The value of the roof over your home cannot be overstated. Sure, we all know it’s primary purpose is to protect us from stormy weather and prevent animals who may otherwise drop things on our heads. Bonus points for keeping strong winds outside, where they belong, and stopping the sun from baking us under intense heat. Oh and those critters agile enough to climb walls, yes they too can take a well constructed roof as fair warning that they are not welcomed to stay, rent free.
“At least we have a roof over our head.” – said no one, ever, who cared about the quality and character of their house.
For us civilized creatures, the home roof is both a basic necessity and, when done right, a thing of beauty. It has lasting value and adds character to what is otherwise a box, we call home.
This guide to roof styles is for anyone looking for inspiration or information to update and/or replace their existing roof. Or perhaps you are considering an addition to your house, an added structure to your property or even a new home altogether. Whatever the case may be, let us guide you through the many details that make for a roofing project. We have a huge variety of styles for you to browse through and lots of ground to cover before we get there. We’ll talk about shapes, concepts, pros and cons of various materials, costs, planning considerations and what makes for character (hint: combinations and willingness to be bold with designs). Whatever your roofing needs may be, we’ve done our best to leave no stone unturned. So, let’s get on with it!
First Things First
As exhaustive as our guide may be, it must be emphasized that a quality roofing contractor is your best friend in translating design ideas into a finished product that is up to snuff. An architect or interior designer can assist with plans, and a carpenter type may suffice on smaller projects. But a roofer is the indispensable craftsman who likely has the experience, knows the trade according to regional traditions and has the process down to a practical science. Our goal is to help you, help them in being a viable partner in that process. 😉
So, the purpose of a roof, everyone knows. It’s the basics of shelter. But functions of a roof are a good place to start on a path toward understanding the science. Don’t worry, we’ll do our best not to put you to sleep here. 🙂
First there is Drainage.
A sloped roof, all on it’s own, okay with help from gravity, is going to take those nasty weather elements and move them down to the ground. At first glance, that’s a good thing, but not so much when you realize that it would be poor design to have all sides of a roof pouring water on you. Not to mention leaving a standing pool of water by your home’s foundation! And so, our first consideration is the drainage system for any roof. In most cases, gutters, downspouts and drain pipes will do the trick. In certain cases, a pipe is needed on the roof, traveling through the home (hopefully hidden behind walls) to the ground, or underneath it.
Some folks, G-d bless them, prefer to collect that fallen precipitation via rain barrels. Just as long as it doesn’t stay where it doesn’t belong and lead to leaky roofs, or a rotting foundation, it’s all good. Fortunately for us, a good contractor will have the science worked out, and regardless of the type of roof we select, make it work for us.
Foremost, er secondly, is Insulation.
What a roof is made of, assuming it is a durable material, is going to provide a degree of natural insulation. Ideally, the material reflects the heat of the sun, and is allowed to breath, from below, so it maintains a desired temperature. If a roof is poorly insulated, problems can arise. More on that in a moment. What’s below the outer layer of a roof is vital. The air needs to circulate and the attic space needs to be well ventilated. Not good is air that is trapped against the roof’s underside. Here is where framing for a roof really starts to matter.
An attic space can be very helpful, especially if that space is also properly insulated. Window spaces or vents in the roof will help in ventilating the air. If the air is instead trapped, that outer layer will react, poorly. In climates where it gets bitterly cold, the warm air inside can lead to ice damming. This results in icicles hanging over gutters which may fascinate us, but is really a sign that heat is trapped in the attic space. It melts snow that is on the roof, drips along the slope, and then refreezes before gravity finishes its job. This strains a portion of the drainage system by putting pressure on gutters, plus leads to standing water on the roof that is visibly not able to fall to the ground. If instead that warm air was circulated and vented out, the roof would remain a consistent temperature.
Another function of a roof is its Aesthetic Value.
When the first 2 functions are working optimally, and overall structure, including depth of materials and color scheming is at its ideal setting, the roof provides a discernible sense of quality. Add in ornamental features or added structural details, such as a dormer (like the two in the picture above), and suddenly the character of the house is palpable. It tells anyone looking on, my owner cares about me. It’s like the head on the body. While the body is a thing to explore, most will first pay attention to the head to determine, for themselves, the overall aesthetic quality of a home.
Wait, What Is a Roof Again?
Some folks understand the many components that make up the design and structure of a roof. For those who need a refresher, this section is for you. We’ll now enlighten you on a roof’s pitch, the 4 very basic shapes, and some of the many details that go into roof design.
