Cupolas are functional or ornamental structures placed on top of a roof. In the past very large cupolas such as belvederes or widow's walks were popular on many public buildings or estate homes. Today, smaller cupolas are popular decorations on residential homes, garages, gazebos, and more. Although many modern cupolas are strictly decorative, they can also be functional. Cupolas were traditionally used for ventilation of attics, gazebos, and other structures to allow hot air to escape while still providing protection against the elements.

Benefits of Cupolas

Proper use of cupolas as a ventilation device can reduce heating and cooling costs in your home and make gazebos, garages, and other structures with minimal heating and air conditioning more pleasant, especially in the summertime. Another advantage of cupolas is that weather vanes, which remain popular for their decorative qualities and functionality, are often easy to affix to a cupola, and many cupolas come pre-fitted for them, and with attached hardware.

The Look and Construction of Cupolas

Many cupolas have a wooden or plastic base, with or without ventilation slats, and a copper or aluminum roof. However, materials and styles vary widely. There is a range of cupolas in standard sizes and made from standard materials on the market, but many homeowners like to purchase customized cupolas to add an extra touch of class to the building they are place upon.

Customized Cupolas

Cupolas are often customized to reflect the style and materials of the building they are placed upon. When choosing a cupola, selecting the right size is extremely important. Too large and the cupola appears to overpower the house; too small and it may appear tacked on. A good rule of thumb is for the base of the cupola to measure 1-1.5 inches for every foot of unbroken roof line on the building or section of building that you intend to place the cupola on. For unbroken roof lines of more than 60 feet, consider placing two or three cupolas to maintain the best sense of balance. Measuring the pitch of your roof is also important to ensure proper fit. Roof pitch is depicted as a ratio showing every inch the roof drops for every inch it extends horizontally, and reflects the steepness of the roof. However, if your roof pitch exceeds the maximum pitch recommended for your favorite cupola by the manufacturer, it is often possible to add a double base to the cupola to resolve the problem.