One can consider many different types of roofs when building a home or changing their roof’s design and aesthetic. Unfortunately, with the countless types of roof designs out there, it’s no wonder many homeowners suffer a degree of “analysis paralysis.”
This article sets you free by informing you exactly what the types of roofing options there are and the unique benefits each can give in terms of design and practicality.
What are the different types of roofs?
While there are countless roofing materials and designs to choose from, it can be helpful to be aware of a few of the most common types. In a nutshell, most roof types come under gable roofs. These typically encompass either a box gable roof, cross gable roof, clipped gable roof, open gable roof, or simply a standard gable roof.
Other common types of roofs include the hip roof, the bonnet roof, and the combination roof. These typically encompass a triangular design that promotes good drainage during heavy rain and snowfall.
Related: The Different Parts of a Roof: Roofing Terms You Should Know
Types of roofs
Arguably the most common category of all roof design options, the gable roof is denoted by its signature sloped sides that meet at a peak in a triangular shape. As you may expect, this encourages rain, snow, and other outdoor elements like leaves and dirt to slide off the roof and into the gutters. However, it provides a sufficient drainage system all year round.
The great thing about gable roofs is that they can work on just about any home design. In addition, they are quite versatile with their roofing material options.
Simple and affordable, you can also install a gable roof design in various styles based on the structure and size of your home. For instance, you will find knock-off designs such as the Dutch gable roof, which incorporates elements of the gable roof and the hip roof in its aesthetic and functionality.
There are also box gable roof designs. These essentially close off the front and back walls of the house to form a complete triangular prism. This much resembles a wide hat that rests on top of the rectangular base of the house.
The hip roof is another commonly seen roof design staple of ordinary neighborhoods. While it resembles a gable roof at first glance, hip roofs are distinguished by their ridge that can be found at the highest point of the roof. This ridge is significantly smaller than the long ridge of gable roofs that cover the entire structure from the front of the house to the back.
In contrast to the gable roof, the traditional hip top has four corners extending at a slanted angle to meet at the ridge. As such, rather than having two sloped sides like the gable roof, the hip roof has four sloped sides.
The result is a sturdy roof shape that is even more resistant to harsh weather elements like rain, snowfall, and strong winds. However, hip roofs are generally more expensive than gable roofs.
Moving onto some rarer types of roof designs, we have the iconic flat roof. This one is typically associated with apartment units, shopping malls, and industrial complexes as opposed to neighborhood houses.
In truth, many flat roof designs can be found on standard homes. However, the design is particularly popular among modern duplexes and contemporary housing designs.
Despite its name and appearance, flat roofs have a very slight pitch to allow water to slide off into the drain. However, this design is not as effective as the traditional hip roof and gable roof types.
Among the flat roof types is a unique style that draws much attention, known as the butterfly roof. As its name suggests, these roof shapes encompass an architectural design resembling butterfly wings. It makes out a V-shape symmetrically or asymmetrically, depending on the style.
Butterfly roofs grew in popularity with the expansion of flat-roof homes and duplexes. They offer a unique take on more modern designs while promoting better drainage. Roofs that incorporate only one of these to cover the entire house are shed roofs, though this style does not blend with many home designs.
It would not be strange to refer to a skillion roof as a reverse butterfly roof. It cannot be denied that the shape resembles an inverted V-shape. Albeit, its appearance differs greatly from the triangular shape of traditional hip and gable roofs.
The differentiating factor is that the slopes of skillion roofs are divided into two (or more) separate entities. One side is typically lifted higher than the other and was often wider too.
The benefits of skillion roof types are that they give off an ultra-modern aesthetic while also being an ideal roof in the face of heavy rain and snow. However, its steep-pitched roof can reduce the living space of the house’s basement or upper floor.
Therefore, some homes may feature only one of these slope entities to cover the entire house, and this type of roof may also be referred to as a shed roof.
The skillion roof is often referred to as the lean-to roof as the upper parts of the slopes appear to “lean” against each other. Another common name for the skillion roof is the clerestory roof. This essentially refers to any roofing design that sports one side of the roof extending over the other side from a greater height.
Commonly known as French roofs, Mansard roofs consist of flat or curved roofs with a lower slope and a steeper pitch. This encompasses a four-sided design, much like the hip roof. Mansard roof styles keep the slopey parts of the roof as high as possible. It creates a steep foundation that surrounds the top part of the home’s outer walls.
