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Roof Types: All Roof Styles Explained (Pictures Included)

Your definitive guide to all types of roofs

roof types

If you are like most of us, you probably don’t think about the type of roof that you have until it needs to be repaired or even replaced.

However, the type or style of roof that you have not only affects the aesthetic, or look and feel, of your house, it can also affect the overall value of the property.

What’s more, the type of roof that you have can also make your home more energy-efficient, more weather proof, and provide extra storage or even additional living space in the form of an attic.

Do you know what type of roof you currently have or the details of the roofing system on the property you are considering purchasing?

Are you planning on building a home, getting a new roof, or buying a new home anytime soon?

Have you recently experienced a major weather event or a natural disaster like roof hail damage?

All of these questions and more should be considered when you are considering buying a new property, building a home, or replacing and updating the roof on your home.

There are also some other key factors to take into consideration – do you want to allow for solar panels or similar energy-efficient or “green” features?

Do you want the extra living or storage space that comes with a costlier mansard or gambrel roof, or would you prefer something more budget friendly?

What is the style of the existing property (if you are replacing a roof or building an addition) or what does the neighborhood look like (if you are building a new property)?

Your new roof needs to be harmonious with its surroundings.

Next, you’re probably already aware that there are a variety of roof styles or types of roofs that are popular in different areas.

The types or type of roof that is common in your neighborhood or region may be preferred since it works well with the local climate.

You can also Google different types of roofs with pictures in order to see what different roof designs and roof style names look like in real life.

Moreover, you should also be aware of the different roof names for the various types, since a roofing company in your area or an architect will likely use these terms.

Plus, you should know what each type of roof looks like so you can articulate exactly what you prefer!

Besides, you should be knowledgeable about what type or style of roof works best in your particular region and climate, since the weather will most definitely affect the health and condition of your roof.

Check out what types of roofs are popular in your neighborhood and general area, do your research, and read on to learn more about the different roof styles and what kind of roof performs best in different locations in the U.S.

types of roofs
  1. What is a Gable Roof or Gabled Roof?
  2. Types of Gable Roofs
  3. What Is A Hip Roof?
  4. What is a Jerkinhead Roof?
  5. What is a Mansard Roof?
  6. What is a Gambrel Roof?
  7. What is a Saltbox Roof?
  8. What is a Butterfly Roof?
  9. What is a Bonnet Roof?
  10. What is a Sawtooth Roof?
  11. What is a Pyramid Roof?
  12. What is a Dome Roof?
  13. What is a Skillion Roof?
  14. What is a Curved Roof?
  15. What is a Flat Roof
  16. What is a Combination Roof?
  17. Flat vs Pitched Roofs
  18. Types of Roofing Materials
  19. Other Factors to Keep in Mind When You’re Building or Buying a New Roof

What is a Gable Roof or Gabled Roof?

A gable roof is the typical pitched triangular roof that you see on many houses in the U.S., and it’s probably what you think of when you picture what a suburban home looks like in most states with the standard peaked roof lines.

These types of roofs can be fairly inexpensive and simple to build, since the shape is not complex.

In fact, the standard or basic gable roof is the design that most other pitched roof types are built upon.

Basic gable roofs can use all types of roofing materials, including but not limited to asphalt shingles, cedar shingles or shakes, slate, and clay or concrete tiles – especially if you are building a standard or basic gable roof.

This versatility makes gable roofs even more cost effective.

However, if the roof is more complex (e.g. crossed gables, Dutch gables, or front gables) and contains hips and valleys, then standing seam or metal roofing tiles could be a better choice since they are more likely to be leak-proof.

And if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, it is considered best to use a 10/12 or 40-degree pitch angle for a gabled roof.

Another reason that gable roofing is popular because the triangular shape allows snow, rain, and ice to slide right off, which is beneficial in most regions.

The shape also allows for attic storage or even additional living space under the roof, or vaulted ceilings.

One thing to note is that gable roofs might not be advisable in areas that regularly experience high winds or are located along some of the more common hurricane corridors.

This is because the overhanging eaves on a gable roof can suffer from wind damage roof issues or under heavy rainfall.

