Defining Style: Cape Cod

Jeff Smith
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When the Cape Cod style originated in New England during the late 17th century, early builders worked to integrate simple beauty into designs that were practical and comfortable. Their approach was influenced by shipbuilders, resulting in designs that also were compact and efficient. Historically, the style is characterized by a steep roof with side gables, a small roof overhang and clapboard or shingle siding with contrasting trim. Originally, a Cape Cod house was a one-story structure. As families realized they could expand into the attic, gabled dormers were often added to offer 1 ½ stories of living space. Today’s Cape Cod houses may include 2 to 2 ½ stories or added wings, but still maintain the historic characteristics of simple beauty.


Cape Cod houses can feature any traditional profile – clapboard, beaded or Dutchlap – as the main exterior cladding. Durable vinyl siding is available in each of these styles. Clapboard profiles are available in vinyl with a choice of 3″ to 8″ reveals. Beaded profiles are available in 6″ to 7″ reveals and Dutchlap is available in 3″ to 5½” reveals.


Shakes or shingles are also common as the primary exterior cladding for Cape Cod houses. Vinyl and other polymeric siding are available in an array of shake and shingle profiles.


A light to medium palette in all colors except reds, greens and browns is typical for Cape Cod houses. Dark gray or blue are options for shake or shingle cladding. Vinyl siding offers a diverse color palette, including more than 350 colors certified for color retention.

Trim and Accessories:

A wide selection of trim and accessories are available. Options suited for the Cape Cod style include crown and dentil molding for fascia or friezes [or both]; beaded soffit; decorative front door surrounds with triangular pediments and pilasters; window crowns or pediments and lineals; gable vent covers; and shutters.

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Filled with inspiration and insight, Designing Style: A Guide to Designing with Vinyl Siding was developed in collaboration with experienced architects, designers, builders and vinyl siding manufacturers.

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