Cornices and mansards

They are often the strong point in a façade, the decorative elements that set the tone with a whimsical or classical note. They are, however, fragile and often hard-to-reach architectural elements. When beauty seems inaccessible!

We have discussed the aesthetic importance of this architectural element. If, however, your building’s crownDecorative element forming the top of a wall, a pillar, a column or a staircase post. was removed, do not despair: it is possible and sometimes not very expensive to make a reproduction of a beautiful sheet metal cornice A generally horizontal building element, with a sometime utilitarian role (to throw rainwater clear off a wall) but mostly decorative..

Besides its complexity and its fancy details, a building’s crownDecorative element forming the top of a wall, a pillar, a column or a staircase post. takes all of its importance from its dimensions and its proportions relative to the rest of the façade. A beautiful stone façade which has lost its metal cornice A generally horizontal building element, with a sometime utilitarian role (to throw rainwater clear off a wall) but mostly decorative. has also lost a good deal of its aesthetic value because the different elements in a façade are intimately related.

The diferent types

The photos illustrating this text show different types of crownsDecorative element forming the top of a wall, a pillar, a column or a staircase post.:

A wood cornice A generally horizontal building element, with a sometime utilitarian role (to throw rainwater clear off a wall) but mostly decorative. often seen on older buildings;

A parapetPart of the wall which exceeds the line of a flat roof. extending a more recent brick façade;

A mansardA room built in an attic, generally under a double-slope roof and which has walls at an angle and a low ceiling. made of slate tiles which covers half of or the entire last storey of the building.

As you can see, a crownDecorative element forming the top of a wall, a pillar, a column or a staircase post. is an important element of your building’s general appearance.

The dangers

Several factors jeopardize crownsDecorative element forming the top of a wall, a pillar, a column or a staircase post. on buildings but they can be relatively easily countered with proper maintenance. A wood cornice A generally horizontal building element, with a sometime utilitarian role (to throw rainwater clear off a wall) but mostly decorative. needs regular scraping and painting. A sheet metal cornice A generally horizontal building element, with a sometime utilitarian role (to throw rainwater clear off a wall) but mostly decorative. is somewhat fragile because of its numerous soldered jointsDevice or product for sealing a surface composed of several elements (brickwork). which sometimes break; there is then a risk that rain may infiltrate the building. Here again, regular scraping and painting are in order. A roof sealer can easily take care of the open jointsDevice or product for sealing a surface composed of several elements (brickwork). temporarily. Galvanized sheet metal has its own protection. It is, however, altered as soon as rust sets in; it is important to prevent rust with a regular coat of paint.

As for brick parapetsPart of the wall which exceeds the line of a flat roof., you may notice that some are leaning towards the roof. This is because the parapet’sPart of the wall which exceeds the line of a flat roof. facing on the roof side is covered with sheet metal and is therefore watertight. The side that is visible from the street is made of bricks and has jointsDevice or product for sealing a surface composed of several elements (brickwork). where water will sometimes infiltrate. The jointsDevice or product for sealing a surface composed of several elements (brickwork). will then swell with freezing and thawing and this makes the parapetPart of the wall which exceeds the line of a flat roof. lean towards the roof. The brick must then be removed and reinstalled with new jointsDevice or product for sealing a surface composed of several elements (brickwork)..

False mansardsA room built in an attic, generally under a double-slope roof and which has walls at an angle and a low ceiling. are a little more complicated because they are made of different materials. The lower part is wood, there are some sheet metal parts and, of course, there are the slate tiles. The slate tiles will endure but it is more likely their fasteners that will break, with the result that some tiles will be lost. It is possible to replace a few slate tiles. Even if the new tiles are of a slightly different color, it is not a sufficient reason not to do the replacement work. A slate mansardA room built in an attic, generally under a double-slope roof and which has walls at an angle and a low ceiling. has a great architectural value.

Conservation

As we pointed out at the beginning of this guide, maintenance is the best guarantee for the preservation of crownsDecorative element forming the top of a wall, a pillar, a column or a staircase post.. We can see, even today, buildings more than a hundred years old with crownsDecorative element forming the top of a wall, a pillar, a column or a staircase post. that are in perfect condition.

Keep in mind that repair and conservation work properly done by a careful artisan will often be less costly than replacing the architectural element. Also, keep in mind that a crownDecorative element forming the top of a wall, a pillar, a column or a staircase post. that was removed in the past can be replaced in an interesting fashion without necessarily reproducing it in all of its details. It can simply be an element that recalls the general shape, dimensions and volume of the original crownDecorative element forming the top of a wall, a pillar, a column or a staircase post. and that will give an aesthetic and harmonious look to your house.


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