Five Roof Types for Home Architecture

Updated on February 28, 2019
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The Gable Roof

The Gable roof is the most common and well known roof type, and consists of two planes at an angle, spanning the home lengthwise. Roofs of this type are usually placed at a slightly flat pitch to offer the best tradeoff between weather runoff and afforded space.

The pitch of any roof is measured in the comparison between its rise (how much the roof goes up) and its run (how much roof there is). For a 9:12 pitch it means that the roof goes up 9 inches for every 12 inches of roof, or about 40 degrees. A 10:10 pitch would be a 45 degree angle.

The more steep the pitch, the better the roof can shed water and snow. Its steeper angle will offer less room for snow to accumulate and snow will come off quicker. The downside is that a steeper pitch claims more of the space under the roof. Less space means that you will have less room on your first story or loft.

Gable roofs are simple but strong structures that easy to build and insulate. They are the most common type of roof and most cost-effective.

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The Gambrel Roof

With a Gambrel, the roof has two separate pitches. Usually the top section is less steep than the side section. This means that you make a good trade off between the roof's ability to shed water and snow, while maintaining a lot of room underneath the roof for a loft.

This look is also very much a traditional barn or farm look, and is very visually appealing. The space underneath can be utilized further by adding dormer windows to the roof.

Unfortunately, the wider section at the top means that the central part of the house suffers more from snow piling on, and the part where the roof changes pitch may be more structurally vulnerable. This type of roof is less strong than a gable, especially if the space underneath the roof is left open.

Strengthening the roof in areas of heavy snowfall might require sacrificing some of the space inside for additional beams and hoists.

The Gambrel roof fits with a more rustic or traditional country style, and is great if you want to have additional space for a loft.

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The Hip or Mansard Roof

Hip and Mansard roofs are both typified by having slopes on four sides of the building, rather than two. Like the Gambrel roof, the Mansard also has two slopes: a very steep one at the sides and a very flat one at the top. The Hip roof has only a single slope, looking more like a double gable roof.

The advantages here are that there is a clear and strongly pronounced roof, but it contains almost as much space inside as a full story. Because of this, it can offer a way to incorporate a second story in the house without adding too much bulk.

Unfortunately, this roof type does require a lot more support and maintenance, making it more expensive to build and maintain over a long time. Because it is an already complicated roof structure, it is advised to place this kind of roof on top of a relatively simple structure.

These roof types offer a stunning visual and great protection from weather, but are more expensive and sacrifice some of the facade.

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The Flat Roof

Flat roofs give a very modern look to a building, and a great if you have plans with the space on top of your house. Whether you are considering a series of sun-tracking solar panels or might want to have some additional terrace space in summer, a flat roof will allow you use the roof space in times with no rain or snow.

While flat roofs are easy to construct, they have less support strength. This means they are not suitable for areas with heavy snow. In places with heavy rainfall, the roof will need a high capacity water drainage system to prevent it from becoming laden with water and placing pressure on the structure below.

The Flat roof offers options for adding solar panels that can track the sun or additional space for a summer patio, but can have problems with excessive rain or snow.

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The Combination Roof

Sometimes you are designing a house with a complicated shape, such as an L shape or H shaped home. This means that there are a number of areas where different roof sections meet, which can complicate the build.

Here it can be advantageous to combine different roof types to make the best use of the space below it. For example, an L shape might feature the main section with a Gambrel roof so that there is room for a loft, but have the short L with a flat roof so that there is room for a terrace which is accessible from the loft.

Another example would be, as shown on the picture. having a hipped roof that does not meet at the apex of the roof, but instead leaves a section of the facade flat and open, saving that internal space for a window where otherwise it would be consumed by the hip roof.

Offering a great look and versatility to accommodate different sections of a home comes at an increased cost and need to properly engineer the structure.

Roof Material Choices

When it comes to the roof materials and style, you have three major shapes:

  • Tiles or Shingles
  • Sheathing or Bands
  • Gravel

Gravel is really only used on flat roofs, because it allows for water to be moved quickly away from the surface, while tiles or shingles are the most common style of roof cladding.

The material is a major contributor to the feel of the house; traditional materials like wood or copper will give a more old-fashioned or rustic look, while using steel or colored ceramic tiles will give a more modern feel to the house.

There are many kinds of roof materials and cladding styles available, and choosing the right one is very important if you want your house to have a uniform look. Try and find a style which matches between roof and side materials, while using colors or materials that contrast with it.

A wooden log house with a copper roof, a concrete house with a metal roof, or an earthen earth-ship with a living roof are all great examples where roof and siding come together to tell a story.

Roof Materials

Material
Benefits
Drawback
Concrete or Ceramic Tile
Easy to place
Heavy, somewhat expensive
Corrugated Sheathing
Cheap, quick to place
Less durable, less visually pleasing
Metal Sheathing
Durable, quick to place
Corrosion, somewhat expensive
Copper Plate or Tile
Extremely durable, visually striking
Expensive, toxic, heavy
Wood Tile
Cheap, visually striking
Flammable, less durable
Living Roof
Insulating, sustainable
Requires maintenance, heavy

Conclusion

The roof type and material should match the style you want your home to have. Flat and Gable roofs fit with more modern homes, while mansard and Gambrel roofs give a traditional look.

Adding wood, copper or a living roof enhances the feel of an already traditional style, but can also bring a modern home down to a more rustic style. Likewise, a traditional roof style can benefit from having more modern materials used such as metal sheathing or concrete tile to give it a clean outlook.

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