Understanding roof pitch is both fairly basic and a little complex. The basic explanation is that most roofs have a slope, and the degree of steepness associated with the slope is called pitch. See, simple. The tricky part is determining pitch for any existing roof. It’s based on convention and math. There are 2 sets of numbers that convey a roof’s pitch. These relate to how high the roof is from the rest of the house (rise) and compare this to width (or length) of the house from corner to corner (run or span) along a single wall. When a pitch value is shown, it will appear as 2:12 (which would indicate a nearly flat roof) or 18:12 (very steep). The second number (run) is always going to be 12. That first number is what changes, but stays within a range. In this article, we stick to the basics, which follows this logic:
2:12 pitch or lower = low-Slope or nearly flat style roof
5:12 pitch down to 2:12 = moderately steep
6:12 pitch and up to 21:12 = fairly steep to very very steep
Determining the math is just complex enough that we suggest you do one of two things:
You can have a professional contractor or carpenter visit your home to help you determine the exact pitch of your roof.
This guide is ultimately about the top 20 styles of roof designs. Before we get there, we still have more ground to cover. It helps to understand the 4 basic, geometric shapes that are common to most types of roofs.
Flat (or actually, more like, nearly flat)
Single Slope (think one high wall with a roof that slopes down to a lower wall)
Double Slope (very common throughout the world)
4 Slopes (peak of roof has 4 slopes which descend to 4 corners of a square house, like a pyramid)
Surely these aren’t the only geometric shapes found in homes, but there are very few exceptions that don’t include some variation of the above.
Next, we’ll touch upon the details that make up a roof design. Not all the details. But the main ones. Think of this as a glossary of terms, or concepts. It may help to read through the list twice as these concepts necessarily borrow from one another.
Rafter (not pictured) - a supporting beam, usually wooden, that attaches to the peak of a roof and descends to an outer wall. Rafters are the traditional method for supporting a roof.
Truss - a network of pre-made, (usually) double sloped beams, connected (or bridged) by a bottom beam (or brace). Trusses are the more modern, engineered method for supporting a roof. The common truss (pictured above) is an A-Frame that fits double-sloped houses. It is certainly not the only type of truss, which are pre-fabricated by companies that specialize in making trusses, away from the home construction site. Whatever style is desired to match the house frame, a company can likely manufacture it.
Gables - are the planes or interface which extend in the same direction as walls. Without gables, we’d see right into the frame of the house. A basic gable (unlike the one pictured above) is 2 slopes descending from a horizontal peak line. Many of our top 20 styles make use of some variation of a gable frame.
Dormer - We’ve already seen a few of these so far. This is a structural element that extends horizontally from the slope of a roof. These obviously add significant amounts of character to an otherwise bland slope. They indicate structure beneath the roof, as utilizing space in the upper region of a home. Dormers often have windows to provide a view or help with ventilation, or they may be designed without windows (called blind dormers), which are incorporated mainly for aesthetic value, or building character. Get it?
Details In or On a Roof
Sheathing - refers to the panels and other material that serve as the base of a slope. Generally sheathing is made of sheets of plywood and an underlaying material.
Ridge - is the horizontal peak line connecting 2 sloped roofs. It is supported by the rafter/truss.
Hip - is a slope of a roof with 2 descending lines from the end of a ridge point. Usually the hip’s 2 end points connect to upper corners of the home. In combination of roof styles a hip will connect to another part of the roof, as part of the frame.
Valleys - The inverse of a ridge, or lines that appear to go inward on a roof. Generally, wherever 2 sloped planes connect, other than at a peak point, a valley is formed.
Eaves (pictured below) - are the board braces, or joints, that extend away from the upper wall to wherever a overhanging roof ends.
Fascia or fascia board (also pictured above) - is the long board(s) which parallel the side of a house, covering the end point of eave(s).
Soffit (not pictured above) - is found on the underside of eaves, intended to fill the visible gap between eave joints. This keeps those wild critters from entering into ventilation holes (pictured above) or trying to make a home in the nooks and crannies of an overhang. Soffits are essentially extensions of the inner ceiling, but are in reality, a part of the exterior roof.
Chimney and other vents - are objects that start somewhere in the interior of the home, and travel through a pipe or enclosed channel and protrude through the upper ceiling and beyond the outer layer of a roof. These vent gasses or heat. It is critical that these venting structures be well sealed, and periodically checked for wear and tear around the seal.
Skylights - Windows to the sky. These provide a great ornamental feature, using laminated, durable, glass. Sealing along edges of skylights is very important as well.
It’s the attention to these finer details, along with materials and maintenance, that establish a roof’s value and create the allure. A home’s charm.
Planning A Roof Project
Now that we have an understanding of the parts and the basic science, we can set a plan for a roof project into motion. Will our home improvement project modify the structure? Or is this simply a restoration of the outer layer? In most roofing projects, the job is to repair or replace the surface materials. But planning is essential when there is a desire to tweak structure or impact the framing component.
If the objective is framing related, then a roofer is a must. He or she will offer to build-to-spec the frame, via rafters or trusses.
