How Does Roof Design Impact My Home’s Style?

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What’s in a Roof Style?

You drive by homes every day. How many times do you actually notice their roofs? There is something called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon (also known as The Frequency Illusion). It is the phenomenon in which people who just learn or notice something start seeing it everywhere. For instance, a person who just bought a GMC Yukon now feels like everywhere they go, everyone is driving a GMC Yukon. After reading this blog post, you are going to be the same way with roof design.

Roofs are more than just a way to shed the elements from a home’s structure keeping it and its occupants safe and dry. A roof can define a home. It is a key component of a home’s architecture making it a key element when designing your new home.

Roof Styles

Roofs come in many shapes and pitches (slopes). They can define a particular architectural style or be almost completely utilitarian. Here are some of the roof designs that are commonly found. Most modern home designs rely heavily on only three or four styles. Here are some more of the common styles of roof.

Open Gable Roof – If you think of a roof, this is the one you think of first. Ask a 6 year old to draw a home and this is the type of roof they will draw on it. An open gable roof is characterized by two sloped sides, typically along the long walls of a home and with triangles on the end. You will see this is the dominant design of homes in the U.S. It is simple, fairly easy to build, and very functional.


Hip and Valley Roof – A hip roof is a roof where all sides slope downward towards the walls. When sections of the roof that are perpendicular to each other meet, this creates valleys. Valleys are the Vee shaped channels that run up and down folds of a roof (where different roof sections meet). Hip and Valley roofs are more complex than Gable roof types making them more difficult to build which makes them more expensive to build.


Flat Roof – A flat roof is just like it sounds, flat. However, a roof can have a slope of up to 10 degrees and still be considered flat. Because flat roofs don’t shed rain and snow, you see them more in dry, arid climates. Many Modern and Contemporary home designs use flat roofs as a part of that architectural style.


Saltbox Roof – A saltbox house is a traditional New England home style. The roof is what defines that style. It has a pitched roof with a long slope down the back of the home. The front of the home is typically two stories with the long roof covering a single story portion of the home to the rear.


Mansard Roof – A mansard roof is also known as a French roof based on its origins. It is a type of gambrel-style hip roof. It is characterized by steep sides and a double pitch. The steeper portion of the double pitched roof typically contains dormer windows. Because of the steep pitch of the roof, it creates space in the roof area which make it useable as another floor in the home.


Clipped Gable Roof – A clipped gable roof is very similar to the standard gable roof but with the top of the end triangle “clipped”. In clipping the top of the triangle, it results in a truncated shape and leans back to the peak of the main roof on an incline. It creates a hybrid look somewhere between a gable roof and a hip roof.


Gambrel Roof – A gambrel roof is a two-sided roof with each side having two slopes. In some areas of the country this roof style is called Dutch Colonial. It is actually a roof style that is more often associated with barns. It is much like a Mansard roof but the ends of the roof are flat, not sloped.


Butterfly Roof – A butterfly roof is a “V” shaped roof. It is an inversion of the standard open gable roof. The two sloping sides face each other instead of away from each other. This roof style is typically associated with mid-century modern architecture.


Dutch Gable Roof – A Dutch gable roof is basically the opposite of the Clipped Gable roof. The bottom part of the triangle is replaced with a sloped roof and the top part of the flat triangle remains.


So, What Happened to Roof Overhangs?

Over the years there has been a reduction in, if not the outright disappearance of, home overhangs or eaves. If you notice along the front and rear of older homes that had a Gable roof style, there were overhangs that reached out up to two feed past the wall of a home. The extra width shielded windows from the sun and kept homes cooler in the summer. It also kept rain water from getting too near the home protecting the foundation from excess water.


On the ends of a home with a Gable roof style, the overhang is a called a rake. The rake helped protect the home from water and reduced the chance of getting wind driven rain behind a home’s veneer. That too has shrunk or has been outright eliminated. It many cases it has been replaced with a single board that acts as trim from the eave to the roof peak.

What does this mean for you? Eaves and rakes serve a purpose. While you can argue how much of an overhang you need, the actual removal of an overhang means water can have a better chance of gaining entry into the home causing damage or undermining the foundation over time. Observe homes in your area to see if you notice the difference in homes built 50 years ago versus more recently built homes.

Modular Roof Design

Modular home design is flexible. While many home designs still depend on the American favorite, the Open Gable roof, many modular home facilities in the northeastern U.S. can build and provide very elaborate roof designs. While capability can vary, the combination of offsite design complemented with some onsite completion can allow modular construction to provide very elaborate and detailed roof structures.

In this future blog post I’ll cover dormers and other items that can be added to a roof to not only accent the architectural style, but also allow in light, provide access, and create additional useful living space in a home. A roof is so much more than a structure that is there to just protect the home, it can make any house a home with the right design.

About the Author
Ken Semler

Ken Semler

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Hi, I am Ken Semler the founder of Impresa Modular. I am passionate about our company and the homes that we provide. Modern modular construction enables us to deliver healthy, safe, and energy-efficient living spaces. Impresa Modular is a licensed/registered/certified builder/contractor in almost every state. I believe that modular homes provide the best way to deliver virtually unlimited design flexibility at the greatest value.

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