Types of Gable Roofs

There are four main types of gable roofs – side gables, crossed gables, front gables, and Dutch gables.

gable roof

Side gables are the most common and simple style of gable roof, with two sides pitched to form a triangle.

If a side gable roof is left open in the middle it is referred to as an open gable roof, or closed in for a boxed gable roof.

Crossed gable roofs are two gable roofing sections combined perpendicularly or at a right angle; they are usually seen on Cape Cod or Tudor style homes.

They may have the same pitch, length, or height, or they may vary for a more asymmetrical style that can be used to accent different wings, or various areas of the home like porches, garages, or dormers.

A front gable roof is usually seen on Colonial style homes, and it is placed at the front to highlight the entrance and add coverage to the porch or entryway.

Lastly, a Dutch gable roof or gablet roof is a blend of a hip roof and a gable style roof that involves adding a gable to a hip roof to add interest to the home’s architecture and lend some additional attic space under the roof.

This type of gable roof essentially places a gabled roof on top of a hipped roof for the best of both worlds.

These variations on basic gable roofs – Dutch, crossed, and front gables – can be real standouts if a mix of colors or even multiple types of roofing materials are used in order to showcase the different features.

What Is A Hip Roof?

hip roof

Hip roofs or hipped roofs are perhaps the second most common type of roof after gable roofs.

What is the difference between a hip vs gable roof?

Hip roofs are composed of slopes on four sides that come together to make a ridge at the top, while gabled roofs have two sides.

This variance makes hip roofs even more ideal for snowy and icy areas, since the slopes allow precipitation to run off the roof easily.

Hip roofs are also considered to be more stable than gable roofs due to the inward pitch on all four sides coming together.

Hip roofs also provide more shade than gable roofs since there is an overhanging eave on all four sides.

Hip roofs often include design elements like front gables to highlight a porch or entryway, or dormers or crow’s nests to add extra storage or living space underneath the roof.

They can be crafted from most standard roofing materials like asphalt shingles, standing seam metal or metal tiles, or clay or concrete tiles.

While hip style roofs tend to be more expensive than gable roofs due to their more complicated design, they are still fairly common due to their versatility and durability.

After all, hip roof framing and overall builds require more materials and more expertise to construct, but you do end up with more stability and storage and living space underneath the roof.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if dormers or other special features are added, you and your roofing contractor will need to pay special attention to the seams around the valleys or dips in the roof.

And of course, regular care, inspections, and maintenance are required to keep your hip roof in the best possible condition.

What is a Jerkinhead Roof?

If you see a roof that combines design elements from both gable and hip roofs, chances are that it is a jerkinhead roof.

jerkinhead roof

Also referred to as a clipped gable or an English hip roof, jerkinhead roofs essentially resemble a gable roof but with clipped or shortened ends, or alternatively a hip roof that has two shorter sides.

You’ll usually see this sort of roof designed in such a way that the clipped sides or hips don’t disrupt the view from the top floor dormer windows.

The somewhat eccentric name “jerkinhead” is of unknown origin, but is said to possibly come from the old Scottish “kirkin-head”, or the rooftop of a church.

No matter how you define the style, jerkinhead roofs tend to be more stable than gable roofs or hip roofs due to the way that the points or edges of the roof turn down, lending them greater wind resistance or protection against wind uplift.

Higher pitched jerkinhead roofs also allow for more living space or storage space under the roof, thus adding to their appeal.

This sort of roof can be crafted from nearly any standard roofing material, including asphalt or wood shingles, metal shingles, slate, or even composites.

Jerkinhead roofing tends to be costlier than its gable or hip roof alternatives, but it can be worth the investment due to its durability and allowance for extra usable square footage under the rooftop.

What is a Mansard Roof?

Mansard roofs or French roofs are a style of roof originally designed by architect Francois Mansert (hence the name) that is made up of four double sloped sides that meet to form a low-pitched roof in the middle.

mansard roof

Valued for the extra living space – referred to as a garret or loft – or attic storage provided by the taller roof, mansard roofs are often used as a way to add flexibility to a home since they make it easy to build future additions.

The sloped sides may be flat or curved, but the lower slope always has a steeper pitch than the upper one.

Mansard roofs can have a range of silhouettes, such as concave, convex, or straight angle.