Rafters are the traditional route. The advantages are less planning is in involved in terms of prep time, plus for smaller projects a carpenter may be all you need. If the space above the top ceiling is likely to be utilized, then rafters may be the way to go. On the other hand, the construction phase is longer during the time of installation, and costs for frame building are therefore greater.
Trusses are manufactured off site by specialists, and so orders need to be placed weeks before installation. Once done, a small team of roofers can usually complete the frame within a day, two at most.
Quality-wise, the two frame types are about the same as the materials are nearly identical. As a general rule, if the project is big (like the main frame for a house or significant addition), then trusses are employed and are more cost effective. For smaller projects or frames that wish to take advantage of the vaulted space, rafters may be the better value.
Rates for constructing frames will depend on the region where the work will be done along with the readiness of materials. Truss manufacturers will have all materials on hand, and for basic shapes, likely have quicker turn around. Whether it be truss framing or rafters, a roofer will be keenly interested in the materials for the covering layer. And we can’t forget pitch. The steepness of slopes will be a factor that affects the the compensation rates of a roofer. If going the non-trussed route, for a moderate to low pitched roof, the rate per square foot of framing, including labor, is a range of $11 to $22. Keep in mind, the rafter approach can take several days and up to 3 weeks to complete a suitable frame. If the pitch is greater, or additional structures are needed (like a garage, sheds), then plan on the rates going up for the overall project. $40 per sq.ft. is not unreasonable with larger projects that require rafter framing throughout.
Here are the primary items to keep in mind when planning for a roofing project that deals with framing and surface applications:
- materials (we’ll cover this below for surface or outer layer considerations)
- estimated duration: from planning stage to finished work by roofer(s)
- labor rates of the builders, their experience, and the known quality of their previously completed jobs
- local traditions - this can determine recommended pitch levels, will likely decide material options, and may influence home owner style choices (whether to be unique or conform)
- local building codes - this matters during planning and very likely comes up after a job is completed, to pass inspection
- architectural concepts and traditions - home owner and building designer will interact to reach a desired design that will be translated to roofer. The more avant-garde the design, the more likely costs go up and duration of overall project is increased.
When it comes to a simple repair or assessment to see if replacement of surface materials are needed, here are questions and considerations for you to keep in mind:
if a contractor is scheduled to inspect your roof, have them take pictures or video to share with you. Chances are you won’t see the condition of the roof and being told what is occurring is far different than having it shown to you!
know your shingles. Write that information down. If not sure, a contractor will inform you, but our materials section is here to help you understand the popular options and more importantly the likely life-span for each material.
Be sure all roof vents are well sealed. A carpenter or handyman can check this for you. This is a periodic maintenance check. Making sure vents are sealed is something you ought to be able to keep up with.
Check your attic space. How is air circulated in the region below the roof’s sheathing? Is the air well ventilated? Is the insulation sufficient? If this is your first go around, you’ll probably not know what makes for sufficient ventilation and insulation. Learn it! Once you do, the routine checks after that will be easy.
Will the replacement material match the house? This is a subjective decision, but it will impact the character. Don’t be afraid to get second opinions from interior design types and from friends or family that have an eye for such things.
Building codes: This is the (local) politics of any home improvement project. It is in your best interest to be aware of these, though it is the contractor that will be taking on some of the responsibility to ensure your roof conforms to the local standards.
What is the warranty on replacement materials? Never be afraid to ask for the details on warranty info to be explained to you. Twice, if need be. Perhaps the main thing to be on the look out for is what is excluded, and why?
Materials - Yes They Matter
Normally when people talk about a roofing project, they are thinking about replacing the surface. As traditional composition shingles are the most popular surface material, the consideration is routinely when will the next layer be added, or is it time to strip them off and add a fresh layer. In this section, we’ll go through all the popular options for outer layer (or surface) materials. Our aim for each option is to convey the cost, life span, types of roofs (or slopes) it is suitable for and any other notes to consider. In most cases, costs are for applying the material to a 2,000 sq.ft. home, though surface area will vary a bit even with that set number. We present the following list in order of most durable to least.
Slate tiles - Is it any surprise that the most durable material is also the most expensive? Perhaps it will be when you see how the entire list of options sorts itself out. Slate has been a choice for many centuries, often signifying wealth of the home owner. The main drawback of slate is that its cost for both materials and labor can cost as much as a new home. Yeah, it’s that expensive. Application costs around $17,000 to $85,000. Why the huge range? Because slate isn’t readily available everywhere, and requires special expertise to install it. If common to your area, then the cost is likely to be lower, more competitive among contractors. There is a synthetic option that has similar appearance and costs substantially less (around $11,000 to $20,000), but the life span is akin to concrete tiles, or good but not the best.
