter tails installed

I only have one thing left to do to finish the overhangs and complete the look, and that’s to install the fascia.

As I am finishing the siding on this end of the house, I took the time to stand back and look it over. I found that the end of the porch looks plain, and I thought that it might be interesting to build a small pergola above the end. This would tie in with the rafter tail design across the front, giving it continuity:

Making Rafter Tails And A Pergola

Since the rafter tails for these would be projecting out, I though that they should be larger, giving the illusion that the full framing member can be seen. To do this I had to glue it up from two pieces, since I didn’t have any stock that big:

the parts for the rafter tails
the slats cut, sanded and rounded

While the glue dried on those, I made the cross members, cutting the ends to match the curved detail on the rafter tails:

the cross members cut to size and shape

I also cut the slats to go on top from cedar fence board:

the soffet with the slits cut into it

I sanded and rounded all of the corners on these parts. Paint can pull away from sharp corners, so it’s better if they are rounded

To fit down over the rafter tails, I cut a notch at each end about an inch deep. With the parts prepared, I primed everything and assembled the lattice using glue and galvanized nails:

notches are cut in each end of the cross member

I also gave the lattice the first coat of paint. It’s a lot easier to do it while standing on the ground!

the lattice assembled

The glue had fully cured on the rafter tails the next day and I got those sanded smooth. To install them, I cut a slot into the end for an eye-bolt. The eye-bolt is screwed into the wall and thew rafter tail slips onto it, then a screw is driven from above through the eye to lock it in place. The video at the bottom of this page shows this in better detail:

the big rafter tails sanded

I used that same method of fastening on my hand rail project, at my previous house.

first rafter tail installed

With both rafter tails installed, I put the lattice up, but took it back down again to paint:

finished with the lattice installed

I think it turned out well – an interesting visual element that has the right amount of detail to match the rest of the house.

finished with one coat of paint

I made a video going through the building and installation process: