10 Roofing Styles

This area of the roof is called a soffit.
This area of the roof is called a soffit. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The roof is often one of the most distinguishing elements of a building, Not only do different types of roofs contribute to the visual style of a building, the overall shape and construction of various roofs are also tailored to withstand weather conditions. The most common roof styles all serve the same purpose; allowing water to run off and brace against wind. There are two basic types upon which all of the others are based. These basic roof types, the hipped and gable, satisfy the needs of varying climates and are inexpensive to build, while more complex roofs with ornate styling or special engineering can add significantly to the cost of construction.

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Gable Roof

The gable roof is the most popular roof style used in the United States as well as Europe. A triangular-shaped roof, the gable roof is seen with varying degrees of slope that allow for rain and snow runoff in areas with heavy precipitation. By nature, this roof shape leaves two sides of the building more vulnerable to the elements. Gable roofs are easy to build, and can accommodate an extra half-story or cathedral ceilings.

Cross Gable Roof

When the footprint of a building is more complex than a simple square or rectangle, a standard gable design may be modified into a cross-gable roof. Two or more gable roofs intersect to form this variation, and generally function in the same way as a single gable roof.

Hipped Roof

A low-pitched roof that slopes upward from all sides of the building, the hipped roof is another popular roof style. Hipped roofs effectively withstand heavy winds and often incorporate extended eaves, allowing rain and snow to run off the slope and away from the building.

Cross Hipped Roof

Two or more independent hipped roofs that intersect where sections of a building are joined form a cross hipped roof. Cross-hipped roofs function much like standard hipped roofs, but are used on buildings with footprints that go beyond a simple square or rectangular shape.

Pyramid Hipped Roof

A variation on the standard hipped roof, this type of roof style forms a point or pyramid shape at the top where the sides come together, adding visual appeal.

Mansard Roof

Also referred to as a French gabled roof, a Mansard roof features a flat top and a unique bell shape. While aesthetically pleasing, these roofs are not made to withstand heavy snow.

Saltbox Roof

A saltbox roof is similar to a gable roof with a couple of exceptions. In a saltbox roof, the sides are not all the same size as they are in a gable roof, and a saltbox roof will also have two sides that are sloped at a different angle than the other two.

Gambrel Roof

The bell-shaped gambrel roof is made up of several planes, and can be considered a sort of “flattened” gable roof. Gambrel roofs are commonly found on large barns.

Flat Roof

Though most flat roofs are designed with a slight angle for water to run off, they are essentially flat and unsuitable for climates with heavy snowfall. The flat roof is one of the most inexpensive, easy to build roof styles and is found throughout Florida where snow is not an issue but hurricane winds are.

Shed Roof

The shed roof, also referred to as a “lean-to,” consists of a single plane that slopes down the entirety of a building. As the name would imply, shed roofs are typically used on sheds, but also porches and additions. In most cases, shed roofs are the easiest and most inexpensive to build.


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