- Lifespan for authentic slate tile is 75+ years
- Natural slate is usually dark gray and not exactly uniform in color (as shown in the picture)
- It is a very heavy material, and reinforced framing is generally required
- Slate tends to be installed on steeper-pitched roofs only
- Excellent fire and wind resistant qualities
Metal Roofing - is the lightest weight option of all choices. And yet, it is highly durable. Metal is an ideal insulator due to it’s durability and because metal naturally reflects heat, rather than passing that onto the sheathing or below. Commonly, there are 3 options of metal that are applied in panels (the norm) or as shingles. The cost depends on the type of metal. Steel and Aluminum are the popular options, while Copper is the most distinguishable choice. Steel is the most durable and yet the least expensive, ranging from $5K to $22K to install. Aluminum is a choice for its flexibility, and costs $12K to $24K to apply. With Copper, the gold-like finish is coveted by many, but it can fade to a green, which can also be desirable in some cases, unless regularly maintained. For Copper installation, plan to spend $20K to $30K.
Aluminum has a lifespan of 50+ years
Steel will last 35 to 50+ years
Copper and Zinc will lass 100+ years
Color options are varied as shown in the pictures. Yet, paint applied to the surface is likely to fade or chip long before the lifespan of the material.
Lower pitched roofs to very steep slopes can handle metal roofing.
Holds up well against the common weather elements, plus is fire resistant.
The disadvantages of metal roofing are a possible noise factor, but only if there is no attic space. Some denting may also be possible. If you happen to live in a house with no solid sheathing and no attic space, then you either enjoy or get used to the sound of rain on a metal roof or it grates on you like a drummer living upstairs. If rain is heavy or hailstones are falling, a softer metal (like aluminum) may dent. Not that it occurs regularly, but over 50+ years, metal roofing can show dents, while asphalt will crack and fail outright, and whereas stone or wood will not.
Concrete tiles - nearly match metal on the durability scale but have a few more drawbacks. Cement is a very heavy material, hence it needs stronger support in the framing. It generally requires a special skill to apply and to navigate the roof structure. Why? Because it is more prone to breaking. Simply walking on it, may cause tiles to break. And it costs more than copper to install, or around $20,000 to $35,000. But it is a less expensive option compared to slate and appears fairly similar.
Lifespan is 50+ years
Its appearance can vary (as pictured above), so put away notions that it is only the drab gray color that’s available. Plus it can be shaped to resemble other materials like wood or ceramic tiles. Color can be mixed throughout the concrete or applied to the surface.
Cement tiles work better on steeper slopes, but moderate slopes can handle it fine, as well
Besides it’s brittle nature, another drawback is the underlayment (think sheathing material above the wood). It will not last anywhere near as long as the concrete itself. Every 8 to 20 years, the tiles need to be removed (temporarily) while a contractor re-applies a new underlayment. Not doing this can cause significant issues with the wood base and lead to less of a lifespan for the tiles.
Clay (or Ceramic) tiles - are one of the older materials that are still popular in many parts of the world. Prior to wood shakes, this was the default material for covering a home dwelling for most people. Clay tiles last as long as concrete, but like cement, it is brittle or prone to breaks. A contractor with experience is best for its installation. Though once applied, it requires less maintenance and there’s no need to redo sheathing during the lifespan of the tiles. Cost is 2nd highest on this list, but still far less expensive than slate. Clay tile installation is $28K to $45K.
Lifespan is 75+ years
While Spanish Red is the popular color, like cement, it now has the option to mix various hues to achieve most color options and even can change shape.
Moderate to steep slopes can handle ceramic tiles, but like the other heavy materials it needs a stronger framing apparatus.
Excellent for fire and wind resistance
Wood (or Cedar) Shakes - are a fairly popular choice, especially where timber is plentiful. Prior to the 20th century, it was the most popular choice in many places for a good 200 years or so. At this point of our list, the lifespan goes down significantly, as does cost. And as you can guess, durability is decreased. Wood is also surprisingly heavy, well, heavier than metal, but not as bad as say slate or concrete. Most standard frames can handle a wood roof. The cost to install it varies as modern roofers may not have the traditional skills for proper installation (although many do). A fair range is $7K to $18K. For some home owners, the natural look of wood is hard to pass up.
Lifespan for wood is 15 to 25 years
Most prefer the natural color of wood, which starts off a lighter, blond color and fades to silver-gray. But of course, wood can be painted, although the paint may fade over time.
Low to steep slopes handle wood roofing fine.
Cedar shake holds up in wind fairly well, but is very poor with regards to flames. Fire retardants can help, but wood must be regularly treated.
And wood is especially susceptible to mold or rot, which means checks and maintenance must be done no less than every 3 years, or more often in wetter climates.
