The style of roof you have on your home is something many homeowners gloss over when in reality, it can have a dramatic effect on not only the strength and stability of your roofing system, but also on how much it will cost for roof replacement. Use this page as a guide to learn more about different roof styles so you can be well-informed before re-roofing your existing roof or installing a new roof on the home you just built.
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Table of Contents
- 6 Most Common Residential Roof Styles
- Gable Roofs; The Most Commonly Installed Roof Style
- Hip Roofs; Strength Meets Simplicity
- Mansard Roofs; Who Knew A Roofing Could Be So Elegant?
- Gambrel Roofs; A Popular New England Roof Shape
- Flat Roofs; Most Popular Commercial Roofing Option
- Low Slope Roofs; Not To Be Confused With Flat Roofing
- 9 Uncommon Styles With Extra Unique Shapes
- What roof style does your home have?
6 Most Common Residential Roof Styles
These six roof styles are the ones you're most likely to find on the rooftops of homes in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and across America. Gable and hip roofs make up the vast majority of roof designs, which is great because they're simple in design and easier than the others to replace. Mansard and gambrel roofs are more complex, but come with the benefit of a more beautiful design. Finally, you'll find both flat roofs and low slope roofs. These are less for design and more for necessity, covering areas prone to water saturation.
Gable Roofs; The Most Commonly Installed Roof Style
Gable roofs are the most commonly installed roofing style because of their simplicity. They're the classic image that comes to mind when you think of a residential roof. Up on one side, then down on the other...
The two sides of a gable roof can vary in slope, which explains why many homes that only have simple gable roofs can look drastically different from each other.
The Pros And Cons Of Gable Roofs
Such a common style of roofing naturally comes with well-documented pros and cons. And whether you have a gable roof on your home or any other style, it's important to know the advantages and disadvantages of gable roofs. That's why we wrote a detailed gable roof guide for you. It explains the history of gable roofing systems and how your roof's design may affect your home's structure more than you think.
Does Your Roof Shape Affect Your Home's Structure?
Click below to check out the guide mentioned above
Hip Roofs; Strength Meets Simplicity
The gable roof may be the most popular style of roofing in America, but it doesn't hold a candle to the sheer strength hip roofs bring to the table.
Hip Roofs vs. Gable Roofs
Why are hip roofs stronger than other roof styles, most notably stronger than gable roofs? Because of the architecture! First, the hip roof has four sides compared to the two sides seen on gable roofs. These four sides all point together and intersect at the roof's peak. It's strength is similar to that of an igloo!
If you're a homeowner looking to replace their hip style roof, then it's important to note that downsides do exist. All other things being equal, hip roofs are more expensive to re-roof because the surface of the roof covers the entire square footage of the home. This is especially true when compared to pricing out the more simple gable roof for replacement.
Hip Roof vs. Mansard & Gambrel Roofs
Mansard roofs (mentioned below) have four sides just like the hip roof, but what makes hip roof designs superior is that their roof sections have more of a slope, which makes deflecting water and wind easier.
With hip roofs, you'll see a continuous slope for all four sides of the roof. But with a mansard roof (as well as with a gambrel roof), the sides are separated. This makes the entire mansard and gambrel roofing systems weaker when compared to hip roofs.
Mansard Roofs; Who Knew A Roofing Could Be So Elegant?
A roofing style with European roots, this French-inspired roof shape is as elegant as it is expensive to re-roof.
Mansard roofs are generally more expensive than other roof styles not just because of their complexity, but because they're often found on more historic homes. And as you know, the more delicate (and complex) the roofing project is, the more it will cost...
Mansard roofs have four sides, which is a big factor in why the roof looks so elegant! The roof's shape wraps around the entire home and each side has a double slope. These slopes are easily characterized by their steepness, much steeper than the slopes of hip roofs. And because these sides are so steep, the top of most mansard roofs are low slope out of necessity. Even though the tops have a low pitch, many homeowners still opt for installing asphalt shingles rather than rolled roofing or other common flat roof materials because it more tastefully matches the rest of the home's design.
