It’s disappointing, but understandable, that more people don’t consider themselves “roof connoisseurs.” After all, most homeowners take their roofs for granted, as Bob Dylan put it, “shelter from the storm.” Oh, but accounting for only a mere 3% of the total house construction cost, a roof is so much more than that! 😉
Aside from material selection, what really gives your roof personality is its design and construction; how the peaks and valleys merge together. Some people might not be aware they had multiple choices regarding roof design, but here are 20 of the most popular roof styles and their associated pros and cons.
Most flat roofs are not really 100% flat, but rather they are low-sloped roofs that appear flat, but have a little bit of a slope to allow for the run-off of rainwater. Flat roofs are commonly found in modern architecture style homes, commercial buildings, or home additions such as a sunroom.
As the name implies, a truly flat roof would have no pitch, which could lead to the obvious problem of rainwater pooling up and creating a stagnant spa area for mosquitoes, bacteria, mold, etc.
The rainwater problem can be solved by centrally-located drains, scuppers, and gutters to evacuate the water. Asphalt shingles and other traditional roofing materials are not viable options for low-slope roofs. Low-slope roofs are instead covered either by EPDM rubber, single-ply membranes, and multi-ply membranes, or a tar/asphalt coating that provides water protection.
PVC and TPO roofs are also viable options to explore. – They offer better longevity and durability compared to EPDM rubber roofs.
The term ‘gable’ refers to the triangular shape that is formed when the two pitched areas of your roof meet. It makes sense then that a gable style roof is basically one side up and the other side down similar to the roof on a traditional dog house.
Did you know? Roofing contractors love gable roofs, because gable shape entails covering only two flat surfaces without any hips or valleys, which means that virtually any type of roofing material can be used.
The gable design is available in almost any type of roof pitch, from low-slope ranch style homes to steep A-frames.
One of the only major problems with a gable roof is that they hang over creating eaves which are ripe for peeling off completely under strong winds.
One of the biggest problems with the gable roof style is that the two ends of the two house will have no shade or cover because there are only two roofing surfaces. A hipped roof is the style of a roof shape that fixes such a problem. A hip roof is defined as ‘when all sides slope downwards towards the walls’.
Hipped roofs usually have four sides – two with triangular shapes and two with trapezoids. One of the difficulties with a hipped roof is matching materials between the sides and ends. They do perform better in high wind areas however, especially the steeper the pitch.
Gablet (Dutch gable)
A casserole of roofs that solves the individual problems created in both the gabled and hipped design is the gablet (UK) or Dutch gable (North America) design.
A gablet basically puts a gabled roof on top of a hipped roof. The result is easier access to the lower portion (hipped) of the roof with the added benefits of natural light and attic or bedroom space (gable). Most types of materials can be used in a Dutch gable roof and in fact using variations in colors or types actually adds a nice contrast.
The jerkinhead design typically features mostly gable with a little bit of hipped influx mixed in. Gable roofs that are clipped into a short hipped design on the ends are structurally superior to wind uplift.
This design is frequently seen on the second story of a house where the clipped hip doesn’t disrupt the view from a dormer window.
A saltbox-style roof is one that’s popular in New England and other Northeaster states. The asymmetrical design is trademarked by the front of the home having 2 stories compared to one story in the back.
The look resembles a profile view of the old salt boxes which utilized that design so it was easier to pour.
The long protrusion of the rear roof portion extending almost to the ground makes it great for rainwater to disperse from.
One of the cons includes rooms on the backside of the house having slanted ceilings, limiting tall people to use essentially half the house. The saltbox does provide more wind resistance than a standard gable house though – perfect if you can get around the unique looks.
A catslide is very similar to a saltbox style roof except that they are often only used in portions of the back roof or on home additions. Catslides extend beyond the eaves of a building, creating more depth at the cost of height. A catslide might be used as an extension into a mudroom/entrance or a transition into a three-seasons/sun room.
A dormer isn’t necessarily an independent roof type, but more of an addition to an existent roofing style. A dormer is a window and a roof (gabled, hipped, flat, among others) that protrudes from the existing slope of a roof. Like some contractor’s tool belts a dormer can either be functional or just for show.
A functional dormer creates usable space out of the roof of a building, adding natural light and headroom. A false dormer is blocked off from the interior and is only used to boost curb appeal from the exterior. Dormers are usually, but not always, roofed in the same material as the house. To many roofing contractors they are a nuisance and an extra spot where a leak could arise, but for homeowners they serve as a priceless reading nook or way to get some morning sunshine. 🙂