Dress The Yard Blog

Cupola and Weathervane Tips

Cupolas, indeed, are special architectural features. They’ll go well with specific houses and not so well with other ones. Oftentimes, they tend to appear best on an accessory structure such as a shed or a garage. The cupola I have on my garage might look funny on my home yet it seems extremely attractive on my garage. Isn't that odd?

Decorative or Workhorse?

A few cupolas wind up being merely decorative. Although they’re constructed to act as a ventilator, the person who installs them determines to just make the appropriate angle cuts and simply connects the cupola to a roof. In my particular case I wanted my cupola to serve as a rooftop ventilator. It’ll stick up in the air and all breezes that pass by helps in siphoning hot air from the garage attic area. To achieve this, I cut a hole inside the top of the roof. My cupola sits over the hole. It’s actually possible to climb into my attic and stick my head up inside the cupola, similar to an army tank turret. Hmm, I had better not mention this to my son or he’ll be up there in a hurry and survey the countryside for the enemy!


You must be careful while buying a weathervane. A few of them are very decorative and look nice, yet they aren’t all that functional. The balance of a vane is crucial. If the top portion of the weathervane isn’t well balanced, your vane will have a rough time reacting to any wind direction changes. Just the strongest gusts of wind will move it. The top weathervanes often have a ball bearing. This bearing will sit between the top of its iron shaft and top of the weathervane’s tube which slides over its iron shaft. If a weathervane is well balanced, it’ll take little to get the vane to rotate.

Installation Tips for Cupolas

Many of the cupolas are available with installation directions. Some are written well and other ones assume you’ve been a full-time carpenter for around 15 years. Remember that installing such devices isn’t an easy task. You require a certain level of skill and you require certain tools. Also, you must be careful since you’re working up on the roof.

The first thing you should do is trim the base of your cupola in order for it to match the roof pitch. Beware that specific cupola bases will just work for specific maximum roof pitches! It’s an excellent idea to figure out the roof pitch prior to starting to ensure the cupola will work. Roof pitch simply is the quantity of slope that is measured by calculating how many drop inches for each horizontal run foot.

A cupola must be centered on your roof. As you believe you have the right roof pitch, why not transfer the cupola onto a piece of plywood scrap which is the same size as the cupola’s side? Make the cuts and take your plywood up on the roof to check if it fits. If your plywood was a rectangle or square before you began, the top of the piece must be level as you place the cut corners on the actual surface of the roof. If you’re happy with the fit, transfer the pattern to the cupola base’s bottom and cut both sides. Take your cupola base up on your roof and check how it fits.


If you’re determined to make it a ventilator, metal roof flashing will be a must. Don’t rely on caulk to keep the rain from getting underneath your cupola. The caulk eventually will fail.

Your cupola must be connected with blocks which are screwed to your roof. The cupola base will slide over the blocks. Metal roof flashing can be installed underneath each shingle and will butt up against the blocks. You might need assistance from a roofer to do this!

One of our website visitors wondered:

“I want to place a cupola that has a functional weathervane on top of my garage roof. It seems as if it’s a straightforward task, yet I wonder how to trim the bottom of my cupola so that it’ll correctly fit the roof angle. What must you do to keep the rain from leaking inside the garage after cutting the hole for a cupola? How will you support your weathervane? My roof pitch is 6” of rise in 12” of run so I am able to easily stand up and work on it.”

The answer is:

As the roof of your garage is a medium pitch roof, you might be lucky and finish this task in merely one day. If your roof was steeply pitched, this task would need some specialized rigging, as well as an additional assistant. Although you might feel comfortable on your roof, remember that this work is dangerous. Stepping on a stick on your roof may cause you to trip and fall; therefore, be alert and careful at all times.