Although this design choice makes the mansard roof more aesthetically pleasing, there are downsides (particularly in the Boston area due to snow). The flat tops on mansard roofs make snow removal more difficult than what you'd experience if you owned a home with a gambrel or hipped roof. With mansards, the roof shape makes it harder for snow to slide off on it's own.
On a positive note, mansard roofs were originally designed for homes that wanted more living space in the attic and bedroom quarters. Because the roof pitch is so steep on the sides, you'll often find entire floors of a home nestled under the the steep sides of it's mansard roof. Oh, the efficiency!
Common Mansard Roofing Materials
Because mansard roofs are often found on historical homes, you'll often see them with slate roofing materials. This is common because slate was the only quality option before asphalt shingles transformed into a durable choice for roof replacement. Though expensive, slate was king! You'll find mansard roofs with slate shingles on top the historic Cambridge roofs and Brookline roofs in Boston's suburbs.
Gambrel Roofs; A Popular New England Roof Shape
Gambrel roofs factor so much into the look and feel of a home's design, many homes with this roofing style are referred to as gambrel style homes.
For the most part, you'll find gambrel roofs mostly have asphalt shingles, but some homeowners do opt for more expensive metal options as a way to easier rid their roof of snow in the winter.
The aesthetic of gambrels can be compared to a gable roof fused with a mansard style roof. It has the simplicity of a gable (a roof style that normally has two sides) and the complexity of a mansard, which is traditionally a four-sided roof style.
Where a gable has two sides with one panel each, the gambrel has two sides with two panels each. For comparison, a mansard style roof has four sides, each with two panels. So, potentially a total of 8 panels. A little technical, but that's roof architecture!
Understanding a gambrel roof is easier when compared to a mansard roof than when compared to a gable style, though:
Gambrel Roof vs. Mansard Roof
The main difference between the two is that a mansard roof wraps fully around the home, while the gambrel roof does not. If you were looking at the side of a home that featured a gambrel, you'd see only windows, siding, and the side of the roof pitch.
In terms of slope, the difference between the two styles really depends on how the home is built. Sometimes gambrels are steeper, sometimes mansards are steeper. But in each case, it's important to consider how rain and melting snow can infiltrate your home in areas where the roof panels meet your home's siding.
If you have a gambrel roof on your house, it's important to make sure your roofing contractor has a firm knowledge of drip edge best practices because it'll be critical in keeping water out!
Flat Roofs; Most Popular Commercial Roofing Option
Flat roofs are most commonly seen in the commercial roofing world, but aren't completely absent from residential roofing.
They're popular in commercial roofing for obvious reasons-- namely the shape of commercial buildings. You can't slap asphalt shingles on a flat surface that's going to retain water, right?
Though the idea of water retention is simple, it's an important concept for homeowners that have flat (and low-slope) roofs to consider...
Because flat roofs don't have a pitch, you'll need proper drainage to ensure water can flow away from your home. Letting water settle is a simple recipe for disaster.
Top Flat Roof Materials (Durability Matters)
The most popular material choices for re-roofing flat roofs are materials that can easily withstand a beating.
Constant water pounding the surface, and sometimes people walking on the roof make the risks associated with re-roofing a flat roof severe...
If the roof isn't perfectly watertight, you can quickly get a leak. And on flat roofs, leaks are difficult to find and ever harder to repair:
You may remember Boston-area roofs that experienced problems during the constant blizzards of 2014-2015!
The most commonly used materials for replacing flat roofs include:
- PVC Membrane
- TPO Membrane
- EPDM Rubber Membrane
- Rolled roofing
- Gravel and tar, an American classic
Low Slope Roofs; Not To Be Confused With Flat Roofing
Low slope roofs are often found on the tops of dormers and backsides of gambrel-style roofs, but the most common place you'll find a low slope roof on the porch of a residential home.
