Whether you're building a new home or considering an addition, the shape of the roof is one of many decisions you have to make. One of many roof types is the shed roof, also called a skillion roof. Weighing the pros and cons of a shed roof helps you decide if it's the best option for your upcoming build.
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What Is a Shed Roof?
Think of a shed roof as a flat roof at a steeper slope. You can also think of it as one half of a traditional gable roof. Whereas a hip roof and other popular roof types have at least two sides, the shed roof has a single slope that can vary in steepness depending on the design.
This style was once used mainly on sheds, but it's becoming more popular on residential homes. Sometimes, the entire roof is a shed-style roof. On other homes, only a section of the structure uses a shed roof. You might use a shed roof on a new addition to your home even though the rest of the house has a hip roof or another design, for example. It's a simple and inexpensive way to roof the newer section.
Simple Roof Design
Since the shed roof has just one flat surface, it's a very simple design that makes it easy to build. Your contractor doesn't have to worry about various surfaces meeting, multiple ridges or lots of valleys that make the job more challenging. That means your contractor can build your roof much faster than many other roof styles, and you have a clean, simple look when it's done.
Cost-Effective Roof Option
The simplicity of the shed roof design also makes it more cost effective. This style uses fewer materials, which cuts down on that part of the cost. It's easy for roofers to build, so they can complete the job faster for less labor time, and there aren't any complex parts of the job to make the price skyrocket. If you're looking for a cost-effective roof option, the skillion roof may be a good choice.
Effective Water Shedding
A potential downfall of the similar flat roof is the inability to easily shed water and snow. Since a shed roof generally has a much steeper slope, it lets the water roll right down it and over the edge. Pooling water on a roof can cause leaks and other damage. Lots of built-up snow adds extra weight to the roof that can also cause damage, so shedding water and snow more efficiently is a definite advantage.
Roofs with multiple valleys introduce more places for leaks to happen and more potential places for pooling water. The shed roof eliminates those additional seams and pooling spots to better shed the water and keep the roof safe from water damage.
Contemporary Home Look
If you're designing a modern-style home, the shed roof fits well with the design scheme. It's often considered a very clean, contemporary, minimalist look, so it's perfect if that's your goal. Skillion roofs can also take on an industrial-style look.
Versatile Roofing Material Options
Because of the slope on a shed roof, it allows for almost any type of roofing material. You can go with traditional shingles, metal roofing, rolled roofing, clay tiles or cedar shakes, for example. This gives you more options for finishing the roof in a style you like with a material that has the durability and maintenance requirements that fit your preferences.
Lots of Natural Sunlight
The design of a home with a shed roof can potentially increase the amount of natural light coming into the home. The tall wall at the front of the house can support tall windows or multiple rows of windows. Side walls also have plenty of roof for floor-to-ceiling windows, particularly closest to the high wall. The large, flat roof is a good spot for skylights to let in more light.
Suitability for Solar Panels
A south-facing shed roof gives you plenty of space on one side of the home to attach solar panels because it consists of one large slope instead of two or more slopes going opposite directions. If you're building a home and want to use solar panels, consider the positioning of the home on the property to best maximize the solar energy collection.
Susceptibility to High Winds
If you live in an area with frequent high winds or the risk of hurricanes, a skillion roof isn't your best bet. These roofs don't tend to fare as well in high wind as other roof styles. High winds can lift the roof off the home easier on a skillion roof than on a more sturdy style. Work with your contractor to choose a roof shape that works best in your area if you have extreme weather.
Lower Interior Ceiling Heights
A home with a shed-style roof may have some awkward spaces inside. Since the roof consists of just one slanted surface, it's higher on one side of the home and lower on the other. Inside the house, that can result in a much lower ceiling in part of the home, which can present a challenge in using the space effectively.
The ceiling height issue depends largely on the slope of the roof. A very steep slope results in much lower ceilings near the lower edge of the roof. If you have attic space on the upper level, the situation doesn't affect the look of the home, but it does cut down on storage space and accessibility in the attic.
Less Versatility in Style
Since shed roofs tend to have a more contemporary style, they don't work for all homes. If you're going for a more traditional look, the shed roof may seem out of place. It's also a fairly basic roof, so homeowners looking for more detailing on the roof may prefer a different style with various peaks, dormers or other design elements.
Potential Drainage Issues
While most skillion roofs shed water well, if yours has a very low slope, you may notice some drainage issues. A lower slope makes it more challenging for the water to run off the roof, which may cause some pooling. Snow may also build up more on a shed roof with a low slope. Work with your contractor to choose a slope that fits the look of the home while also allowing water to run off well.
Even with a steeper slope, you need gutters that can keep up with the heavier water amounts. Instead of water running down at least two different directions into two or more gutters, all water goes in one direction off the roof into one gutter. That means you need a gutter system that can keep up with all of the water at once.
Difficulty Retrofitting an Existing Roof
If you're replacing an existing roof that's a different style, a shed roof is an expensive route. The structural support and design is completely different for a shed roof, which means you'll have to completely rebuild it. Because of the slope of the shed roof, the front wall of the home is taller than the back wall, which can present challenges if you're switching from a traditional roof type. Shed roofs are usually best for new construction or a new addition where you can design the home to fit the roof style.
Little or No Attic Space
Most homes with a shed ceiling have no attic. Instead, the ceiling takes on the same slope as the roof. It adds a unique architectural component inside your home, especially when paired with skylights, but it also means you lose out on attic space. Shed-style roof homes that do have attic space tend to have limited room in that area.
When you're deciding what type of roof to choose, comparing the pros and cons of each can help you narrow down the options. Shed roofs offer a simple, contemporary look in an affordable, easy-to-build roof, but you should plan for the potential drawbacks to make sure the pros outweigh the cons.
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Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.