Asphalt Shingles - The least durable option happens to also be the most popular choice, with the low cost being the main reason why. Every roofer and many carpenters can install it, and do so quickly. It’s easy to walk on, and won’t break. When a pro installs it, the cost is $2,000 to $8,000. There are proper installation guidelines that will increase it’s lifespan and make repair less likely.
Asphalt shingles last 15 to 20 years
In the modern era, asphalt shingles come in a wide array of colors.
The shingles are only moderately heavy, and so all frame types ought to support it just fine, with all low to steep slopes having no problem holding it.
Most shingles are OK in terms of fire resistance, but questionable in terms of wind resistance, unless applied by a professional. Very strong winds are more likely to test even the best pro’s ability to make sure they stay where they were applied.
While the low cost is an obvious pro for many, the lack of depth and dull finish compared to other options tends to be viewed as ‘cheap’ or too simplistic.
The Top 20 Roofing Styles
Earlier we spoke about the basic shapes. That’s the simple aspect of style. Mixing in roof details (or parts) and materials that match well with the house, creates a style. But really, combination of roofing styles is where character peaks. A roof style is the structural considerations for an architect and builder. When building a new home or structure on your property, you as home owner will have input in the style. With an existing home, it is best to work within what is already there. As seen on some of the items on this list, there are lots of options available for improving upon an existing structure.
Our objective is to inspire you. Your builder will have traditional or even expedient ideas in mind. And an architect may be looking to make a name for themselves. Your input is therefore very valuable as you are the one that will be living with, or in, the style for perhaps the lifespan of your roof. All materials tend to work with most of these styles, with some (rather obvious) exceptions. As we go through the list, you’ll see overlap and alternate naming conventions. This is due to regional names being adopted elsewhere or in some cases not being adopted and traditional names sticking. Naming conventions are certainly not a rigid science.
The order of the list is put in order of least complex to most. Some in the middle (from around #10 through #15 are closer to sub-variations than their own style.
#1 - The (nearly) Flat Roof
Much of ancient architecture made use of flat roofs, so it is a classic style that is also traditional because it usually is found in warmer climates with little precipitation. At first glance, this style may seem boring, or without much character. That would be mistaken.
Flat roofs can easily add additional living space, which none of the other roofing styles do, or at least not as easily. As pictured above, a flat roof may be an ideal spot for gardens, dining, or other space for humans to visit, akin to a patio or deck. Installation of a flat roof covering is usually simple. Rubber and synthetic, non-porous, materials being the standard. When it is transformed into usable space, that is when materials and construction costs can go up.
Contrary to its name, a flat roof isn’t actually flat. There is a slight pitch so that water can be drained. Usually a drainage pipe is centrally located and travels through an inner wall in the home. Some flat roofs make use of parapet walls with holes in the side to avoid flooding or standing water.
Flat roofs are the obvious exception where most surface materials are not suitable to its style. While we didn’t cover the membrane-based or low-slope materials that are possible for outer layer covering, a flat roof’s installation for say a 1500 sq.ft. home ranges from $3,000 to $10,000.
#2 - The Mono-Pitch Roof (also known as Shed style or Skillion roof)
Ah, the single slope. Minimalistic, clean and efficient. Both a traditional style and contemporary one. The distinct characteristic for mono-pitch is the obvious fact that one outer walls need to be higher than another. The mono-pitch is usually built upon rafters, but is considerably less expensive than roofs with multiple slopes. A fair estimate for installing a mono-pitch is $6000 to $12,000, depending on a number of factors, but pitch being a notable one.
Homes with a mono-pitch roof are usually designed with large windows or multiple windows to take advantage of natural light. A sub-variation of the mono-pitch is known as Saw-tooth (as pictured below).
In this variation, the single slope is combined with another plane (or several) that is a detached mono-pitch slope, near or at the same pitch as the highest one. In many saw-tooth styles, a flat plane is included to square off the look on the upper portion of the house. Generally the gap between the 2 detached slopes takes advantage of windows, that may be used for viewing, but mostly used as way to ventilate the upper space.
#3 - The Gable roof
The axiomatic roof style. Many on the list are sub-variations of the the gable style. This is the dual pitched, or double sloped style characterized by it’s inverted V-appearance. Nothing on the surface of the roof relates to the gable. It’s the raised wall, that connects the two ridge points which is the gable.
Rafters or trusses will support a gable frame. Being the the typical housing structure, the costs are fairly well known, with a range of $12K to $18K to install in a 1,500 sq.ft. home. For a completed roof, with asphalt shingles, the price range changes to $15,000 to $25,000.
Steepness of the slopes is usually determined by climate. Snowier regions will do better with a steeper pitch, while moderate climates are suitable to moderately pitched roofs.
