Please help me with these dormers

lexmomof3November 20, 2012

This is the house we're building. I think the dormers are plain and want to dress them up a bit. I'll add a picture of my inspiration dormers in the next post. My inspiration dormer has a 1/2 round with a "cross arch" pattern. The problem is that one of the dormers is the only window in the bedroom and so it has to meet egress requirements. According to the builder, there isn't a good way to add the transom without either making the dormer larger or making the window smaller. We can't make the window small and I don't think we want to make the dormer larger. He suggested that maybe instead of a transom, we do something with decorative trim to get the "dressed up" look I want. Does anyone have any suggestions? Pictures would be greatly appreciated too.

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Here's a picture of the actual house built (for someone else). They did a more craftsman look whereas we're going for a very traditional look. We're adding stucco mantels and sills to the windows and may add stucco around the door.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 8:39PM
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The dormers seem a little low on the roof and narrow as if it was an artist's mistake. Making them a foot wider and higher on the roof might be enough.

Where the 3 roofs come together will need an all copper cricket to avoid constant maintenance and leaks. Attached garages grafted awkwardly onto otherwise simple traditional designs will cause architects and archaeologists to some day think we worshiped cars.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 8:48PM
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Well....I can't find my inspiration window pic but hopefully you all get what I'm saying. Any suggestions for dressing up the windows? Also, does anyone else think the pitch of the porch roof needs to be slightly steeper? I know it can't go but 8" or so but it seems a little flat to me.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 8:51PM
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Our porch roof is 4:12, how steep is your porch roof currently?

I think making the dormers wider would be a good idea. Have you been inside the narrow "dog house" dormers? They are hard to decorate around (too small to put furniture in there and they break up a wall). A couple options to consider are making just the center dormer wider or dropping from 3 narrow dormers to 2 wide ones (each one about 20% of the width of your house, so if its 40' wide you'd make each dormer 8' wide).

Have you gone on Houzz and searched for dormers? They might have some pics that spark your imagination in a different direction, possibly a direction your contractor is more excited about pursuing?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 9:24PM
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I am not sure why you want to dress up the dormers. I love this style of house, and in my mind it is all about simple and symmetrical. I even think the spider web transom is a bit too much, I certainly wouldn't gussy up the dormers.

The most important thing is the size and number of windows ... that to me is the key element

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 9:32PM
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Sophie Wheeler

The dormers don't need any "dressing up". They just need to be wider and set higher.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 12:00AM
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I still didn't find my original dormer inspiration pic but here's a similar one. It looks like maybe this is a casement window or maybe they're inoperable??? I hear many of you saying not to do anything different with the dormer windows. I'm on the fence because while it's certainly easier just to do the rectangle window, I like the overall look of these windows.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 4:53AM
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It's odd that you would refer to a Colonial Revival house with classical cornice returns and columns as having a "craftsman look". There is nothing in any of these photographs that is remotely reminiscent of the Craftsman Style.

The porch roof must have a slope of at least 4 in 12 or it will have to be a single ply membrane or metal. Even with that slope it should have full coverage of Ice & Water Shield (by Grace, no substitutes). If the dormers were moved up the roof a bit the porch roof could be steeper.

Does the huge garage hiding the left wing of a classic symmetrical colonial design bother anyone else? Why wouldn't the main roof continue so the garage roof could intersect it and avoid the water trap?

There is no reason the windows can't be arch top double-hungs and qualify as "emergency escape and rescue openings" but they would probably need to have a rough opening of about 3-2 x 5-8 making the dormers pretty grand.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 6:41AM
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Thanks for the pictures Renovator8. In referring to the house that is built as more craftsman like, I'm referring to the square columns and their choice of shutters and light fixtures flanking the door, for example. To me, those are more craftsman elements rather than traditional elements. I certainly didn't mean that the whole house was craftsman style just that they incorporated what I consider to look like some craftsman finishes whereas we're planning to do more traditional finishes. Our problem with the window is that we don't want to tremendously increase the size and make them look odd.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 9:29AM
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We have two dormers on the front and each one is the only window in 2 upstairs bedrooms. Our plan called for arched windows but due to the cost, we switched to rectangle casement windows and added an eyebrow arched detail with the trim above the window. They had to meet egress requirements and this was the more affordable way to do that. The roofline of our dormers is arched instead of gabled, so a bit different than your dormers.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 10:49AM
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The only way to know if the windows would be too big is to draw the elevation and to also draw a section to see where the dormers should be placed, how high the sills and heads would be and what the slope of the porch roof would be. This is how the design of a building is advanced beyond the initial schematic stage ... with less words, more drawings.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 11:09AM
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I'd love to see a picture if you have one handy.