The result is extra living space inside the house with a raised ceiling, making the mansard roof a suitable option for double-story homes.
Related: What is Standard Ceiling Height? And Why It Is Important
Largely regarded as the “reverse mansard roof,” the bonnet roof incorporates a design that maximizes the roofing space. Albeit at the cost of a reduced interior living space or shorter ceiling height.
The bonnet roof promotes protection from the elements by offering wider and more angled slopes on all four sides. In addition, it offers mini ridges that encircle the roof’s bottom parts, extending beyond the dimensions of the home’s floor plan.
These roofs offer more shade, protection, and wind resistance than most roofing types. However, they can be quite expensive to install and are more commonly found on gazebos and outdoor patios rather than entire houses.
A good way to think of a gambrel roof is like an extended version of the gable roof, which is easy to do when considering their similar names. These roofs are often referred to as barn roofs, typically found in farmlands and on barnyards. Many modern-day homes also incorporate the gambrel roof design.
Essentially, its core architecture is identical to that of a gable roof, except it consists of two additional roof beams that add an extra pair of slopes on either side. As you’d expect, these roofs perform even better than gable roofs when it comes to easing the pressure of heavy rainfall.
They also add to the upper living space of the home by promoting a more spacious attic or top-floor living area.
A pyramid roof basically combines a gable roof and a hip roof. It encompasses the pointed top of the former and the four-sided equal-length slopes of the latter. Of course, the best way to picture these roofs is by imagining an Egyptian pyramid resting on top of a square house.
Pyramid roofs are great for resisting harsh weather and promoting good drainage. However, they can be susceptible to leaks because they have multiple design seams.
The saltbox roof features a sloping flat roof on one side and a shorter lean-to slope on the other. They are named after New England salt box’s traditional shape and design. In a way, the saltbox roof appears to be an asymmetrical gable roof with one side extending further down than the other.
This design aims to promote more living space on one side of the house without compromising the protective benefits of a full-length gable roof slope. Essentially, it gives you “the best of both worlds,” so to speak.
Some have already been discussed thus far, but combination roofs are actually a category of roof types in and of itself. As you can guess from its name, combination roofs incorporate two or more roof designs into a single roofing solution.
A common example is the Dutch gable roof which combines elements of both gable and hip roofs to get the best of both types while producing a unique aesthetic design.
When you think of a dome roof, structures such as igloos, mosques, or even the famous Taj Mahal in India (1). However, you may have seen a rare sighting of a dome-roof house in a specific neighborhood if you’ve been around. This complex design boasts a unique look that signals status and culture while adding to a level of durability unmatched by other roofing types.
One of the awesome things about dome roofs is that they can be just as practical as beautiful. They offer equilateral slopes in a spherical shape that slides rain and snow straight off into the gutters. Many design options are also available for this type of roof, such as wood shingles and glass designs.
Some notable dome-shaped structures in the USA and Europe include the Capitol Building in Washington and the St Paul’s Cathedral in London (2). Dome roofs can also be nicely decorated with patterned tiles such as wood shingles or metal seams, with more luxurious structures boasting a design made of gold or silver materials.
The curved roof is denoted by its unique arch that gives off a “semi-circle” appearance. In addition, it typically encompasses a taller wall to promote a bigger interior living space inside the home. This style of roof is associated with modern-day home designs. It is largely considered to be an interesting visual feature for a neighborhood home that makes it stand out.
While they are usually chosen for their aesthetic over their practicality, the truth is that curved roofs can aid in protecting the house from strong winds. There are many types of curved roof designs too. These range from low slope to high slope styles, the former great for handling strong winds while the latter excels in heavy rain and snow areas.
Any roof on the house can have its roofing materials customized to add some unique benefits to its practicality and aesthetic. Below is a description of some of the common roofing materials you will find with any of these roof designs.
Related: The Different Types of Roof Shingles: Their Pros and Cons
Slate roofs typically refer to roof types built using slate shingles, that is, individual tiles made of slate spread across the roof in a patterned design. This type of roof material is considered a luxury in the industry for its naturally striking appearance, exceptional longevity, and sturdy foundation.
While it can be difficult to afford or find a slate installation expert, it can be worthwhile. This is because these types of roofing materials can last a staggering 100 years if installed and maintained appropriately.
From shingle patterns to standing seam, metal roofing is among the easier types of roofing material to install for houses. In addition, it is one of the few highly compatible with solar panel installation.
Metal roofs are flexible and versatile materials that can easily be customized, repaired, and cleaned. In the long run, this makes maintenance and care a breeze. While the metal roofing system works for most roof designs. You can’t do curved, or dome roofs as the material doesn’t bend in the desired manner.
Wood shingles, known as cedar shingles or cedar shakes, are known for their unique beauty and high durability. This makes them one of the most sought-after materials among roof types.
In addition to their long lifespan and resistance to pests, wood roofs are highly customizable. Their patterned designs and colors, range from bright to neutral and dark colors. The only downside of wood shingles is that they can be a hassle to maintain and are quite pricey as they require expert skills to install.
Another popular roofing material is asphalt. In particular, asphalt shingles designs which are intended to imitate the appearance of slate and wood shingle styles.
While not as durable or long-lasting as wood or metal roofing systems, asphalt shingles work with most roof styles and designs. They also offer lower prices that can suit those on a budget.
In addition, asphalt shingles can be a great affordable option if you live in a relatively safe area. They can be a great option if your area is without frequent hazards such as strong winds, heavy rainfall, and snowstorms.
As its name suggests, composite roofs or shingles are made from a combination of different materials.
A great solution for gently sloped or pitched roofs, composite shingles offer excellent longevity and low prices. In addition, they also provide the aesthetic appearance of a high-end wood or slate roof type. It is important to consult a roofing contractor to understand the best combination of materials that would suit your home’s design and your geographical location.
The “green roof”
Not quite the color green in a literal sense, a green roof refers to a flat roof design with environmentally friendly initiatives. These include abundant green plants, solar panels, and waterproofing systems.
By creating a roof that uses renewable energy, turns it into a form of sustainable energy. As a result, humanity moves one step closer to reducing its carbon footprint on the planet.
A green roof’s benefits include improved air quality, beautiful cityscapes, insulated housing, long-term financial savings, and reduced pressure on roofing systems as plants can absorb rainfall.
While initially expensive in terms of upfront costs, green roofs can prove to be a worthwhile investment. Harness the power of natural renewable energy for the well-being of the environment and community.
Final thoughts on different types of roofs
Finally, there are countless types of roofs, but they can all be categorized and simplified better to understand the pros and cons of each type.
Perhaps the most interesting difference is how certain materials and design styles can be mixed and matched to form a combined roofing solution. These can offer unique benefits tailored to the homeowner’s needs and preferences.
Different types of roofs FAQ
What are the 3 main types of roofs?
The 3 main types of roofs most commonly found in a typical neighborhood include the gable style roof, hip style roofs, and the flat roof. Each of these categories branches off into more specific and intricate roofing types. You may even find elements of two or more of these roof types in a single roofing solution.
What are the six basic roof types?
Diving a little deeper into the three main types of roofs, we can branch out to include the most common sub-types within each of these major categories. The six basic roof types include the gabled roof, the hip roof, the flat roof, the skillion roof, the curved roof, and the butterfly roof.
What types of roofs are in Australia?
Like any country, Australia offers a large selection of roof shapes and designs and various roofing materials that each offer unique benefits. The most common types are gable and hip roofs. Nowadays, solar tiles and terracotta roof tiles are growing in popularity in Australia.
However, because of their affordability, most Australian roofs are made of asphalt or composite materials.
What is the cheapest roof to put on a house?
Asphalt shingles are certainly one of, if not the most affordable and low-cost roof type to put on a house. While not quite as durable as stone or wood materials, asphalt offers incredible flexibility and easy installation, resulting in an easy maintenance and cleaning routine in the long run.
What type of roof lasts the longest?
Among the longest-lasting roof types are slate, wooden, and metal roofs. These types are typically more expensive than common materials like asphalt and fiberglass.
What is the least maintenance roof?
Asphalt shingles are easily one of the lowest maintenance roof options out there. They offer a flexible and versatile composition that is easy to reseal, repaint, and clean, making it exceptionally easy to maintain despite its greater fragility.