Gable roofs lend nicely to the addition of dormers (as pictured above). As you can see, the dormers also have the gable style within them. Dormers not only indicate an additional floor, but as clearly shown here, add definite character to the overall exterior. A significant benefit of the gable roof is the vaulted ceiling, where a loft can be easily added.
The drawbacks with gable are minimal, which is why they are so popular. Some styles are designed to withstand wind better, whereas the gable isn’t. It’s not poor in wind conditions, just not optimal.
#4 - The Hip Roof
Noticing a pattern yet? All of our basic shapes are found, in order, in our first 4 styles. Though, previously for the 4 sloped roof (aka hip roof), we depicted that as a pyramid roof. That is a sub-variation of hip style, but is actually unusual. Like gable roofs, hips make use of a ridge, but a hip roof will never connect to a wall interface, as gable does. Instead, the hip is the portion with the descending lines (also ridges) that connect, usually to corners, of the house. Alternatively, they may connect to part of the roof as designed by the frame. Later, items on our list will make this more clear.
Suffice it to say, this is a more complex design than gable, and thus it is a steeper price to build the frame. With asphalt shingles, the installation cost is about $20K to $40K.
The advantage of hip roofs are they hold up better to wind. The disadvantage is the upper area isn’t all that well vaulted, and so interior area under the roof is not generally conducive to livable space. The good thing, that our list will certainly make note of, is you can combine hip and gable together, to get the best of both.
#5 - The A-Frame
Goodbye box style house, hello triangle! A-frames are actually a classic style, dating back hundreds of years, but became popular in North America in the mid 20th century. The highly distinct characteristic of this style is that the (2) slopes are actually the walls of the house. So, similar to gable with the ridge at the highest point and 2 descending slopes.
A-Frames were so popular for a period of time, that some companies have specialized in making kits for building A-Frame homes. A-Frames are more simple to build and don’t need to be as concerned with the load on walls. An A-Frame may be as little as $5000, but realistically, a range of $8000 to $30,000 is fair for all materials include inexpensive shingles.
Steep slopes are an obvious advantage of A-Frames. Weather elements don’t have much of a chance building up on this style of roof.
The obvious drawback to A-Frames is that walls are slanted and so anything that a wall is typically used for is hard to do with an A-Frame (on at least 2 of the walls). Plus overall space is likely less, though there is the vaulted ceiling, and so a loft is possible. Add in a dormer or two and it’s a inexpensive option all the way around for a home with obvious distinction.
#6 - The Gambrel Roof
Gambrel roofs are the traditional barn style roof. The style consists of 2 sides, with a ridge at the peak, just like gable, but each side actually consists of 2 different pitches. The upper slope is low pitched and the lower slope is high pitched. Make sense? The picture makes it easier to understand than to explain.
Steeper sloped roofs are always a good option for adding dormers, and in a home, the gambrel frame is likely to employ these. Or the gamble may be crossed through a frame of another gambrel, which is a complex sub-variation, but does exist (as shown below).
The gambrel design, like gable, has vaulted ceilings and even more upper air space than gable. Lofts are very common in this design for homes.
For a simple (non-crossing, non-dormer) gambrel frame, cost for labor and materials will run $28,000 to $50,000. Steepness playing a factor in the range and how high the ridge is set. Like gable, gambrel homes are not ideal for regions with high wind. Plus, it is possible for snow to build up on the top slopes, which are not easily accessible.
Gambrel frames are nice for sheds or even garages.
#7 - The M Shaped Roof
This is really just 2 gable frames side by side. At the low point of the connection point (or center of the M) is a valley. This design lends itself well to duplex style homes, but many single family residence will employ the frame as a bold statement. The complex combinations for gables, found later on the list, all apply here which can make the M shape, one of the most complex designs of them all. But at it’s fundamental level, it’s really just pricing out what 2 gabled homes may cost in terms of construction and material.
While M shaped frames are slightly better with the wind factor, the valley of the M is seen as a drawback. Drainage does exist (as seen in the picture), but debris and snow can collect there without much trouble. The obvious advantage is there is double the space.
#8 - The Saltbox/Outshot Roof
Saltbox is a variation of gable, with a touch of A-Frame. It has the upper ridge at the peak, 2 slopes on each side, and the added characteristic of one side’s slope being noticeably longer. This is intended to cover an additional portion to the width of the frame. The design is traditional and comes from Colonial times. Sometimes, the shorter slope is less pitched than the longer side.
The Outshot is a sub-variation of the Saltbox design. As pictured above, the longer slope doesn’t cover the entire length of the house. It’s intended to provide roofing for an attached shed or foyer area. Whereas Saltbox would travel the entire length of the house for a full porch or side room (addition).
The obvious advantage to this style is more room. Plus it generally benefits from a steeper slope which means less precipitation on the longer side. The disadvantage is added cost for the unusual framing and that the ceiling may not allow for extra space for an attic.
