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How to Choose the Best Roof Type for Your Home

Written by Carol J Alexander

Published on December 8, 2023


How to Choose the Best Roof Type for Your Home

Learning common roof types helps you make design decisions for a new home. And it enables you to choose the best roofing materials when installing a new roof.

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Whether you're building a new home or addition or getting a new roof on your current home, it helps to recognize the most common roof types and how they impact your decisions. You want the right roof design to complement your home's architecture. Or, when installing a new roof, you need to choose roofing materials and colors that pair well with the home's style.

Understanding how roof designs and styles work together with the various material options can mean the difference between jaw-dropping curb appeal and one neighbors shake their heads at.

Here, we look at the nine most common roof types, their pros and cons, costs, and the best materials.

Pro Tip

Most roofing materials are suitable for all roof types. From roof shingles to metal roofing to slate tiles, they all work on different types of roofs. To test other roofing options on your home, use a designer visualizer tool on any shingle manufacturer's website.

Hire a professional roofing company to install your new roof

Every roof shape is different. Each one has its own characteristics, advantages, and best materials. Some are more costly to build than others. Here, we discuss each roof style in depth so you can learn the best for your home or addition.

For more information on the best roof materials to install, check out this video.

Gable roof 

Pros and Cons of a Gable Roof

  • + Cost-effective and low-maintenance
  • + Easy to build
  • + Provides additional space
  • + Easy to ventilate
  • + Have plenty of surface to install solar panels
  • + Shed rain and snow better than flat or low-slope roofs
  • + Requires fewer gutters
  • - Can be more prone to wind damage
  • - Not as aesthetically pleasing as other roof designs

The average cost to frame an open gable roof is $9 to $19 per square foot.

A gable or pitched roof is the most common type used in residential construction. A basic gable roof consists of two flat sloping sides that extend from a peak at the top. The gable is the triangular section of the wall that fills the roof's peak. There are many different configurations of gable roofs. A gable roof complements any architectural design, from the basic, open gable to the box gable to the more elaborate Dutch gable. 

As for function, gable roofs shed water effectively using slopes, ridges, and valleys. "The water is directed off the roof and into the gutter system, providing effective drainage away from your home," says Mike O'Brien, owner of Custom Exteriors, LLC in Colorado.

Also, gable roofs afford homeowners more attic storage or additional living space than other roof designs. They're cheaper to frame, cover, and ventilate and require fewer gutters.

However, gable roofs can be more prone to wind damage depending on the roof's orientation and if not installed properly. Therefore, homes in areas with high-force winds perform better with other roof styles.

Materials you can use on a gable roof

Except for materials used exclusively on flat roofs, any roofing material is suitable for a gable roof. "We've seen metal, synthetic shingles, wood shakes, and many others," says O'Brien. However, he adds that asphalt shingles are the most common.

Some roofing materials, like slate, are extremely heavy and require a reinforced roof structure to support the weight.

Also, installing asphalt shingles on gable roofs with an extremely steep slope, like an 18:12 pitch A-frame, may require hand-sealing. This process involves adding sealant to the shingles and not relying solely on the manufacturer's adhesive strip. This practice prevents gravity from pulling and possibly tearing the shingle when exposed to the hot sun.

Hip roof

Pros and Cons of a Hip Roof

  • + Elevated curb appeal
  • + Increased structural integrity
  • + Highlights the roof material
  • + Sheds rain and snow effectively
  • + Provides additional space for storage
  • - Requires more roofing material
  • - Requires more gutters
  • - Increased leak potential
  • - More challenging to ventilate

The average cost to frame a hip roof is $12 to $24 per square foot.

Often contrasted with gable roofs, a hip roof has four planes that meet at a point, like a pyramid. A gable roof has only two planes.

A hip roof is stronger and more aerodynamic than a gable roof, making it suitable for regions prone to extreme weather conditions that produce high-force winds, rain, ice, and snow. According to O'Brien, a hip roof provides additional interior space, particularly when paired with a dormer. "It's a great design for both curb appeal and function," he says. However, it does have a few drawbacks.

First, framing a hip roof is more complex and costly. Because it has four roof decks to cover, it requires more material, making future roof replacements more expensive. Also, the hips of a hip roof are joints in the roof decking. If improperly covered, they provide a place for leak potential. A final drawback to a hip roof is that they're more challenging to ventilate. 

Materials you can use on a hip roof 

Slate roofing on a hip roof looks stunning. But, any roofing material, from metal to asphalt shingles, is appropriate for a hip roof. O'Brien says that asphalt shingles are cost-effective and do a great job protecting the home while blending well with this architectural style. 

Dutch gable roof

Pros and Cons of a Dutch Roof

  • + Increased attic space
  • + Improved ventilation
  • + More natural light
  • + Provides the benefits of two roof types
  • - More complicated and costly to build
  • - Increased maintenance
  • - Increased potential for leaks

The average cost to frame a Dutch roof is $12 to $24 per square foot.

