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What is a Cupola and How Are They Fabricated?

Today, cupolas are seen on many older buildings and in some new construction as a stylistic element with limited functionality. If you have ever asked yourself "what is a cupola?" you may be interested to know that the cupola was designed for several different functional purposes before it became the embellishment that it is in modern architecture.

What Is A Cupola?

A cupola is a small dome-like structure that protrudes above the roof of some buildings. It is most often seen in cathedrals and chapels where the dome is then decorated to stand out. Many large government buildings like state capitals also boast grand cupolas in their construction. Depending on the type of construction, a cupola can be made of many different materials or painted different colors to accent the building.


In the past, cupolas were used to provide several different functions to buildings. They typically provided a good way to ventilate a tall room or tower, providing a way for heat to escape from the dome. In addition, cupolas with open or glass sides provide a shaft of sunlight for some buildings where there would otherwise be no other source of natural light. While most modern construction take advantage of advancements in HVAC and window technologies, barns, small cottages and even some new worship spaces still utilize cupolas effectively to provide these services.

Building & Restoring Cupolas

Today, cupolas are built and restored using a variety of materials. Cupolas can be built from traditional wood construction materials and stained or sealed to give them an elegant or rustic appearance to match the building. Or, you can select shingles, siding or sheet metal to enclose the frame and provide the look you are going for.

A cupola can add an interesting touch of flavor to your home, garage or barn. In some cases it can provide light and ventilation, but in other cases it can be a purely aesthetic touch. Designing your cupola can be done with the help of a professional who will help you find the right size and materials to make it worth your money to invest in.

If you are looking for more information about cupolas, how one can be added to your building, or to learn more about our cupola restoration methods, contact Heather and Little today.

Preservation Consulting

And if you are looking for a second opinion on your project or have a particularly complex issue that needs a fresh eye, we’re here for that too. Tackling tricky challenges is our specialty and we welcome the opportunity to provide consulting advice, with the same exacting attention to detail we bring to all our commissions.

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