#9 - The Butterfly Roof
Where would modern roof designs be without the Butterfly style? Perhaps the quintessential style associated with contemporary homes. A butterfly roof is characterized by it’s V-shape, though the slopes are usually very low pitched, but must be steep enough to handle drainage.
Because outer walls are not blocked by a low overhang from the roof, this style takes advantage of windows near the top, sometimes along the whole face of a wall. This allows more natural light into the home and means the upper space of the home is well ventilated.
Due to the unusual frame structure, and the load that is put on the walls or center part of the house, the framing needs to be more durable, and thus is more expensive to build. To lighten the load, butterfly roofs tend to be made of metal, which also lends nicely to a contemporary appearance.
The disadvantages of the butterfly design are lower, non-vaulted ceilings and thus less interior space. Plus the valley, like the M Shaped roof, may collect debris.
#10 - Pent Roofs
Pent roofs are more of a sub-variation than a style of their own. Most of the styles on this list could make use of pent roofs in their (original) design. Pent roofs are ideal as a home improvement addition.
Pent roofs are very much like an awning for lower floors, designed to keep precipitation at that level away from the house. A pent roof can refer to any roof type that is below, and detached from the top roof. Previously, with Saw-tooth design (under Mono-pitch style), we saw detached roof slopes that were lower than the highest roof. But pent roofs differ in that they are routinely lower than the top wall.
In some cases a pent roof might go around a portion of the house, as pictured above. This skirt-like appearance is very distinct, and can be utilized for porches.
Pent roofs come in all sorts of shapes, lengths, pitches, and styles. Most materials work well with them. Due to it’s limited size and because framing of the house is not impacted, an experienced carpenter can install a pent roof, though local building codes may come into play. You can likely plan to spend $1,000 and up for a pent roof.
#11 - Clipped Gable / Half-hipped
Clipped gable styles are gable frames with the ridge point ending just shy of the outer wall. As pictured above, the result is a hip roof that clips the gable face by half. As a variation of gable, it has the same benefits and drawbacks, though is slightly more in overall cost to account for the slight change to the frame.
#12 - Dutch Gable / Dutch Hip Roof
As this style is more of a hip frame than gable, lets stick to calling it a Dutch Hip. It is easier to visual (pictured above) than to describe in words. The gable interface which is not attached to an outer wall behaves more like a blind dormer.
The primary benefit of this design is the low pitch of the hip frame makes it stand up better to wind. While the frame is slightly vaulted, the drawback is that the hip frame isn’t really resulting in extra usable space from the gable addition. Plus, as a combination frame, the expense is greater than either gable or hip on their own.
Dutch Hip certainly has uniqueness and character, but is not as popular of a style as it once was in North America.
#13 - The Monitor Roof
Monitor roofs make use of the pent roof concept, with the distinct feature of a raised, narrow structure along the center that has windows on both sides. While the windows may very well indicate an upper loft or living space, this wasn’t traditionally the case with this design. This style was originally used for syrup making factories, where the upper windows were used as portals for venting steam.
Nowadays, the monitor roof is primarily used for barns that may not care to utilize the old fashioned gambrel frame. Being a significant structural element within the roof’s framing, complete with it’s own dual sloped roof, the cost will be determined by materials and expertise for those who can employ this combination of framing style. But once installed, the roof is easy to maintain, while the windows are the element that may need tending to.
#14 - Cross Gables
Cross gables are a combination style roof. Were gable not so common, this could be deemed one of the more complex styles available. But instead, it is generally sought in some fashion. The cross may be L-shape, T-shape or (as pictured above) X-shape. There may be additional cross gable shapes, but these 3 are the foundation for the other possibilities. Due to the amount of variation, pricing estimates are too challenging to make note of. It’s a complex frame, so plan on spending more.
Disadvantages are similar to the basic Gable design, but the advantages likely far outweigh those. Cross gables have enormous amounts of character, especially when they make use of dormers.
#15 - Cross Hip
Cross hipped frames are more likely to appear L-shaped for homes. Apartment building structures may challenge that notion, but our guide isn’t concerned with those structures. Cross hip frames are surprisingly not all that common in homes. It is more likely the Clipped Gable option (that includes half hip) would be used instead.
Again with this complex framing, the cost will go up, but so will the amount of space, though that is not true in this simple drawing above. The advantages of Hip roofs apply to this framing style.
#16 - The Bow Roof
Bow roofs appear gable-like, but the slopes are curved. Two of the styles after this are actually the inverse of this concept. Without the ridge, it would be a barrel roof (not on our list) and the ridge is clearly what gives it the bow design. The slopes are steep enough near the house walls that precipitation is highly unlikely to stay on the roof.
Installation costs are similar to gable roofs, though may require a specialist who is experienced with this distinct design. But like gable roofs, bow style can be greatly improved with dormers or even skylights.
