More Siding: Rafter Tails and Notches

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I played hooky from work today to finish cutting up all of the siding for the right side of the house. I had planned to go to work, but my spirit was telling me otherwise and today, unlike last Saturday, I decided to pay attention. I had two very complicated strips of siding left to cut out and I spent the day creating them. The second to last strip of siding was the one that fits over the top of the windowsills. This is the same strip of siding I tried to cut out Saturday afternoon and completely messed up, ruining a very nice 14 foot forward (and the rest of my afternoon) in the process (see post here).

Cut Outs for Above Windows

Cut Outs for Above Windows

I’m happy to report that today I got it exactly right and the siding fit perfectly over the windows.

Testing the Fit

Testing the Fit

This strip of siding also involved a seam which I decided to place just above the back window on the right. The flashing protects against water that enters the seam. The flashing overlaps the top of the window trim so that any water that enters the seam flows down the flashing and out over the top of the window instead of behind the window. The two pieces of siding that create the seam are both cut at 45° angles so that expansion and contraction of the siding over time doesn’t open up a visible hole between the two pieces of siding.

Preparing Flashing Behind Seam

Preparing Flashing Behind Seam

Testing the Seam

Testing the Seam

The final strip of siding on the right side was the one that needed to be notched out to fit around all of the rafters. Like the second to last piece of siding, this strip was further complicated by seam which I placed directly under one of the rafters. The tumbleweed video shows another way to cut the last piece of siding which eliminates the need to notch it out around all the rafters. However, that approach involves placing some one by six cedar boards between each rafter and I don’t have enough of those boards. Since I figured out yesterday that I have plenty of extra siding, I decided to go with the notch approach. I’m glad I did. It took a little bit of effort, but I think the final product looks really good.

Rafter Notches Cut

Rafter Notches Cut

Today’s tiny epiphany: it’s highly useful to create a template before trying to notch out a long piece of siding around several different rafters. I initially thought creating these notches would be fairly straight forward and almost did not create a template. However, I’m very glad I did. Creating the template gave me practice cutting the notches and also helped me to figure out exactly how deep and wide to make each notch. I actually messed up my first template and was happy to have made that mistake on a small piece of wood instead of the 10 foot board I had picked out to go under the rafters.

If you’re interested, see the end of this blog entry for more detail on how to cut the notches for the rafters.

Favorite part of the day: propping up the final two strips of siding above the windowsills and underneath the rafters and drinking a ginger beer in the shade while admiring how well they fit and looked.

Admiring My Work

Admiring My Work

Directions for Cutting Notches with a Template

I suggest creating the rafter notch template out of a 12-18 inch scrap of siding. Create three different templates in this one piece of siding: one for the leftmost rafter, one for the rightmost rafter and one for all the rafters in the middle. After this template has been created, prop the second to last piece of siding up over the top of the windowsills to use as a guide. Then, hold the template up to each of the rafters one at the time to see if it fits. If it doesn’t quite fit, you can measure how much it misses or overhangs the second to last piece of siding to figure out how much to add or subtract from that particular notch.

Rafter Notch Template

Rafter Notch Template (note that I mislabled left and right)

To figure out where to make the cuts, grab a partner and hold the piece of siding you intend to notch up against the rafters as tight as you can get it. Then, work your way down the piece of siding, marking each side of each rafter. Once you have the board marked, transfer the marks to the back of the piece of siding and then use your template to draw your cut lines on the back side, adjusting the horizontal cut at the bottom of the notch up-and-down as necessary based on the error measured for each particular rafter in the prior step.

Use a circular saw to start each vertical cut. Finish the vertical cuts with a jigsaw. To make the horizontal cut, cut an ark with the jigsaw from the middle of one of the vertical cuts to the corner of the other vertical cut. Once that is done, you can turn the jigsaw around and finish the rest of the cut.

Note: an easy way to make any of the notches just a little bit deeper is the file away the front corner of the horizontal cut at a 45° angle (to match the 45° angle of the rafter). With a good file, you can very quickly lengthen the notch by up to 1/4 inch.

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