Keep in mind that adding dormer windows is essential for bringing in light, especially if you plan to use the garret or attic as living space.

Higher end properties may feature decorative stonework, wood or stone quoins or similar masonry work, or other trim around the dormers.

Note that mansard roofs are typically more expensive than other types of roof, due to all the extra details that go into them, but they can be worth it for the future flexibility and the value they add to a property.

Accordingly, if you are designing and building a brand-new home, you may want to consider a mansard roof.

These types of roofs can be built out of nearly any type of roofing material, but distinctive types of metal like copper or zinc can make a real statement.

As an added bonus, these types of materials may cost more upfront, but in return they will add significant value to your property.

Another way to make your mansard roof truly outstanding is to use wood or slate shingles in interesting patterns, such as an overlapping diamond motif.

Asphalt shingles can also work on the upper portions of a mansard roof, but composite shingles should not be used due to the pitch of the roof and the associated weight placed on the shingles.

You’ll want to take special care to ensure that the lower portions of your mansard roof are fully waterproofed and flashed since those areas are particularly susceptible to damage from snow, water, and ice.

Mansard roofing is not ideal for areas that receive heavy snowfall, like the northeast and the northern Midwest in the U.S.

What is a Gambrel Roof?

Gambrel roofs – also referred to as barn roofs or barn style roofs – are similar to mansard roofs in several ways.

gambrel roof

However, unlike a mansard roof, gambrel roofs only have two sloped sides instead of four, resulting in a roof that is somewhat triangular as opposed to square or rectangular.

This type of roof has a steep lower slope that is almost vertical, a gentler upper slope, and they also offer some storage or extra living space in the form of an attic, loft, or garret.

While the name comes from the Latin “gamba” or the French “gamberal”, meaning a horse’s hock or leg, that name for this type of originated in the United States, with the European name for the style being “curb” or “kerb” roof.

Gambrel roofs are often used on Dutch Colonial or Georgian style homes, along with barns and barn style homes, log cabins, farm houses, and even exterior buildings like sheds and separate garages.

They can have a rustic feel or a more elegant look, making them one of the more versatile styles of roof.

dormer

Windows or dormers are a common addition to a gambrel roof as they supply natural light to the garret or loft area under the roof as well as improving the general aesthetic appeal of the property, but they do also increase the chance of water leaks, so it is important to get regular inspections and check the flashing around the windows if you have a gambrel roof with dormers or similar architectural details.

This type of roof has become popular because not only are gambrel roofs visually attractive and efficient, they are relatively simple to construct.

Gambrel style roofs only require two roof beams along with gusset joints, so the low cost of materials helps to keep the budget realistic.

Wood shingles, asphalt shingles, or slate are commonly used for gambrel roofs, but many types of metal roofing are also a good choice and may decrease the need for repairs.

If you are considering building a gambrel roof on your property or buying a home or building that has a gambrel roof, you should know that this style of roof is not recommended for areas that receive heavy snowfall or regularly experience high winds or windstorms, since the more open design can cause a roof to collapse under pressure.

If you live in an area with extreme weather, you’ll want to ensure that you have reinforced trusses on the upper part of the roof, if not the entire structure.

What is a Saltbox Roof?

Saltbox roofs are commonly found on earlier Colonial or Cape Cod style homes, and they are characterized by their distinctive asymmetrical design.

saltbox roof

One side of a saltbox roof is a flat roof with a slight slope, while the other side is more of a “lean-to” structure.

These types of roofs also have gables at each end for a triangular silhouette when viewed from either side.

The name “saltbox roof” comes from the original shape of boxes of salt sold in New England – the sloped design was meant to be easier to pour than a cube or square-shaped box.

There’s a unique history behind saltbox roofs.

Originally, this style of roof arose organically when early settlers in the Northeast and East coasts of the U.S. added a lean-to on top of their existing gabled roofs, which gave them more space and required little additional building material.

After that type of structure became popular, it became common to build homes with that type of roof already added since it adds another story or half story of room to the house’s structure.

A saltbox roof offers plenty of positive aspects on top of the increased living and storage space; for instance, the slope allows for easy water runoff during snow and heavy rains.

