How Are Gable Finials Attached?

Gable finials, also called hip-knobs, are decorative elements that mark the gable end or apex of a roofline. Historically, they were carved from stone and were designed to add architectural interest to a building. In the UK, the Victorians were prolific in their use of finials and many can still be seen today along rooflines, but they can also be seen in a Gothic style, for example, as dragons, wyverns and gargoyles.

Finials in Australia

More recently, however, finials have been incorporated on less prestigious buildings and even on heritage homes, is typically made from timber. In Australia, Federation buildings built between 1895 and 1910 (the Queen Anne period) often have complex roof forms that include one or more finials. People who want to restore these historical buildings or design a new building based on the Queen Anne style, or those who just want to add a decorative element to their roofline, will at some time need to replace a timber finial that has rotted and decayed

Finials not only add architectural interest to a building, but they are also used to hide the gap where roof tiles meet together at the apex of the roof. Although one hypothesis for their use is that they prevent witches from landing on your roof with their broomsticks!

Most people don’t even notice finials, not until they own a property where the finial is either rotten and needs replacing or has already been sawn off to make replacing the roof easier. There are many companies that make timber finials and you can select from their standard range or request a customized design to make your home unique.

The problem is – how do you install or replace a finial on your roof? Since you might be replacing your entire roof, as well as the finial, let’s look at installing both the roof cap and the finial. 

Installing a finial on your roof

You need to drill a 2cm hole into the timber in the peak of your roof to attach the finial. For small finials you need to drill to a depth of between 15cm to 22cm, but for large finials you will need a depth of between 25cm and 30cm. This hole should be positioned so that the bottom-most ornamental part of the finial sits about 2.5cm to 5.0cm above the peak of the roof cap. It’s important to remember that the roof cap should not be used to support the finial; roof caps are only installed for ornamental purposes. Lastly, screw the finial in position.

More often than not, however, most people use a nail gun to attach the finial, not screws, particularly if they are installing them on a new building; builders tend to use a nail gun, whilst home renovators tend to use screws or nails. 

So if you own a Federation property – have you noticed your finial lately? Does it look as if it’s seen better days? Now you know how to replace your finial, your home can finally embrace its heritage and you can rest easy!

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