Get to Know Your Roof: Styles, Shapes, and Jargon

November 23, 2021

What’s your roof IQ? Do you know the difference between a gable roof and a hip roof? How about the difference between a dormer and an eave? Does it matter? If you’re building a new home, you’ll need to determine what style of roof you want. If you’re scheduling repairs or improvements to your roof, it would be helpful to have some basic knowledge of your roof style and features. Doing so can help you determine the best material for your roof and give your contractor an idea of what to expect even before the first visit to your home.

Let’s define some of the jargon first.

  • A dormer juts out from the roof and typically contains a window.
  • An Eave is the part of the roof that hangs over a wall.
  • Pitch is the slope of the roof, which is calculated as the number of inches your roof rises for every foot it extends horizontally. For example, with a 4:12 pitch, the roof rises a total of 4 inches every 12 inches. Pitches between 4:12 and 9:12 are most common.
  • The ridge is the peak where two rising roof surfaces meet.
  • Conversely, a valley is where two descending roof surfaces meet, and water drains down.

What are common roof styles?

  • Gable roof: For years, kids have been drawing homes with gable roofs without even knowing it. With a gable roof, two roof surfaces meet at one ridge. Gable roofs are common because they are simple to construct, easy to ventilate, and help rainwater and snow run off. You can choose any type of roofing material for a gable roof.
  • Gable roof variations: Variations of gable roofs include a crossed gable with two gable sections put together at a right angle, a front gable with a gable over the entrance of the house, a clipped gable with the top peak bent in, and a Dutch gable with a gable at the top of a hip roof.
  • Hip roof: Like a gable roof, the hip roof has one primary ridge. The difference is all four sides are pitched. Having four pitched sides makes hip roofs more stable than gable roofs. This style also ups the curb appeal, as you can see three sides of your roof at any given time. Those benefits come with a heftier price tag. Any type of roofing material works for a hip roof.
  • Gambrel roof: You’re much more likely to find a gambrel roof on a barn than a home. Its two sides each have two different pitches, one that is steep and one that is gradual. Wood, slate, and asphalt shingles are most commonly used on gambrel roofs, but metal can also be used. Ultimately, the style of the house will dictate which type of roofing materials you use. 
  • Mansard roof: The mansard roof, made famous by the Louvre in Paris, has four double-pitched sides. This design creates a unique upstairs living space called a garret. Because the mansard roof is unique, it lends itself to unique roofing materials – such as copper or zinc – but other roofing materials may be used. Special attention should be given to the low-pitch portion of the roof to ensure it does not leak, especially in areas that receive large amounts of snow.
  • Flat roof: Just as the earth isn’t flat, neither are flat roofs. They are technically low-pitch roofs that appear flat to the naked eye. A slight pitch is needed for water run-off and drainage. Flat roofs are less expensive than other options because they require fewer building materials and are easier to construct. They are most commonly found on commercial buildings. Because flat roofs are susceptible to water damage, use only seamless roofing materials.
  • Shed roof: Shed roofs, which are also called skilions or lean-tos, have one pitch from a taller wall to a shorter wall. Like flat roofs, shed roofs are economical to install. Because of the steep pitch on shed roofs, snow and rain slide off them well, which is an advantage in Minnesota. Metal roofing materials look sharp on shed roofs.

Contact Keyprime to determine your next steps.

No matter what style of roof you have, the experts at Keyprime know how to repair it or improve it. Contact us for a free quote today.

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