Builders often choose particular roof styles for aesthetic reasons to fit with the overall style of the home. But roof shapes also affect the functionality. Each type of roof offers different pros and cons that you should consider before building a home or purchasing an existing home.
One of the most common styles, the gable roof comes to a peak with pitched sides. Think of it as an upside-down V. This style forms a triangular shape at the top of the end walls, which are called gables.
The main advantage is the ability for snow and water to roll off the roof, which minimizes leaks and dangerous snow and ice buildup. The gable style leaves plenty of space inside the home for an attic or vaulted ceilings, depending on the interior design. Gable roofs are also ideal for ventilation. Plus, it's an easy style to build, which makes them cheaper. And they work on most styles of homes.
But if you live in an area with frequent high winds or hurricanes, the gable roof may not be the best choice as they don't stand up well to strong wind. The entire roof can collapse or the wind can easily pull materials from the roof or even detach the roof from the home.
On a hip roof, every side of the roof slopes down with no vertical or flat sections, so the tops of the walls where the roof attaches are all horizontal without the triangular section you find on a gable roof. A classic hip roof has two trapezoid and two triangular sections and can have either a rectangular or square roof.
Compared to a gable roof, the hip roof offers greater stability, making it a better choice for windy or snowy climates. A hip roof may also be a better option for adding additional living space on the top floor.
Because this design is more complex and requires more material than a gable roof, it is often more expensive to build. If the roof design includes dormers, it introduces additional seams and valleys, which allows more places for potential leaks. It's important to have proper construction of this style to minimize leaking.
Dutch Hip Roof
Think of this option as a combination between a hip roof and gable roof. It's essentially a traditional hip-style roof but with small gables on either end of the rooftop. It combines the best features of both types.
This option adds more potential for space in the upper part of the attic or top floor. You also get more light through windows installed in the gabled section. And those gables help improve ventilation. Like a regular hip roof, this option can be more susceptible to leaking, though.
Even though the name and appearance suggest that flat roofs have no pitch, most actually do have a slight angle to them, with typically no more than a 10-degree pitch. This is to help with drainage to prevent water from pooling on the roof. Flat roofs aren't as common on residential structures as they are on commercial buildings, but they are used on some homes, especially on modern-style homes.
One perk of going with a flat roof is the option for creating a rooftop living space, such as a patio or garden. It's also an ideal design for rooftop mechanicals, such as HVAC units or solar panels. Plus, a flat roof is easy to build with fewer materials, so it's a cheaper roof solution.
The relatively flat design puts these roofs at a higher risk for leaking, especially in areas with lots of rain or snow. Flat roofs tend to require more maintenance and repairs, so they can cost more in the long run. The flat design also means the roof might catch debris that falls on it.
Picture the roof of a barn to form a mental image of what a gambrel roof looks like. It has a similar design with two different slopes at two different angles. The upper section of the roof usually has a lower slope angle, while the lower portion of the roof has a very steep slope. This style is popular for log cabins and homes with a farmhouse, Dutch Colonial or Georgian style.
One advantage of a gambrel roof is the extra room it provides inside. This makes it an ideal style if you want to create a living space on the upper floor. It's also a relatively simple design with a modest amount of materials, so that keeps costs down.
The drawback of a gambrel roof is the stability. It's not ideal for areas with high winds or heavy snow because it doesn't hold up well under pressure.
Skillion or Shed Roof
A skillion roof features a single slope, usually on a structure with one higher wall. For example, the front of the structure might have a taller wall than the wall on the back. The roof would slope from the higher front wall down toward the lower back wall. The skillion roof isn't just for sheds. It's popular on modern-style homes.
Because it's a single slope, the skillion roof is easy to build and conserves on materials, making it a relatively inexpensive option. The high side of the home can feature lots of windows to give the space more natural light. The single slope without lots of peaks and valleys also cuts down on the potential entry points for water. Since most skillion roofs have steep slopes, water can run off of them easily.
But that steep slope can cause some design issues inside. Sometimes, the ceiling on the lower end of the slope can feel low, especially if the slope is particularly steep. These roofs also don't hold up as well in high-wind areas.
The ideal type of roof varies depending on the local weather patterns, home style and personal preference. With pros and cons to each, it's important to look at your needs when choosing a roof style.
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- Eagle Roofing Products: What's the Right Roof Design for My Next Home? Here Are Four of the Most Commonly Used Roof Designs
- Home Advisor: Hip Roofs
- This Old House: Roof Shapes
- Roof Cost Estimator: Top 15 Roof Types, Plus Their Pros & Cons: Read Before You Build
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.