The difficulty of trimming the right roof slope on the bottom of a cupola stumps most rookie carpenters and homeowners. Seasoned carpenters simply will use a framing square and level to figure out the roof pitch. As the pitch is known, they may adjust the framing square upon the cupola’s bottom and copy the roof angle. You may bypass all this geometry and cut to the chase with a pencil, a level, and square piece of cardboard which is 12” longer than the cupola’s base.

Set the ladder at the roof’s side. Extend it in order for the top of the ladder to be just under the peak. Scale your ladder using a pencil, cardboard and level. Position your cardboard at the corner of the roof. Use your level to ensure the cardboard’s bottom is level. The top of your cardboard ought to be around 3” higher than the roof’s peak. Reach around the cardboard carefully and trace your roof line on the cardboard’s backside. Voila, you have a handy template.

As you’re back on the ground, use your razor knife and carefully trim away the top part of the cardboard. Use the rest of the cardboard in order to transfer the roof angle to the cupola’s base. Be certain the bottom of your template is parallel with the cupola base’s bottom or your cupola is going to be tilted once it’s up on your roof.

Cupolas may be installed a couple of ways. You simply can rest your cupola on your roof without having to cut a hole inside the roof or you may cut a hole in order for the cupola to actually act as a decorative device for ventilation. If you go with the plan A, your odds of a roof leak will be next to nothing. You just have to caulk the long screw heads which you’ll utilize to penetrate through the sides of your cupola down through and into the covering of the roof.

If you make the choice to cut a hole within your roof so that your cupola works as a ventilator, be certain your roof hole is around 6” less in length and width than the outside base of the cupola. It’ll permit you to install concealed blocks on the corners of the hole. Ensure that the cupola easily can slide over the blocks after they’re installed. As the blocks are positioned then screwed to your roof sheathing, put in a traditional metal step flashing beneath every shingle which snugly fits against the hidden blocks. With your flashings in place, drop your cupola down over flashings and blocks. To keep your cupola from blowing off of the roof, just screw through the cupola’s bottom inside the hidden blocks.

Your weather vane rod must rest on an inside flat 2x4 block which oftentimes must be installed in the cupola’s structure. It’s vital that the block be centered inside the cupola. With its center point marked upon the block, you can drill a hole ½” deep which is 1/8” bigger in diameter than a weathervane rod. As you slide your weather vane rod through the cupola’s top, it’ll solidly fit inside the hole. It’ll insure that your weathervane doesn’t lean or wobble.

About Weather Vanes

When doubling as common yard and garden décor, wind or weather vanes have been very purposeful and span back to Ancient Greece. In order to honor Triton, the Greek god, the first weather vane was put on top of the Tower of the Winds inside Athens in order to show the wind’s direction. The ancients believed in the wind’s divine powers and the earliest vanes portrayed a variety of gods as they decorated the houses of rich landowners. Also, bronze weather vanes have been found on Scandinavian churches and Viking ships from the 9th century.

In 9th century A.D., the pope ordered all churches in Europe to show a cock upon their steeple or dome as a reflection of Jesus’ prophecy of Saint Peter’s fall. Since that time, “weather cocks” were a common portion of church architecture within both the U.S. and Europe. In America, patriotic vanes became popular in the 1800s. Later on, vanes that were modeled after famous racehorses paved the way to the mass production of different designs.

The most typical kind of weather vane includes an arrow connected with a rotating upright rod. The arrow will spin freely as weight is equally distributed upon either side of the rotation axis. It’ll allow the arrow to point in the wind’s direction, with the cardinal points of the compass usually shown on traditional weather vanes.

A weather vane ought to be placed into a high position in which buildings, trees, or other items will not interfere. You’ll generally discover them at the tip of poles, roofs, or towers. Some gardeners have the ability to use vanes to make simplistic weather forecasts, yet if a modern vane does not have the right weight balance, it doesn’t show accurate wind direction. Due to this, vanes that have intricate or complicated designs often are merely used for decoration.

Predicting Weather Using Weathervanes

While finely crafted weathervanes add beauty to a home, they also have the practical function of informing individuals about the weather. Interpreting a weather vane message may be both educational and enjoyable.