Low slopes are categorized by a pitch that's hardly there. They sometimes seem like flat roofs, but upon further examination it's revealed that they actually have a slight pitch. Not steep, but it's there!
Time and time again, we see homeowners neglect their low slope roofs because they don't show as much wear-and-tear as asphalt shingles that are similar in age. It's rarely a beat up low slope roof that needs replacing, however...
The most common problems you'll find with low slope roofs is where they meet a wall, or connect with another part of the main home's siding or roof. Water seeping into these roof-wall intersections is where you'll usually find leaks, so it's important your roofing contractor uses extreme care when installing a low slope roof on part of your home.
Poorly installed low slope roofs can lead to major damage for New England homes once the snowy season begins!
Rolled roofing is the material of choice for most contractors replacing low slope roofs. GAF's Liberty low slope roofing product is a self-adhering membrane that comes with a 15-year warranty if it's installed in adherence with manufacturer guidelines.
9 Uncommon Styles With Extra Unique Shapes
Roofs come in all shapes and sizes. Below are nine of the lesser-know styles of roofing. You'll find many of them on custom-built modern and contemporary homes because they add an extra flair to the home's design.
Bonnet roofs are much like hip and mansard roofs, only reversed. Instead of having the low slope section of the roof at the top, it's at the bottom. The steeper sloped roof section is at the top. Bonnet styles roofs are popular on homes in Cape Cod and can be found topping roofs in North Weymouth, MA too.
Saltbox homes are unique in shape and design because they're asymmetrical. Saltbox roofs are two-sided; one side is is generally longer and gradually makes it's way to the roof's peak. The other side is short and commonly very low in slope. Once the shorter side meets the long side, it drops off.
The butterfly roof looks like the wings of a butterfly and is most often seen on modern or contemporary homes. Think of it's shape as a reverse gable roof, where the "peak" of the roof is actually lower than the sides. As you can imagine, this is a dangerous option of you live in a climate that sees lots of snow.
Mostly used for commercial roofs, sawtooth style roofs are much like butterfly roofs in that they have a reverse-pitch. The difference between the sawtooth style and butterfly style though, it that the sawtooth's pattern repeats over and over, making the roof design resemble the teeth of a saw. A poor choice for buildings and homes in MA or NH.
Curved roofs are appealing for homeowners seeking an alternative option to the sharp edges and peaks seen in traditional roofing styles. Because you guessed it, curved roofs are... curved! You'll need a specialized roofing company to replace your curved roof. And if you want to make one for a new home design, we suggest you hire an experienced architect.
Pyramid style roofs look like the pyramids of Egypt that you're probably picturing as you read this. Much like hipped roofs, they're incredibly strong because of their tight design and purposeful build. Because they're difficult to replace, most roof experts suggest you use metal roofing materials that can be tightly fastened where one side of the roof meets another.
Jerkinhead roofs aren't the most polite style of roofing as you can see, but they do have a vintage feel. Describing the jerkinhead simply, it looks like a hip roof with two shorter sides. And the short sides look like those of a gable roof.
Skillion roofs are very modern looking and most closely resemble a lean-to. Their pitch varies and generally matches the home's design. Skillion style roofs are often topped with metal (if steeper sloped) or rolled roofing (if lower in slope).
Do you want to see a famous American example of a dome roof? Look no further than the United States Capitol Building! Dome roofs can't be replaced by most residential roofing contractors, which makes it an overly expensive style for homeowners.
What roof style does your home have?
If you can't figure it out, no worries! Give us a call or start your estimate online and we'll be happy to come out and take a look for you.
And while we're there, we'll get up in your attic do a proper roof inspection then leave you with a written estimate that's guaranteed in writing for two full years.
Whenever you decide it's the right time to invest in roof replacement, you'll have today's price locked in!