Norm Abram's Innovative Eyebrow

When This Old House master carpenter Norm Abram built his house, he knew he wanted a different look for the window in his office. "Skylights were out because I thought they would let in too much heat," he says. "Also, I wanted to be able to see who was coming up the driveway while sitting at my desk." Norm was thinking about a shed or gable dormer when designer Jock Gifford came up with a twist: a 4-foot-high, curve-topped window that broke the eaves line of the front of the building and ended in an eyebrowlike dormer on the roof.

Norm framed his eyebrow with two separate support structures—one for the roof and one for the ceiling. The rafters are 2x4s, 6 inches on center, that butt into a curved header made from four layers of screwed-and-glued ¾-inch plywood. He sheathed the dormer with two layers of easy-to-bend 3/8-inch plywood (not shown), which creates a solid ¾-inch deck that dies into the main roof. Then he shingled the roof with red cedar. Another set of 2x4 interior rafters supports the wire lath and plaster ceiling below (also not shown).

"Framing was key," says Norm. "We built everything based on the dimensions of the curve ordered from the window manufacturer. When we tipped the window into place, there was a quarter inch to spare." A perfect fit for the framing and for the look of Norm's house.
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