There is more than one way to build a roof. As architectural design is limited only by the imagination, roofing styles are limited only by the laws of physics and the materials available. Indeed, any comprehensive discussion of the various styles in modern building could probably fill a dictionary; but this article will discuss some of the most common roof designs. In all likelihood, you’ll find the style of roof on your home, unless it is something really unique.
Perhaps the simplest design, the gable roof is thought to originate from the first roofs that were simple constructions of sticks or logs leaning at angles to form a triangular hut. A gable features two sloping sides that meet in the centre of a building, wherein both sides slope at an identical angle. Indeed it will appear as a symmetrical triangle over the body of a building. These are the most common type in North America.
A cross gabled roof is slightly more complicated than a gable, but only because it features two gable sections that meet at a right angle. The ridges formed by each gable roof should be perpendicular to each other; and just as the slopes on a gable are identical, the height, length, and pitch of each gable in a cross gabled roof should also be identical.
Simple hip roof as it is also known, is another common type. Similar to a gabled roof, the hip roof has two slopes at identical angles that meet in the centre of the building. However, the ends are not flat. Instead, a hip roof features four sloped sides so that all exterior walls are the same size. Simple hip roofs are advantageous to gable roofs as they provide better protection in high wind or hurricane areas.
As the name suggests, a pyramid hip roof is very similar to a simple hip with the added feature of four equal triangular sides that meet at the centre.
A cross hipped roof follows the design features of a cross gabled roof, but with the added design features of a hipped. A cross hipped roof fits on a building with all exterior walls at the same height. It’s as if you took two buildings with hipped roofs and attached them perpendicularly. The section where the two roofs meet is known as a valley.
The Mansard design originated in 15th century France and is named after the architect, Francois Mansart, who popularized the roof. Each side of the Mansard roof features two distinctly different slopes; the lower section of the roof is nearly flat and has just a slight slope, while the upper section is steeper. This type of roof was also popular during the Victorian period of architecture and is commonly seen throughout Europe.
A saltbox is essentially an asymmetrical gable roof. The roof features two slopes that meet at some point over the roof, but the angle and height of the slopes need not be the same.
A gambrel roof is what you expect to find on a traditional barn. With two symmetrical sides, as well as two distinct slopes on each side of the roof, this is something of a cross between a gable and Mansard roof. The bottom slope has the steepest pitch, and even be nearly vertical, while the top slope is more gradual. Unlike a Mansard roof, the gambrel features this design on only two sides of the roof, as you would expect on a gable.
Flat roofs are becoming increasingly popular with modern architectural design. Featuring only a slight slope to improve water drainage, flats require less material so are more economical to build. However, flat roof typically require more frequent maintenance.