You can use most of the standard roofing materials such as asphalt shingles, metal shingles, wooden or cedar shingles or shakes, slate, or composite shingles to build a saltbox roof.

All of that said, keep in mind that the living space under this type of roof may have slanted ceilings and be less roomy than the space that is offered by other styles of roof.

Furthermore, keep in mind that the complexity of constructing a saltbox roof means that building one may be more expensive than a simpler gable or hip roof – but the added value to your property may prove to be worth it in the long run.

What is a Butterfly Roof?

This is a type of roof that is v-shaped with two raised wings that meet in a valley in the middle – much like a butterfly that is mid-flight.

butterfly roof

Butterfly roofs can have a dramatic effect and they are a good choice for homes with contemporary styling and for homes in arid or desert climates, since the valley in the center allows for rainwater to be collected (there is usually a reservoir for this purpose incorporated into the design.

Butterfly roofs also allow for larger windows – bringing in more natural light – and PV solar panels are fairly easy to add on, making this an increasingly popular option for areas suited to this type of construction, like the southwestern U.S. and tropical areas of the southeast.

That said, these types of roofs are more complicated (and therefore more expensive) to build and maintain, and it is essential to ensure that the drainage system and waterproofing are top notch.

Solid membranes (EPDM rubber, TPO, and PVC) are suggested, although metal and other organic materials may work to keep a butterfly roof watertight depending on your location.

The large windows and open design of a butterfly roof may also increase your heating and cooling costs since it will be more difficult to regulate the temperature inside the home.

What is a Bonnet Roof?

You can think of a bonnet roof as a reverse mansard roof.

bonnet roof

They are also referred to as kicked-eaved roofs and like mansard roofs, they feature a double slope – but unlike mansard roofing, the upper slope has less of a pitch on a bonnet roof.

With a bonnet roof, the lower slope hangs over the front and back of the house, making it an excellent cover for a porch or outdoor patio.

These types of roofs are not particularly common in the U.S. outside of the southeast (particularly Louisiana and Mississippi), but they do offer some advantages.

These include extra living or storage space under the roof, plenty of room for dormer windows, and the overhanging eaves help protect the siding and the rest of the structure from water damage.

Plus, the structure – which is essentially a modified hip roof – is more durable than a gable roof.

Keep in mind that if you have a bonnet roof, are considering purchasing a home that has one, or planning on building one, a bonnet or kicked-eave roof can be more expensive to install or maintain due to its complex structure and the possibility of water settling in the valleys between the slopes, so extra care will need to be taken when waterproofing those spots.

Bonnet roofs can be crafted from nearly any standard roofing material, including asphalt shingles, metal shingles, slate, or wooden shingles or shakes.

What is a Sawtooth Roof?

If you picture a saw blade and how the edge is serrated, then you have a good idea of what a sawtooth roof looks like.

sawtooth roof

Composed of multiple slopes set at the same angle so that the vertical and pitched surfaces alternate (much like a serrated blade), sawtooth roofs are becoming a popular choice in modern home design.

This is because sawtooth roofs allow for higher ceilings, larger windows, and lofted living space.

However, sawtooth roofing systems are costly to install and maintain due to their complicated design; they also pose a higher risk for leaks and water damage, making them inadvisable for areas that receive heavy snow or rainfall.

Sawtooth roofs do allow for the installation of eco-friendly additions, like PV solar panels, geothermal lighting, and radiant heating systems.

They can utilize most roofing materials, including wood shingles, metal shingles, or reinforced concrete.

What is a Pyramid Roof?

As you might guess, this is a type of roof that is shaped like a pyramid.

pyramid roof

A type of hip roof with no gables or vertical sides, pyramid roofs are usually used for smaller homes like cabins and bungalows, or sheds, garages, or other outbuildings.

Pyramid roofs are popular in hurricane or windstorm prone areas, since they are extremely wind resistant.

They also provide good ventilation and extra storage or attic space, or the interior can be left open for a high ceiling.

The overhanging eaves of a pyramid roof help to improve energy efficiency as well.

Note that pyramid roofs may be costlier to construct and maintain due to the complexity of the roof design, but they do provide the aforementioned advantages.

