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).

NOTE:  the Beautiful Blue Seattle Sky

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

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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  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

  4. Kevin Warner says:

    Nice photo of a tail that is covered with roofing. I’ve searched on the Internet for looking for a “standard” way that a tail not covered with roofing but still in good shape could be flashed. I’m assuming something like an upsidedown U. would word but haven’t found and pre-made flashing for this purpose. Your blog post says it pretty simple to do but doesn’t explain what you think is proper or reference any other sites. Do you have a recommendation that you could share?

    • Charles Buell says:

      If you don’t want the look of simply running the shingles by, some roofers will use a piece of “L” metal that slides under the rake flashing that is extended past the end of the barge rafter. This has become more common now that rake flashings are required.

      • Kevin Warner says:

        Hi Charles,

        Thanks for the quick reply. I’ve seen the L flashing and shingles covering the top solution installed when the roofing is originally installed. Any thoughts on the best retrofit if there is no L flashing to begin with and just the barge rafter/facia and 1×2 facia trim extend covering the end of the gutter?

  5. Would that also be called “rake fascia”?

  6. I have a 1 X 2 trim piece attached (nailed) to my barge rafter. It is caulked at the bottom connecting the trim piece and barge rafter. The trim piece extends @ 1/2 inch above the barge rafter. ( Not caulked at the top between the trim piece and the barge rafter.) The composite roofing is stapled, some to the trim piece, some to the barge rafter, some staples missing both of them. The trim piece rotted and bent outward alerting me to a problem. When I inspected, I discovered @ 8 inches of rotting barge board under the trim piece, as well as some trim piece rot. I noticed that there was about 3/4 inch gap between roofing above and the trim board below with exposed staples that appear to be pulled up or not fastened tightly to the trim board or barge board. There’s a plywood piece (covered by tar paper extending @1/2 inch over)) that extends from the roof, just up to, but not covering or connected to, the barge board or trim board. Maybe that’s why the staples can’t connect to the trim or barge, or just got pulled out. When I climb the ladder and look along the roof line, it appears that the roof line slants ever slightly away (or inward) and down (of course) from the edge of the roof barge area. My home is built 2003, single story, vaulted.

    Question: Is the caulking under the trim board appropriate? It seems like it would just hold the moisture, and rot. Is a trim piece necessary? I think the gap between the plywood and trim piece or barge board, exposing staples is possibly due to warping (rain/sun/south western exposure) of the plywood forcing it upward, pulling up the staples. Yet, the trim board is 1/2 inch above the barge board all along the barge board. Is that correct installation. doesn’t seem so to me.

    I’d like to remove the trim board altogether, scraping off all old caulking, priming etc. BUT, there would be that big gap between the roofing and the barge board.

    Is the (eyeballed) slant away from the barge board toward the center of the house normal? Should I add another piece of plywood under the plywood that is @ !/2 inches above the trim (3/4 inches above the barge board? Should I try to fill that void? The roofing would overlap the barge board. No trim piece.

  7. Sylvia Wright says:

    I’m a real-estate agent looking at a report that says a house’s barge rafter (sic) is “twisted.” Is this common? Should my buyer client be concerned? Thanks, great site.

    • Charles Buell says:

      Sylvia, if you could post a picture I could give a better opinion but it is not uncommon for barge rafters to develop twists and be of little to no concern.


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