Sheds and barns are common structures that make use of bow style roofs. Bow style roofs also have the benefit of very low maintenance.
#17 - The Mansard
Also known as The French Roof, the Mansard is characteristic of french building architecture, though many homes take advantage of it’s framing design. It may consist of a flat roof on top, but the main design element is the multi-pitch sloped in what is essentially a hip roof on top of another hip frame. Near the top is a very steep pitch, and near the upper walls of the home are a lower pitch, though still fairly steep.
As the upper slope acts like a facade, it is common to find dormers on a Mansard frame, or rare that you would not. Still the basic framing wouldn’t account for dormers unless requested during the planning stages, and so costs range from $20,000 to $50,000 depending on overall height of the home, and the steepness, plus length of the slopes.
The obvious benefits of a Mansard is the extra space on top and it’s distinct classic appearance. Plus with steep slopes, precipitation is generally removed very easily, unless of course there is actually a flat roof on top.
Cost, due to complex framing is the primary disadvantage, and maintenance or repair can really only be done by a professional contractor. Who wants to navigate those steep slopes?
#18 - The Bonnet Roof
Bonnets are the inverse of a Gambrel frame, though usually more pronounced. These also are similar to the Mansard as it is representative of actual homes (rather than buildings) in French architecture. Other than southeastern states like Mississippi and Louisiana, the Bonnet style is not a popular choice in American homes.
It is a complex framing style that can be, or usually is, a variation of the hip roof, but a gable home may also make use of bonnet frame. The upper portion of the roof is heavily pitched, and the lower slope is gently pitched. As pictured above, it is likely to extend much further than a Mansard, besides having the lower pitched slope on the bottom.
As this style is rather uncommon, it is challenging to estimate cost, but a fair range is $40K to $95K for installation and materials. With the steep slopes, it is rare that dormers wouldn’t be incorporated into the frame, which help explains the wide range.
Because of the gentle slope, this style would not hold up well in snowier climates.
#19 - Asian Traditional Style
Traditional style of Chinese architecture could easily be an article on its own. Asia has been in the roof design and building business for longer than their western counterparts. The architecture is renowned for its use of ornamental features, bilateral symmetry and for stacking roofs on top of one another.
Ridges are customary, and so resemblance to the gable frame is customary, but as pictured above, the roofs slope with a curve, mixing in butterfly designs, bonnet style or other frames we haven’t even alluded to. The roof stacking is similar to pent roofs which are very common in asian architecture. And Japanese are notorious for making use of hidden roofs that position eaves as a second roof under the exposed roof.
Traditionally, asian roofs use bamboo, stone or clay tiles as surface materials, though metal could work just as well.
The wee disadvantage of this style of roof, as it pertains to our guide, is it is nearly impossible to provide pricing. It would obviously take a specialized builder to construct a frame that is loyal to the authentic designs of asian architecture. But our guide is meant to inspire, and an architect is likely aware of the design concepts which could be employed for the home owner bold enough to take their home in this direction.
#20 - The Dome Roof or Dome House
We started our top 20 with the flat roof, and come 360 to the round roof, otherwise known as the dome. Sure this style of home may not offer the typical living space of others on the list, but the type of owner attracted to its design frame is perhaps uninterested in conformity.
The style is similar to A-Frame. At least a little bit. Sure, one’s a triangle, the other a sphere, but the similarity is that your roof is also your walls. The character and uniqueness of a dome shaped roof or home (as pictured below) is unparalleled.
Wood, stone, metal and even glass are the common materials for this frame. Sorry, no trusses for these designs, though there are companies that pre-fabricate the structures, as they have a niche in the market. Dome houses tend to be wind-proof and built on concepts of energy efficiency, often making use of alternate energy sources. For sure, taking into account ventilation.
The aesthetic quality of a dome frame is unmatched with anything else on the list. But it’s not for everyone. It is strongly suggested you know for sure you want this type of style before committing to buying or having it built for you.
And that concludes our Top 20 list as well as our guide. Hopefully we didn’t overwhelm you, but too much information is better than not enough or wanting more. And yet, we feel we just scratched the surface. There is much we didn’t touch upon and would urge you to explore, such as Thatch roofs, Green Roofs, and the many exotic styles that make even a dome home look a little plain.
We realize that cost is an important consideration and did our best to convey that to you where possible. In most cases, a contractor is going to provide the best information available to you and your area. Remember though, life span, durability of materials and frame types are the primary considerations for roof design. Price should always be weighed in balance with the value of those fundamentals.
Roofing Directory: http://www.allconstructiondirectory.com/roofing/
Common Roof Shapes: http://www.roofcalc.net/top-15-roof-types-and-their-pros-cons/
Home Additions Directory: http://www.homeimprovementdir.org/home-additions/