A Dutch gable blends the open gable and hip roof designs into a stunning aesthetic resembling an open gable with a skirt. Like the gable roof, the Dutch gable offers a spacious attic. Like the hip roof, it is structurally solid, making it ideal for regions with a lot of rain, snow, or wind.

Of course, the complexity of this design drives up the cost when it covers the entire home. However, to keep costs lower and enjoy the impressive roofline, you can limit the Dutch gable to an addition or the dormers.

Materials you can use on a Dutch roof

Technically, any roof material can cover a Dutch roof. But to keep with the traditional colonial style from which the Dutch gable comes, choose cedar shakes or tile for your roof.

Jerkinhead roof

Pros and Cons of a Jerkinhead Roof

  • + Unique design with historic appeal
  • + Stronger than open gable
  • + Less potential for leaks than in a hip roof
  • + Provides plenty of attic space
  • - More expensive than an open gable
  • - More complicated to build

The average cost to frame a jerkinhead roof is $12 to $24 per square foot.

A jerkinhead roof, also called bullnose or clipped gable, is another gable/hip combination. It achieves this hybrid by including the cut appearance of small hips at the peak of each gable. The result is a trapezoidal roofline that provides just as much attic space as an open gable.

In addition to providing strength to the roof, this small hip is a place to showcase high-end roofing material and give your home an Old-World design statement. However, while the jerkinhead offers more protection from wind than a standard open gable, it's more complicated and expensive to build

Materials you can use on a jerkinhead roof

Any material used on a gable or hip roof is appropriate for a jerkinhead. Consider asphalt or composite shingles, wood shakes, metal, or slate.

Gambrel roof

Pros and Cons of a Gambrel Roof

  • + Easy to frame
  • + Affordable
  • + Adds extensive attic space
  • + Dormers add natural light
  • - Not suitable for high winds or heavy snow
  • - Challenging to ventilate

The average cost to frame a gambrel roof is $11 to $22 per square foot.

Most people associate gambrel roofs with barns, as that is where you see them most. Typical of Dutch colonial architecture, the gambrel is another modification of the gable roof. The difference is that the two planes change slope partway down the side to create an angle. 

Because the lower slopes of the gambrel roof are steeper, this style provides more interior room for an ample attic or second story. Adding dormers enhances curb appeal and natural light into the space. Since the gambrel only has two sides, it's relatively easy and affordable to frame.

On the downside, the gambrel roof is less suited to areas of high winds and heavy snow. Without dormers, it's more challenging to ventilate your roof.

Materials you can use on a gambrel roof

Because the lower slopes of the roof are excessively steep, you want to choose roofing material with an aesthetic that complements your home's design and has an elevated curb appeal. While any material is suitable, most homeowners choose wood shakes for their gambrel roof.

Mansard roof

Pros and Cons of a Mansard Roof

  • + Adds additional living space
  • + More natural light
  • + Increase curb appeal
  • + Higher cost to build and replace
  • - Not as weather-resistant
  • - Tricky to install and align shingles

The average cost to frame a mansard roof is $14 to $32 per square foot.

Seventeenth-century French architect Francois Mansart popularized the mansard roof design. Also known as a Curb or French roof, it combines the gambrel and hip design that's both elegant and functional. A mansard roof features four sides with two different slopes. The bottom slope is almost vertical, allowing more habitable space than the standard gable roof, and the addition of dormer windows provides an abundance of natural light.

Aesthetically, the near-vertical lower slopes show off the roofing materials. So, choosing a material that complements the home and neighborhood is paramount. Historically, French mansard roofs are covered in metal.

On the downside, mansard roofs are unsuitable in areas with high snow and rain volumes. Their complex design and intricate details make these roofs expensive to build and difficult to replace, especially if covered with shingles, which require perfect alignment. 

Materials you can use on a mansard roof

Traditional American mansard roofs were covered with slate tiles. But technically, any roof covering is suitable. However, lightweight roofing materials, like metal, synthetic slate, or wood shakes, are preferred because of the almost vertical slope. 

Saltbox roof 

Pros and Cons of a Saltbox Roof

  • + Unique design
  • + Excellent drainage
  • + Ideal for climates with snow
  • - Reduced interior space

The average cost to frame a saltbox roof is $12 to $24 per square foot.

Practically an open gable design, the saltbox differs by having one side of the roof steeper and longer than the other, giving the roof an asymmetrical design. Saltbox roofs are popular in the northeast because they withstand heavy snow and rain. Although they do provide extra space for storage or a loft, it's less than a standard gable roof.

Conversely, a saltbox can shorten wall heights, depending on the home's overall design. Though it's practically a gable roof, it's more complicated to build and can cost more.

Materials you can use on a saltbox roof

Any roof material suits a saltbox roof. But wood shingles bring out the rustic vibe the style demands. Other considerations are architectural shingles or slate.

Skillion roof 

Pros and Cons of a Skillion Roof

  • + Modern aesthetic
  • + Inexpensive
  • + Easy to construct
  • + Solar compatible
  • - Not suitable for high-force winds
  • - No inside space for storage
  • - Special drainage requirements

The average cost to frame a skillion roof is $5 to $12 per square foot.