Wind direction is usually reported by the direction from which it’ll originate. For instance, a northerly wind will blow from the north over to the south. A weathervane will work by moving to minimize resistance of air and are made to turn and point to prevailing winds, and indicate the direction from which wind blows.

Your specific area might be affected by conditions in your locality; however, the following details generally apply to most parts of the Western U.S.:

  • Usually, west winds bring fair skies.
  • Easterly winds, which are caused by the counter-clockwise turn of a low pressure system, typically brings storms.
  • Northeast or east winds, within the summertime or Fall in California, may be an indication of a “Santa Ana”, which includes a dry, hot wind, occasionally strong and gusty.
  • Northerly winds within the wintertime oftentimes herald stormy weather approaching, potentially accompanied by snow or hail. Blowing from cooler areas, particularly while deriving from the northeast, the winds are products of a low pressure system.
  • Southern winds generally bring humid and warm conditions. Usually, a wind from the south will carry gentle rains, although it may bring harsher weather if it meets colder air. Sometimes, flooding happens as a moist system collides with a cool front and deposits “buckets” of rain on a landscape.

Wherever you reside, a Dress the Yard weathervane is made to be decorative, as well as functional and, with a little knowledge of the area, may help you predict and observe weather patterns in your region.

How to Install your Weathervane

Prior to doing anything, make sure all the nuts and bolts holding your weathervane together are easy to unscrew and screw, and clean. If they aren’t, try to clean the bolts and screws using a steel brush. If they’re still difficult, or if they’re rusted, visit your area hardware store and purchase stainless steel screws of the exact same size.

In addition, make sure to align your weathervane so that, as installed, the different directions — South, North, etc. — are pointing within the proper direction. The last thing you will want to do is complete the task only to discover that you must return on the roof! To ensure that you have the right alignments, try to set the weathervane on the floor, such that it’s oriented as it’ll be while installed on your roof and, using a compass or compass app on a smartphone, orient your weathervanes hands so that they point in the right direction.

Identify, as well as agree to the locality of the weathervane prior to installing it. Some individuals install them inside the center of their roofs, others install them towards the right third left of the roof. It is a matter of preference — yet decide ahead of time.

As you have identified a placement on the roof, find your rafters.  We utilized a tape measure in the garage to find the middle of the structure. From the inside, you can drill a pilot hole and place a stiff metal rod through toward the outside, close to the stud or beam you will be attempting to fasten to. It’ll help to eliminate all guesswork later on when you are on the roof.  We utilize insulation rods to do so, however, an older heavy wire coat hanger will work perfectly for this.

Securely put a ladder against your roof, ensuring that you safely secure its feet in order for it not to slip.

While on your roof, it is suggested that you use a fall protection harness. An affordable fall harness for small roofing projects, may be found for about $100.  The kit will come in a storage bucket and will include; a harness, lanyard, anchor point, and 50’ lifeline.

If it’s hot bring a little blanket to set on your roof to guard your skin on your legs from warm shingles.

We put in a layer of Vycor, a self-adhesive flashing tape, as one extra weather protection layer.   The material assists in sealing around penetrating fasteners.

Utilize 3½’’ #14 galvanized wood screws or a self-driving lag screws that secure your weathervane to your roof, over shingles.  We utilized self-driving lag screws from Fasten Master referred to as, HeadLOK.  HeadLOK is a heavy-duty structural wooden screw which is perfect for most wood applications, which include deck framing, fences, stair stringers, kitchen cabinets and much more. It’ll require no predrilling and offer greater design shear than 3/8-inch lag screws. Also, we like the bigger head that eliminated the necessity for washers.

Utilizing an impact driver we connected the base of the weathervane to the roof with the fasteners, and finished up with silicone over fastener locations.

As the base was put in we connected the fish, the weathervane’s moving part.

Add a little breeze and you are good to go!

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