They can be crafted from nearly any common roofing material including asphalt shingles, composite shingles, metal shingles, slate, clay or concrete tiles, or wooden shingles or shakes.

What is a Dome Roof?

Dome roofs are rarely seen in most residential settings, although they may be available in prefabricated form and could fit into a contemporary design as a detail or even as the main roof.

The inverted bowl shape is striking and memorable.

dome roof

This type of roof is expensive but very durable, and perfect to use for small additions to a different type of main roof – think features like cupolas, gazebos, and crow’s nests.

Shingles, metal, or even glass will work for a dome roof, but metal requires the least maintenance and is generally considered to be the best choice for most structures.

What is a Skillion Roof?

Also called a shed roof or a lean-to roof, skillion roofs are single-angled sloped roofs that can be attached to a taller wall or be an alternative to a flat roof for a stand-alone structure.

Skillion roofs are common for additions to existing homes along with being a good choice for sheds and porches, but more contemporary style buildings may feature a skillion roof as a design statement.

skillion roof

Skillion roofs have some significant advantages if your property is located in the mountains or northern midwest or New England, since their slope allows for quick snow and water runoff, which makes them ideal for regions that get heavy snow or rainfall.

Skillion roofs tend to be a less expensive choice given their lack of complexity to build.

Standing seam metal roofing is perhaps the best choice for a skillion roof, particularly since it allows for the installation of PV solar panels, which naturally increase the energy efficiency of the home.

What is a Curved Roof?

Much like a skillion roof, a curved roof is often attached to a taller wall or used as an alternative to a flat roof.

curved roof

Unlike a skillion roof, however, curved roofing systems feature an arch that can range from a low slope to a rounded peak, allowing for water runoff and creating a contemporary shape.

A curved roof can be used for an arched entrance, an addition or wing, or an entire structure, and they can provide an interesting raised ceiling for the interior as well as a unique silhouette for the exterior.

Curved roofs can work in nearly any environment or climate, and they are typically made of metal due to its flexibility.

Lower sloped curved roofs tend to be preferable in an area that receives high winds or windstorms due to their stability, while a higher curve or arch is ideal in places that get heavy snow or rain in order to allow for the water to run off and drain.

What is a Flat Roof

A flat roof is almost exactly that – a roof that has so little slope or pitch that it appears to be completely flat (although they do have a very slight pitch to allow for water runoff).

Flat roofs can be made from many types of material, although EPDM rubber or TPO and PVC roofing membranes are the most common, along with tar and gravel, roll roofing, or metal sheets.

flat roof

There are many advantages to a flat roof – you can use it as a deck or patio, for instance.

The outdoor living space can be a wonderful advantage in the spring and summer, or whenever the weather cooperates in your area.

Depending on the details of your property, it may also be possible to partially enclose a flat roof for a penthouse-style private deck.

You can also put heating and cooling units on top of a flat roof, which is a good way to keep them out of the way and avoid obscuring the architecture of your home with that equipment.

Another advantage of a flat roof is the ease of installing PV solar panels, which will improve the energy efficiency of the structure – and of course adding solar makes a flat roof eco-friendlier.

green roof

You can also grow a garden on a flat roof, therefore creating a green roof which not only is good for the environment, but also adds an additional layer of insulation and helps make your heating and cooling systems more efficient and cost-effective.

Last but not least, flat roofs tend to be less expensive due to their relatively simple construction, but they are more prone to water leakage and damage, and may require more regular maintenance than a pitched roof.

What is a Combination Roof?

A combination roof is exactly that – a combination of different types of roofs and design features.

combination roof

For instance, a home could have a gabled roof with a skillion over the porch, or a hip roof with a gabled front porch, or a gabled roof with a domed cupola – or any combination of styles.

Combining various roof styles can add a lot of architectural interest and even durability to a property – just be sure that the various styles and materials work for your climate and be prepared to do extra maintenance.

Combination roofs may also require more labor to build, and keep in mind that the ridges and valleys (which combination roofs tend to have more of than simpler roof designs) will need extra care when it comes to waterproofing.

All of that said, a combination roof can be the way to get the best of all worlds and let you blend the all the stylistic elements and practical aspects that you need from your home’s roof into one elegant solution.

