The 9 essential roof types

Jack Wisniewski

By Jack Wisniewski

November 15, 2020, updated June 24, 2021

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Your roof can make up to 40 percent of your home’s exterior.

Recognizing its dominance from the curb, picking the right one can become stressful since there are many different types of roofing to choose from.

But fret not!

We compiled pictures and brief descriptions of the nine most popular roof styles, their pros and cons, and which materials work best within a convenient list.

Whether you need a roof replacement or wish to hone in your dream home with a brand new roof, read on to get a glimpse of the most common types of roofing.

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Gable roof

Gable roofs

Pros: Affordability, easy to build and ventilate

Cons: Not suited for high winds, simplicity

Best materials: Asphalt shingles, wood, tiles, slate, metal

As one of the most common types of roof in the United States, a gable roof likely springs to mind when picturing a typical house.

You can quickly spot a gable roof by looking for two opposing slopes that meet to form a ridge. The gable refers to the triangular section of wall between the two slopes.

Gable roofs are among the simplest to build, which helps keep construction costs down. Beyond the upfront costs, gable roofs can reduce energy costs by using aptly designed gable vents. This style also fosters reasonable attic space.

As for what you see on the outside, gable roofs combine well with just about any material.

On the downside, gabled roofs are more susceptible to wind uplift. Roofers should use gable end bracing in regions with extreme weather conditions to prevent roof failure.

Concerning style, you likely will not turn many heads with a gable roof. Even so, the understated appearance of a gable roof is often the charm for homeowners who believe less is more.

Hip roof

Hip roofs

Pros: Durability, highlights roof materials

Cons: Build difficulty, reduced attic space, leak potential

Best materials: Asphalt shingles, wooden shakes, tiles, slate shingles, metal

Often contrasted with gable roofs, hip roofs feature slopes from all walls as opposed to just two.

This type of roof is more aerodynamic and what engineers often call self-supporting. These attributes endow hip roofs with superior wind resistance and overall durability.

Aesthetically, hip roofs elicit a more modern style. The pitches on all four sides provide a view of the roof's surface from every direction. In turn, the material plays a more significant role in the look and feel of your home.

As for the disadvantages, this shape is more difficult and costly to execute than the simple gable roof. The hips lead to ridges and valleys around corners – weak spots where roofers need to take extra precautions to reduce the chance of leaks. Other notable drawbacks to hipped roofs include limited attic space and complicated ventilation.

If you can move past these qualms, a hip roof is an appealing choice.

Dutch gable roof

Dutch gable roofs

Pros: Traditional design, combines benefits of hip and gable roofs

Cons: Build difficulty, cost

Best materials: Wooden shakes, concrete tiles, slate

A blend of a gable and a hip roof, Dutch gable roofs deliver a more eye-catching impression than both the gable and hip options.

Like the hip roof shape, the Dutch gable style features slopes on four all sides. However, on two opposite ends, this roof flaunts small gables, called gablets.

The benefits of this combination go beyond visuals. Dutch gable roofs offer both structural robustness and proper attic space.

While you could pair it with any material, traditional options like wood or tile channel the colonial aesthetic of the Dutch gable.

Of course, a more complex design means more difficult and costly construction. The Dutch gable is not a straightforward build, so expect to pay more for this dignified roof type.

Jerkinhead roof

Jerkinhead roofs

Pros: Traditional design, attic space

Cons: Build difficulty, cost

Best materials: Asphalt shingles, clay tile, slate

Also called the clipped gable, a jerkinhead roof is another gable-hip hybrid.

Instead of a hip roof with small gables à la Dutch, this is a gable roof with mini hips. The resulting shape procures distinctive, trapezoidal gables.

Architecturally, the jerkinhead roof echoes Old-World sensibilities, especially when adorned with traditional roofing materials like roofing tiles. If you strive to set a timeless statement on your street, the jerkinhead is a good shout.

Keep in mind that the jerkinhead style is more complicated and expensive to build than the standard hip or gable. However, the final result merges their key advantages – attic space, wind resistance, and increased design emphasis on the roofing material.

Gambrel roof

Gambrel roofs

Pros: Traditional design, easy to build, space economy

Cons: Not suited for snow, wind

Best materials: Wooden shakes, shingles, metal

When you imagine a barn in the countryside, it likely features a gambrel roof.

This staple of dutch-colonial architecture is similar to a gable roof in that only two sides have inclines and that it is relatively affordable to construct.

However, the pitches change along the roof! At the top are two shallow slopes; towards the eaves are two steep slopes.

These steeper, almost vertical slopes give substantial exposure to the roofing material, so the one you pick plays a key role in your home's design. Any material will work, but we particularly adore the look of wood shakes or shingles on a gambrel roof.