Renovator8, I guess there's no way around more drawings if I want make this change, huh? We're just about finished defining the specs with the builder and the plans have been purchased. It was a stock plan. Oh the decisions. I really appreciate your input along with everyone else's.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 11:47AM
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This was during construction and is probably the closest photo I have that shows the detail over the dormer windows. I would have loved the arched casement windows but they were just too expensive.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 1:49PM
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I don't know how to help you. I am an architect so the idea that an owner is not in complete control of the design of their home is totally foreign to me. I would never expect an online designer, a building inspector or a builder to protect the interests of a homeowner; they have a built-in conflict of interest. My most important responsibility is to protect my clients and to also give them the house they want and deserve.

The dormers and the porch roof seem like such simple design issues; someone should draw what you want so you can approve it instead of making you discuss it on an internet forum. Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 6:52PM
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lexmom- William Poole's St. Charles houseplan has the window/dormer combination you're asking about. (Very similar to the 2nd pic Renovator8 posted.) You can go with casement or single hung to meet egress requirements. As far as redraws & costs go, you could always take your plans and make a copy (to-scale) of the front elevation with the entire inside part of the dormers whited out (you'll likely want to make several copies). Then hand draw the desired windows in using the same scale. Draw several versions in different widths and heights, then stand back & look to see which one works for you. Use your inspiration pics to draw in the desired trim around the windows (again to-scale). A picture is worth a 1000 words and it is never more true than when you're dealing with a builder. Based on what the builder suggested, I'm guessing he is not seeing your vision--it almost sounds like he's thinking you want to squeeze a 1/2 round transom in on top of the window (by making the window shorter) & under the trim strip which creates the triangle in the upper portion of the dormer.

Another option would be to try and contact Summerfield Designs on the GW board here to see if she would be willing to help with the dormers. She does awesome work, has a great eye for size & proportion (scale) and you'll be able to provide exact dimensions to the builder.

Dormers are one of the most crucial parts of getting the exterior to look right on this style of house. Many I see aren't sized correctly when you take in the scale of the rest of the house (they're too wide, too narrow, too tall, not short or some combination of these), the overhangs are too wide or too narrow, they lack enough trim or are overtrimmed, the window in the dormer wasn't sized right when you take in the scale of the dormer itself (too short, too narrow, too tall, too wide, etc). Bottom line: be sure to get the dormers right as you'll be looking at them for a LONG time.

The house that's pictured above that was built from the plan may have had changes made to the dormer &/or window size, so you definitely need to take a very close look at the plan you have in hand. (I could be wrong,, but it does look like they may have made the dormers a little wider). Better to take the time now to get it right on paper than waiting until they're built and realizing they're not what you expected and have to have them ripped out and redone ($$$ change request cha-ching $$$).

I really like the idea of using the arched windows with the cross arch pattern--I think it will add a touch of elegance to the facade. The casement versions are the way to go IMO as they provide a 1pc seamless look. Plus, the 1 pc units should cost less than separate window/transom combination.

Hope this helps!

Here is a link that might be useful: William Poole St. Charles Plan

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 1:59PM
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I don't know how anyone could draw a dormer that would fit the structure of the house without seeing the current drawings for the house.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 5:27PM
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Thanks mydreamhome! I'm going to work on the dormers a little more.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 7:09PM
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You know, that Poole stock house plan is the first that I believe that I have ever seen with a faux fireplace from the garage! And combined with faux Palladian windows! And a curved portico! It's got it all! Just amazing!

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 9:54PM
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We dressed up our windows by adding the color and also making the middle window wider. They are double hung windows and I have window seats built on the inside.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 6:09PM
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