Whether you’re building a new house or are redesigning an existing one, choosing the most suitable type of roof isn’t always a simple task. Different types of roofs are suitable for different purposes.
Material selection aside, what gives your roof personality is its shape and design, like how the peaks and valleys all meet. Many don’t realize they even have choices here! Here are some of the most popular styles of roofs along with their pros and cons.
Flat roofs are commonly found on commercial buildings, modernist homes, and for home additions like sunrooms. These roofs generally are not actually 100 percent flat — they are usually installed with a low slope so that rainwater is able to run off and not get pooled up and cause potential damage. Flat roofs have no pitch, and because of their low-grade slope, may require tactically-place drains, gutters, and scuppers to help evacuate water. Traditional materials like asphalt are not recommended for flat or low-slope roofs, as they don’t offer the level of water protection required. Instead, go for single- or multi-ply membranes, EPDM rubber, or other highly water-protective material. Flat roofs can be cheaper than other roof types (less material needed due to low angles) and can also look great and be practical. Just make sure they are designed with protection from the elements and intelligent drainage in mind.
One of the most popular types of residential roofs in the US is the gable roof — also called the peaked or pitched roof. “Gable” refers to the triangular shape formed by the pitched roof. They are easy to install, as in some cases (like with the A-frame side gable roof) there are only two flat surfaces without any hips or valleys, which equates to lower cost and great flexibility in material for you. These roofs easily shed water and snow, and also give you more space in your top floor or attic. Their simple design also makes them an affordable roofing option. The main con of gable roofs is that they are vulnerable to high winds and hurricanes. If installed properly though, the risk of wind-damage can be reduced significantly.
A hip roof is a roof that has slopes on all four sides; all the sides come together at the top to form a ridge. The inward slope of the four sides makes the hip roof a more stable option than the gable roof. The shape of hip roofs also provides extra living space on the top floor of your home. The #1 con is that hip roofs are more expensive to build than simple gable roofs. Also, it is more challenging to install a hip roof than a gable roof.
Mansard roofs are perfect for people wanting to maximize the living space of their home. Otherwise called the French roof, this four-sided roof has a low-slope (flat-like) top, and sharply angled sides that can be either curved or flat, depending on what style you prefer. The mansard roof is appealing primarily from the perspective of increasing the space in your upper floors and from an aesthetic perspective. However, this is not an ideal roof for regions where it snows a lot, as snow could build up on top and cause damage. Another con is the price — mansard roofs tend to cost more than other types of roofs because of the amount of detail that is required for them. However, for many, the added character and living space is worth the extra cost.
A Gambrel roof is essentially a mansard roof but with two sides instead of four that slope down. Gambrel roofs are often seen on barns, farmhouses, and log cabins, but are also to be found atop Georgian and Dutch Colonial style homes. The benefits of the Gambrel roof are similar to the mansard roof — greater living space and great style. Gambrel roofs are also easier to build, as there are only two roof beams required, connected with gusset joints. Because of the relative simplicity of building a Gambrel roof, it is generally going to be less expensive to build than a mansard roof.
Gambrel roofs are particularly useful for outdoor sheds or any other building where maximizing storage space is a priority. Gambrel roof are not ideal for regions where heavy wind or high snow is common, as extreme pressure can cause them to collapse. Mitigating this possibility, you need to have it constructed properly. The ridges need to be waterproofed and repairs should be taken care of promptly, to avoid developmental damage. Metal is a good long-term roofing material for Gambrel roofs, but asphalt and wood are also not uncommon.