Tackling An Exterior Victorian Paint Project? What You Should Know About Gingerbread Trim

When our family quickly began outgrowing our home, my husband and I couldn't decide whether to add onto our current home or move into a larger one. One day, when we were checking the local area looking for "home for sale" signs, we saw a sign we couldn't take our eyes off -- there was a large plot of land for sale for a great price in a great location. We had never thought of building our own home before, but after a little research, we realized that it wasn't as costly as we thought, especially considering the great deal we got on the land. The entire process was a learning experience, but thankfully, the building team was very pleasant and helpful. We now love our new home, and I am excited to share our experience on our new blog. I also plan to post many planning and construction tips!

Tackling An Exterior Victorian Paint Project? What You Should Know About Gingerbread Trim

10 February 2016
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Articles


Taking on an exterior painting job on a Victorian home can be challenging. Unlike more clean-lined modern structures, most Victorians have a decorative, and somewhat frilly, gingerbread trim. The most elaborate designs use a multitude of colors and shapes that give these homes their "turn of the 20th century" personality. Below is a basic explanation of gingerbread trim and three common places you might find it.

Gingerbread Trim Defined

The name may come from the trim's similarity to a gingerbread cookie decorated with swirls of frosting and colorful candies. While the basic cookie is usually flat, the gingerbread on a Victorian is made up of carved pieces of painted wood, made possible by the invention of the scroll saw.  

Unlike a band saw, which must make an entry cut to carve out an interior piece, the blade on a scroll saw may be placed in a drilled starting hole. The blade is also more flexible, allowing you to cut more intricate curves and repetitive patterns.

In the Victorian age, named for Queen Victoria, frills were found on clothing, furnishings and even horse-drawn carriages. It wasn't a surprise that frilly, boldly painted trims started showing up on homes of the well[-]to[-]do. A row of Victorian homes known as the "painted ladies" in San Francisco is a perfect example of this gingerbread style.

Gingerbread Trim Hotspots

Gingerbread trim is most commonly found on verandas, along cornices and decorating dormer windows.

Veranda Gingerbread

A Victorian veranda gives your home the "WOW" factor, that unforgettable curb appeal that is meant to impress. Some verandas wrap around the sides of the home, often with seating areas ideal for entertaining. An elegantly carved staircase, columns with intricate lace-like tops and an arched entryway are common features.

 A more elaborately carved entry usually had one main color with a few accent shades. Simpler designs usually made up for less carved detail with more color. For example, the banister rails could be one color and the slats another. The larger banister posts and the carved arches could have two colors each.

Just imagine a banister rail of medium green, off-white rails and the banister posts sporting a dark green with an apple green stripe along the center. The arches would match the darker green of the post and the off-white of the rails. The finished paint job is impressive, but it takes a lot of time and work to get that look right.

Cornice Gingerbread

The roof line on a Victorian home usually has an elaborate cornice trim. It's often painted to contrast with the main house color and may or may not match the veranda. The top of the cornice tends to have more cutouts and curves. Sticking with the green theme, the home could be a light green and the cornice a bright white. The cut outs could be accented in a bold red brick color. Versions using shades of brown or blue with white and red accents are also common.

Dormer Window Gingerbread

If your home has dormer windows, a style that juts out from the roof line, you may have even more gingerbread to deal with. The windows usually have their own peaked mini-roof with a carved design, or gable, and sometimes have a small balcony to add architectural interest. Some Victorian homeowners match the dormer colors to the rest of the home, while others use the dormers as focal points.

If you are the artistic type that enjoys a challenge, then perhaps making that Victorian paint job your own DIY project will make you happy. Otherwise, it's best to call in the professionals for such a detailed task. Contact a company like Gary D Torgerson Co for more tips and ideas about such a detailed project.