When it comes to decorating your home, sometimes it’s the little things that get noticed. One interesting piece or well-placed accent can give your home a whole new look. If you’re looking to update your exterior without breaking the bank, why not try adding a cupola to your rooftop? This small accessory can make a big difference in terms of style and function, and gives you a lot of room to be creative. Read on to learn more about them.
WHAT ARE CUPOLAS?
Cupolas are small structures accenting the top of a roof or dome. They are designed to look like miniature houses and are often used on gazebos or pavilions. But although they’re largely ornamental, they canbeso very functional: they let air circulate around the house and, in the daytime, provide an inexpensive light source.
The word cupola is Latin for “small cupo,” which means little dome. Most modern cupolas are made of wood or vinyl and have shingled or copper roofs. They may also have small louvers for lighting and ventilation. Because of their combination of style and function, cupolas have long been used in houses and public buildings alike.
HISTORY OF CUPOLAS
Cupolas were first used in Islamic buildings (particularly mosques) around the early 8th century. They stretched across the towers and were big enough to be used as prayer rooms. As Islam spread around Europe, the cupola was integrated into many churches, the most prominent example being the dome-topped churches of St Petersburg, Russia. Once cupolas reached English shores, it wasn’t long before the Americans picked it up as well.
The Indians were the first to use cupolas for homes. Realizing their practical benefits, they made a smaller version, around three to four feet across, that could be used for domestic dwellings. Eventually the cupola evolved into a miniature and was stylized to become the mainly decorative structure it is today.
MATERIALS AND PROPERTIES
Wood remains the most preferred material because of its natural, earthy look and fair weather resistance. It also doesn’t retain heat, so the hot air simply passes out through the windows or louvers. The most commonly used woods are pine, redwood, poplar and cedar. Wood cupolas are usually topped with metal roofs.
Metal cupolas give you a lot more room for style and usually last longer than wood. Among the styles you can choose from are Victorian, squire, lodge, and contemporary. Copper is by far the metal of choice for most, because it’s naturally attractive and may be left treated or untreated. Lead-coated copper will keep its color, but untreated copper will turn patina, a dark shade of green, which many people find attractive.
Vinyl cupolas are highly weather-resistant, but don’t offer as much in terms of aesthetics. There aren’t many color options, and in any case the color tends to fade with constant heat and rain exposure. However, they are virtually maintenance-free and will last years if properly maintained.
Many new cupolas are made of fiberglass, which are the most durable yet. They come in almost any size and shape, and can withstand high winds and bad weather. The only downside is that they’re more expensive, but if you’re after beauty and quality, it’s certainly well worth a try.
When choosing a cupola, one of your first considerations should be size. Your cupola must be in proportion with the size and height of your house. Too You can get a sizing chart from several sites, but the general rule is that you should have 1.25″ of cupola roof for every 12″ of unbroken roof line. Also, if your roof requires more than 60″ of cupola roof, you may want to get two smaller cupolas to maintain some balance and symmetry.
If you’re planning to add a weathervane, look for a cupola that is “weathervane-ready.” These already come with fittings, so there’s no need to get roof mounts. Better yet, get them together–many stores offer cupolas and weathervanes custom-made for each other.
Most cupolas are designed for outdoor use, so they’ll stand up fairly well to bad weather. Dust them from the inside once in a while and check for scratches, dents and stains. If it’s a wood cupola, try re-applying the finish every couple of years to maintain its color and hardness. Other materials need little to no maintenance.