Flat Roof vs Pitched Roof

Depending on your location, its’ weather patterns and average temperatures, and the type of house or structure that you have on your property, either a flat or pitched roof may make the most sense – or perhaps some combination of the two roofing options.

flat roof vs pitched roof

One thing to know is that flat roofs are generally not completely flat, but rather have a very low pitch or slope to help with water runoff.

Properly placed drains, scuppers, and gutters can help control the water flow as well.

Residential flat roofing is commonly made of EPDM rubber, TPO or PVC membranes.

Flat roofs can often provide a more contemporary or modern look, and they can be less expensive than a pitched, sloped, or gabled roof.

Depending on your location, a flat roof can be a cost-efficient choice as well, especially if you live in a desert or otherwise arid area (e.g. the Southwest U.S.) or somewhere else with low rainfall.

On the other hand, pitched roofs offer higher stability and wind resistance, and the sloping allows for quick and easy water runoff, making pitched roofs preferable for areas that receive heavy rainfall, major storms, or lots of snow and ice in the winter.

Homes located anywhere in the northern U.S. or the Southeast tend to have pitched roofing for this very reason.

Pitched roofs are typically made of shingles (asphalt, composite, wood, cedar, slate, or metal), or standing seam metal.

The aforementioned styles – gable roofs, hip roofs, jerkinhead roofs, mansard roofs, gambrel roofs, and saltbox roofs – are all pitched roofs.

Types of Roofing Materials

In addition to the type or style of roof that you choose and your region’s climate, you’ll want to consider what type of roofing material works best for your area, the type of roof that you desire, and your budget.

asphalt shingles

Asphalt shingles are one of the most commonly utilized roofing materials, and they will work with most roof designs.

However, keep in mind that asphalt isn’t as durable or long-lasting as other roofing materials, and if you live in an area that deals with extreme weather like hailstorms, windstorms, heavy rain, or even earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes, you may want to look into other types of roofing materials.

clay or concrete tiles

If you do live somewhere with these types of weather patterns or events, clay or concrete tile might be a good choice.

While they tend to be used in hot, dry climates, most clay or concrete tiles are rated for wind uplift of 125 MPH or higher.

slate roofing

Slate roofing systems are considered to be some of most luxurious or high-end roofing options, and for good reason.

Not only is natural slate uniquely striking, it can last for 50 to 100 years or longer, making a slate roof an excellent long-term investment.

wooden shingles

Wooden shingles – such as cedar shingles or cedar shakes – are another good choice for a long-term investment due to their longevity, durability, and high-end feel, and they will work with most of the aforementioned roof types or styles.

Metal roofing is another increasingly popular choice, due to its resilience, lower metal roof repair maintenance, and ability to mimic most other roofing materials including slate, clay tiles, or wooden shakes.

metal roofing

What’s more, metal roofing – especially standing seam metal roofing – allows for the easy installation of solar panels, making the structure extra energy efficient and eco-friendly.

stone coated steel roofing

If you want the durability of a metal roof but prefer the look of stone or slate, stone-coated steel or another form of composite roofing material could be a good choice.

Be aware these types of shingles don’t work on steeply pitched or extreme slopes due to the weight of the adhesives used and the tiles themselves, but they can be a good solution for more gently sloped or pitched roofs.

No matter what type of roofing material or style of roof you prefer, always consult with an experienced roofing contractor, architect, or roofing company that regularly works in your area and therefore understands the specific demands that the local weather and climate will place on a roof.

Other Factors to Keep in Mind When You’re Building or Buying a New Roof

Regardless of the roof type that you have, you will most likely need to have it repaired or replaced during the course of your home ownership.

Major weather events and other natural disasters can be detrimental to the condition of your roof, of course, but planning ahead and going with a roof structure type and roofing material that works best for your specific area and property can go a long way towards preserving and maintaining the state of your roof.

While the types of roofs for houses vary by climate, architectural style, and personal preference, it is good to understand the types of roof shapes and house roof styles that are common in your area and for your specific kind of home.

This will help you make the best possible choice for your needs, whether you are building an existing building or creating a home from scratch with a custom build, or anything in between.

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