Apart from its compelling design, the gambrel roof maximizes top-story living space. This style also harmonizes with dormers, which enhance curb appeal and allow natural light into the uppermost floor.

Looking towards cons, the large exterior walls and near-vertical roof pitches do not blend well with high winds. Additionally, snow tends to disproportionately accumulate on the upper low-slope region, which can place a greater structural burden on the roof. To prevent snow from piling up, we recommend using metal roofing panels.

Mansard roof

Mansard roofs

Pros: Traditional design, highlights roof materials, space economy

Cons: Build difficulty, cost, not suited for snow

Best materials: Asphalt shingle, metal roofing panels, slate tiles

The mansard roof is essentially a hipped version of a gambrel roof in that all four sides have an upper-shallow and a lower-steep angle.

The similarities between the mansard and gambrel styles only start there. For instance, mansard roofs also offer more living space at the top of the home, especially when combined with dormers.

Aesthetically, the near-upright lower slopes accentuate the roofing materials. You can find many slate roofs sporting the mansard style, but we prefer the distinguished look of a metal roof that channels its French origins.

Like the gambrel once more, mansard roofs are ill-suited for snow because of how it tends to pile on top.

Compared to most other roofing options, the mansard is more difficult and expensive to build. Nevertheless, this style can add substantial value to a home if executed correctly.

Saltbox roof

Saltbox roofs

Pros: Unique design inside and out

Cons: Cost, reduced second-story space

Best materials: Asphalt shingles, wooden shakes

Think of a gable roof, but lopsided.

Not in a decrepit kind of way, but an artistically deliberate asymmetry.

A variation of the Cape Cod-style homes, the saltbox style was and still is a cost-effective method to add an upper floor or loft.

Visually speaking, the saltbox captures distinctly rustic vibes. A saltbox roof would look right in its element with classic wood shingles, though even contemporary materials like architectural shingles would do it justice.

Compared to the closely related gable, salt boxes are more complicated and costly to build. Keep in mind this roof design may lead to slanted walls and ceilings, which could compromise living space. At the same time, this could also enhance the interior atmosphere.

Skillion roof

Skillion roofs

Pros: Modern design, easy-to-build, solar compatibility

Cons: Interior space, drainage requirements

Best materials: Metal panels, metal shingles, solar tiles

Otherwise known as a shed roof or a lean-to, a skillion roof only has a single slope.

This half-gable style appears worldwide for simple structures because of how easy it is to build.

Today, its minimalist profile has an esteemed reputation in modern architecture. It can work with any material, but we prefer metal panels to heighten the up-to-date character.

When facing the right way, a large skillion roof serves as the ideal platform to install solar panels.

Looking at the cons, the skillion shape can compromise top-floor or attic space towards the lower end of the slope.

Gutter capacity can also become an issue with skillion roofs as water only drains one way. Make sure to install a robust gutter system alongside your skillion roof to handle the water runoff.

Flat roof

Flat roofs

Pros: Inexpensive, easy-to-build, space economy

Cons: Maintenance needs, shorter lifespan

Best materials: EPDM Rubber, Foam, PVC, TPO, and more

For many structures, the best roof type has no shape at all!

Despite the name, flat roofs are not level. Flat roofs slope a tiny bit to drain water.

Flat roofing systems are particularly popular for commercial buildings because they cost less to build. For homeowners striving for a sleek aesthetic, the flat roof offers a uniquely dimensionless style. In many cases, you can safely soak up the views on top of your rooftop patio or create a green roof.

Typical pitfalls of flat roofs include water ponding, which can lead to leaks. Snow also poses a problem as the significant weight can lead to roof collapse.

Therefore, roof inspections and maintenance should be a top priority if you plan on going the flat roof route.

Additionally, flat roofs do not work well with most pitched roof materials. Flat roofs prop up an entirely different class of roofing materials, like single-ply EPDM rubber roofing and spray-on foam roofing. These materials typically need to be replaced more often, which only adds to lifetime costs.

Collection of roof shapes

Before coming to a final decision, remember that gable and hip roofs are the standard and will suit just about any home for an affordable price.

For a more colonial or pastoral look, options like gambrel, mansard, and jerkinhead will resonate most with the architecture of centuries past.

Homeowners seeking to stand out in their neighborhood may prefer the ultra-modern sensibilities of either the skillion or flat roof.

If you're still unsure which roof type best suits you, get in touch with a seasoned roofing contractor, home designer, or architect. They can provide you qualified advice for your project based on your tastes, budget, and home design.

Get a customized price for your roof type using our calculator

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