A popular style for the mid-century modern home, the skillion roof resembles a low-slope gable roof split in half and shifted off-center. It's easy to build and affordable, particularly for home additions. The skillion, or shed roof, pairs well with other home styles and, at the correct orientation, creates an ideal platform for installing solar panels or skylights.

Since water drains in one direction from a skillion, drainage can be an issue. Ensure your gutter system can handle the amount of runoff on the skillion roof. Also, a skillion's lack of aerodynamics makes it unsuitable for areas prone to high-force winds.

Materials you can use on a skillion roof

Any roofing material is suitable for a skillion roof. Still, metal panels will give it the desired modern look and serve as channels to facilitate drainage.

Flat roof 

Pros and Cons of a Flat Roof

  • + Mid-mod design aesthetic
  • + Provide rooftop space for various uses
  • + Easier to add a second story
  • - More prone to leaks than other roof styles
  • - Requires more maintenance
  • - Cannot handle heavy snow load

The average cost to frame a flat roof is $5 to $12 per square foot.

Though more prevalent in commercial construction, flat roofs are a design element found mainly in Southwest Adobe style and mid-century modern homes. Flat is a misnomer, though, as the roof's plane is very low-sloped to allow for drainage. "Flat roofs have a different approach to water shedding, utilizing roof drains and specialty materials designed strictly for their flat surface," says O'Brien. 

Flat roofs have several advantages. They make adding a second story easier, should the need arise. They provide space for entertaining or relaxing with a rooftop patio, and they are perfect for creating a green roof, complete with honeybees and growing things. However, flat roofs do have some drawbacks. 

"Flat roofs certainly have a much higher propensity to water leaking, even with proper installation," says O'Brien. Therefore, routine maintenance and inspections are essential. Flat roof repair and replacement costs are also relatively high, and these types of roofs are unsuitable for areas of the country with a lot of snow.

Materials you can use on a flat roof

The materials used on flat roofs are in a class of their own and not used on sloped roofs. Residential flat roofs are typically covered in built-up tar (BUR), modified bitumen, polyethylene spray foam, or metal panels.   

How to care for your roof

No matter which type of roof your home has, routine maintenance and cleaning keep it looking its best and lasting decades. While some roofing materials may require special treatment, like never walking on your clay tile roof, roof care is the same, no matter your material or design.

To find out what maintenance your specific roof needs, read "A Homeowner's Comprehensive Guide to Routine Roof Maintenance." 

To learn how to clean your roof, read "Roof Cleaning: Is It Necessary? How To Do It And How Much It Costs."

Which roof type is right for you?

When choosing a roofing system for your new roof installation, it helps to know what type of roof you have. But if you plan to build a new house, learning the advantages and disadvantages of each roof style enables you to come to a final decision.

Remember, if you want a traditional colonial or provincial style, the gambrel, mansard, or jerkinhead roof brings the Old-world style you desire.

However, for more modern architecture, the flat, skillion, or saltbox style provides the clean lines and mid-century vibe you look for.

Regardless of your preferred architectural style, consult an architect or design-builder about the best roof design for your neighborhood, the house, and your budget.

How to pay for your new roof

Whether replacing an existing roof or changing the roofline to your home entirely, the job will cost a hefty sum and can be a hardship if you don't have the cash to pay for it. Fortunately, financing options exist for homeowners who need help paying for a new roof

First, ask your roofing or building contractor if they offer financing. If they don’t, ask a lender about opening a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or another home equity loan. You'll need a cost estimate from the contractor, proof of income, and other financial information to share with the lender to qualify you for the loan.

Find a reputable roofing company near you

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is the most common roof type?

The most common type of roof is the gable roof. Its simple design and affordable cost make it the roof of choice for most homes.

How much does a new roof cost?

The cost of a new roof depends on several factors. The significant factors are the roof size, design, complexity, the number of penetrations in the roof deck, and the materials. All taken into account, the cost of the average residential roof is $24,654

How long does it take to install a new roof?

Typically, it takes about one to three days to complete a roofing installation, depending on the size, materials, and any repairs that must be made. 

What is the most expensive roof style?

The most costly roof style is the most complex one. The more hips, valleys, and planes a roof has, the more expensive it is to frame and cover. Also, the cost of roofing materials varies widely. Asphalt shingles are the most affordable roofing material, while slate, clay tiles, and some metals are the most expensive.

Can I change the pitch of my roof?

A wise contractor once said, "You can do anything; you just have to pay for it." Seriously, if you want to take off the top of your house and add a new roof style, pitch, or design, find an architect and engineer to help you plan the project.

Written by

Carol J Alexander Content Specialist and Subject Matter Expert

Carol J Alexander is a home remodeling industry expert for Fixr.com. For more than 15 years as a journalist and content marketer, her in-depth research, interviewing skills, and technical insight have ensured she provides the most accurate and current information on a given topic. Before joining the Fixr team, her personal clients included leaders in the building materials market like Behr Paint Company, CertainTeed, and Chicago Faucet, and national publications like This Old House and Real Homes.