Building a Cupola

For people who enjoy home improvement projects, especially woodworking, building a cupola is a great project. Since a cupola can be added to the roof of a house, barn, gazebo, guesthouse, or other outdoor buildings, it provides the ideal project, enhancing appearance with charm and elegance. Although building a cupola would be considered a little more of an advanced project, if you have building skills, tools, and patience, then perhaps this would be a great consideration.

Materials Selection

Although you could choose a number of materials for building a cupola, most experts suggest you use Western Red Cedar or a newer material known as high-density polyethylene. The benefit with redwood is durability and a natural resistance to insects and rot. Polyethylene is even stronger, made to handle the environment while also coming in a number of colors, which will not fade. Another benefit to both these materials is the lightweight, which means not much weight is added to the roof structure.


To get started, three skeletons were made, followed by plywood skin and tarpaper being securely into place with screws. For the facing, the redwood or polyethylene would be used. If you want an extra special design for your cupola, you could always create one with louvers, along with windows. Now, while you could use actual glass, remember that this material is heavy and can be broken or damaged during storms. Instead, you could choose Plexiglas or even bulletproof glass.

Cupola Touches

To complete the building of the cupola, consider adding elaborate corner brackets, which are also called Cupid's Key. Another element that can be added for a fancier appearance includes the sunburst. With this, you immediately have a 19th century look or you could choose another finish for whatever period you like. Then, to complete the building of the cupola, a copper roof is stunning.

The great thing about copper is that it wears exceptionally well while looking rich and sophisticated. The only thing to remember is that as copper is exposed to sunlight, it will begin to turn a marbled green, which is known as patina. Some people like that look while others prefer the clean, shiny copper. If you want to patina the copper from the start, you can actually purchase a special chemical, which is applied to the surface. Otherwise, you could use another type of chemical to keep the copper from turning color.

To Finish

When finished, you will have a cupola weighing anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 pounds. Because of this, a special crane would need to be used to lift the cupola into place. Remember, in addition to being beautiful, adding character to your home or barn, a cupola can also be used to help with ventilation. For this, hot air from the roof is pushed out, helping to keep the home, barn, etc, cooler.