What the heck is a BARGE RAFTER?

The fascia board on the Gable end of a home is called a “barge rafter”.  Often these rafters extend past the eaves to create a place to hide the end of the gutter or as a decorative element.  It is important that the top edge be properly flashed with either roofing materials or a metal flashing to prevent decay/rot in the ends of the rafter.  This first picture shows good examples of nicely capped barge rafters (foreground and background).

Barge Rafter

A properly flashed/covered barge rafter end

NOTE:  the Beautiful Blue Seattle Sky

This next picture shows what will happen if it is not properly capped.

Barge Rafter

Decay in the end of a barge rafter

In this case more than the end is deteriorated and most likely the whole rafter will need to be replaced.  Fortunately the roof needs replacement as well, which will make replacement of the rafter easier—and should be replaced in conjunction with the roof replacement (these rafters are very difficult to replace without removing the roofing above it).

If the ends of the rafters on your home are not properly capped it is a pretty simple thing to fix and can save a lot of costly repairs later on.

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Comments

  1. Charles Sanford says:

    The barge rafter is probably a mis-spelling and mis-pronunciation of the word “verge”, which means “edge”.

    • Charles Buell says:

      Charles, yes—I think that is possible. Another name for it is a “Varge Rafter”—which is even closer to “verge.”

  2. Chuck Conditt says:

    Mr. Sanford and Mr. Buell are both on the right track, the correct term is in fact ‘Varge rafter’ which is a derivative of the French word ‘Verge’, meaning ‘Edge’. It’s easy to see how the term has become bastardized over the years to ‘Barge rafter’. I have to say this is a pet peeve of mine and throughout my carpentry career I’ve made the effort to correct my crews, my peers and those in architectural design. Nothing makes me shake my head more than to see the words ‘Barge Rafter’ written on a set of plans by a draftsman or architect.

    • Charles Buell says:

      Chuck, I think we are fighting a loosing battle on this one :) I have old blue prints dating to the 30’s and 40’s as well as some old Audels carpenters and builders guides that all call them barge rafters.

      • Chuck Conditt says:

        I refuse to give in! lol. Carpentery dates back much farther than the 30’s and 40’s ;)

        • Chuck Conditt says:

          carpentry even…

        • Charles Buell says:

          Chuck, I only use those dates because that makes pretty much everyone alive today used to the term “barge” instead of “varge.” It would be a bit like trying to get everyone to stop saying “kleenex” except when they were actually using Kleenex :)

          • Interesting discussion. I am 56 and have been a shingler since a young age and have called this rafter a barge but have seen Verge in old books. Thank you guys for the info. I never knew it meant edge and had French roots. I looked in my Audel’s #4 Chapter 47 page 1,130 discussing thatching style roofs using shingles. On #8 the elevated gable end detail they call the rafters Verge, but in the same detail use the words “slope of the barge” .

          • Charles Buell says:

            Bob, it sounds like we may have similar versions of Audel #4—mine is reprint version 1936—mine is labeled “verge or barge”

  3. Charles, The book I have is copyrighted in 23 and reprinted in 39. Looking back I notice the reference to verge board a few more times as what we call a fascia. Very interesting, could it be the meaning of a verge is an edge board being a rake or an eave? We never stop learning.

    • Great discussion. I remember in May 1984 seeing the term ‘varge rafter’ on the California state contractors’ licensing exam when I sat for it. It surprised me as the ‘familiar’ term here in the trades is more like ‘barge’ or ‘verge.’ I learned it in British Columbia at trades school (Construction Management) as ‘varge’ also . . . so, I immediately noticed it in the exam. I think it will end up a loosing battle though, even though I also press the point sometimes.

      • Charles Buell says:

        Bob, it is probably like so many other regional differences in terms of construction terms. Verge, Varge, Barge–it is all the same I guess

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