What are finials?

What are finials?

historical roof finials illustrationA finial is essentially a decorative roof ornament or feature, typically based on a ridge tile fitting that is fitted to decoratively emphasize the gable end or apex of the roof. Finials add architectural detail and character to the roof of the property.

Finials take many forms and feature a wide range of different designs, figures, and sculptures. Finials have been used all over the world since medieval times, most notably in China and more recently in the UK. The Romans were also known to have decorated their roofs with ornamental features because fragments have turned up in archaeological digs.

In the UK, the Victorians were into roof finials in a big way, and a lot of Victorian properties still retain roof finials as part of the original architecture of the buildings. The finials in our range are based on the Victorian style.

Victorian finials

The Victorians really did champion roof finials and used them in their thousands in the design and architecture of their buildings. Typical Victorian finial designs include fleur de lys finials, spike finials, ball finials, and scrolled varieties, among a host of other designs. The finials tend to sport a decorative ridge tile base complete with a finial crest or castings that include the ridge base and sculpture as a complete piece.

Gothic style finials

Gothic roof finials typically include ornamental figures such as roof dragons, gargoyles, wyverns, grotesques, and other mythical creatures. These gothic roof finials feature some stunning and decorative designs, and aside from anything else, they decorate the roof and are said to ward off evil spirits, deter witches on broomsticks, or in the case of roof dragons, provide good luck.

Dragon finials and Gothic finials in the UK started appearing in the 1870s and possibly before that. The Gothic style was influenced by Chinese architecture.

Finial traditions and heritage

Finials and roof sculptures turn up in archaeological digs. A small decorative piece of clay terracotta was found on the banks of the Thames. This small piece of terracotta was in the shape of an animal, and it was identified as being part of a medieval roof finial dating back approximately 800 years to the 12th century. As previously mentioned, the Romans also used finials and sculptures in their architecture.

Roof finials are not only part of English architectural importance and history; Chinese and other cultures have used ornate roof finials for their grand buildings and traditions for hundreds of years.

What materials are finials made of?

Finials are mainly made from clay, concrete, wood, and stone. Clay finials were very popular in Victorian times; however, with most of them being well over 100 years old, a percentage have already been lost, are damaged, or are in poor condition.

Concrete finials are a modern, quality, and cost effective solution to replacing, restoring, or adding beautiful architectural features to the roof.

When original finials and features break or are in poor condition, we assist architects, homeowners, roofers, and builders in replacing missing, damaged, and broken original finials to restore buildings to their former glory, preserving original details for years to come.