If you stand at the edge of your home and look up, you’ll see the edge of your roof, well… hanging out up there. A roof overhang, also called the eaves, is the bit of roof that protrudes past the exterior walls.
Imagine the drawing a child makes of a house, which is usually a large triangle on top of a smaller square. The edges of the triangle that stick out beyond the box are the overhang. But what is the purpose of this overhang?
Surprisingly, that unassuming little ledge plays an essential role in your roof system, serving several vital functions. So hang out for a few minutes and read about roof overhangs.
The roof overhang protects the walls of your home. Whether your walls are brick-and-mortar, stucco, siding, or some other material, they do their job when they aren’t constantly wet. The overhang keeps all the water that runs off your roof from streaming down the walls, allowing them to stay drier and extending their life. It also helps prevent mildew and dirt build-up, which makes your exterior walls last longer and keeps them from looking grimy.
While no overhang, no matter how long, will prevent your exterior walls from ever getting wet, a sufficiently sized overhang keeps enough water off your home to help prevent damage.
Preserving the Foundation
It’s not just your walls that appreciate having the water kept away. Your home’s foundation can suffer if too much water accumulates at its base. Water falling at the foundation’s edge is also a key ingredient in the recipe for wet basements. Your roof’s eaves, usually in conjunction with a gutter system, carry the roof’s run-off out past the foundation. In an adequately sloped yard, that water will then drain away from the house. That helps keep your foundation structurally sound and your basement a dry place to hang out.
Shielding Windows and Doors
Window and door openings all present opportunities for moisture to enter. Your roof overhang combats some of that danger by keeping water from sluicing down your exterior walls and making its way to the openings. It prevents the frames from rotting and the water from seeping in around the windows and doors, getting behind your siding, or creeping into the walls where rot and mold can occur.
A well-lit home with sunlight streaming into the windows sounds lovely and inviting. But too much sun can lead to increased cooling expenses, not to mention fading your furnishings, window coverings, and flooring materials. Just as a visor keeps the sun off your face and out of your eyes, your roof’s overhang keeps enough sun off your house to prevent glare and damage while still letting in a pleasing amount of light.
Like a small umbrella, the roof overhang can provide a dry area on a rainy day. Anyone standing at your front door waiting for you to answer the doorbell will appreciate this small respite from the rain or even the beating sun.
In addition to keeping water away, the roof overhang keeps snow and other debris away from your home. A branch that blows onto your roof and then rolls off the edge could easily break a window or damage siding its way to the ground. Because the roof’s overhang carries that branch away from your structure, it makes that kind of damage far less likely.
While smaller debris is unlikely to cause harm, it can cause unsightly scuffs and dirt. Even something as simple as a leaf can get stuck in your siding or mortar joints. By forcing everything away from your exterior walls, these items fall safely to the ground instead.
The architectural style of your home and your climate will affect the design of your roof’s eaves. Dry climates typically have smaller overhangs since their predominant role is protection against water and debris. Buildings in wet environments often have more extended overhangs because they need to provide a more effective umbrella to protect both houses and visitors. The eaves in these areas might be as large as 24 inches. Moderate climates fall somewhere in the middle, often seeing overhangs in the 12 to 18-inch range.
Quality roofing works to keep your home safe from the elements, and a roof overhang sized appropriately for your climate is a vital component in its ability to do that.
One other factor in the appropriate length of a roof’s overhang is the height of the building. A one-story home may require less overhang to prevent significant water from reaching the walls. The taller the building, the larger the overhang needs to be to keep meaningful amounts of rain and debris away from the structure.
Roofing contractors are well aware of roof overhangs’ vital role in protecting your home. They will understand what size overhang works best for your climate and structure.
Next time you step outside and look up at that protective overhang, you can feel good knowing it’s keeping you and your home safe from sun, rain, debris, rot, foundation damage, and water.