Roof Architecture – Don’t Let it Go ‘Over Your Head’

Real Estate Broker/Owner with MBA Broker Consultants CalBRE Broker #00983670

Photos at

By Regina P. Brown

More than  just a cover from the rain and insulation from the cold, roofs add aesthetic   value  to  the  character  of  a home.  They help define the home’s architectural   style  and  determine  its curb appeal.   A stylish roof can soften the   silhouette   and  add   charm.     An upscale  roof elevates the street  facade for the entire neighborhood.


We’re going to walk through the many types of roof architecture.   Although knowledge  of roof architecture  is not required  to  take  a  listing, knowledge of your  product  sets  you  above  your competitors.  When you understand all about  roofs, you can advise your sellers and educate your buyers.

Gable Roof

This basic roof type has 2 sloping  sides which meet  at the  top to form a peak (ridge).   It’s popular because  it is simple to build, offers ventilation on the ends, and the slopes sides protect  the house from water and snow.   The open  gable  has  no  ends, whereas  the box gable has end pieces. A stepped gable means  that  the  ends appear   as  stairs,  as  is  common   with New Mexico pueblo styles.


Winged Gable

This is a variation of the  gable  roof.   The only difference  is that  the  top  of each side (at the  peak) is  longer  than   the  bottom, creating more  protection over the  ends  of the house.    Each  side  is paragon-shaped rather than a rectangle  shaped.


Barn Roof

This roof is constructed using  4 pieces, 2 per  side.   It forms a peak at the  top, but  then  wraps down the  sides.   This allows more headroom in the  attic area.   Often called a “barn roof ”  because   it  is  typically  seen  on barns   because   they   do  not   require much attic ventilation.  Also known as a gambrel  roof (not to be confused  with a gable roof ).


Hip Roof

This  common   roof  type has  4  sides  that   begin  at  the  peak. The  2  longest  sides  meet  at  the  top to form a peak.  The style looks more sophisticated than  a gable  roof, but  it does not allow ventilation on the ends. The pyramid hip roof means  that  all 4 sides are the same size and shape.


Dutch Hip Roof

This type is a variation  of  the  hip  roof.    It  has  the same 4 sides, except that the end pieces each  have a gable  (small window).  In addition   to   creating   character,  the gables provide ventilation.


Round Hip Roof

This circle-shaped roof is found on round  buildings, such as Deltec homes.  Each piece  is a pie- shaped  wedge, which forms a round octagonal  pattern.    The corners  meet and peak in the middle to allow water drainage down all sides. This roof type is known for high resistance  to hurricane winds.  Also called a geometric  hip roof, 360° hip roof, and continuous hip roof.


Hip & Valley Roof

This style combines several hip roofs at various levels.   It creates  charm  and  character but  has  more  potential  for roof leaks, due to the many adjoining peaks, both upward and downward.


Mansard Roof

This French design is similar to a hip roof, in that it has 4 sides.  The difference is that each side has 2 pieces.  This creates less attic headroom as it wraps down each of the 4 sides, similar to a barn roof.

Flat Roof

This single-piece roof is completely flat.  It is the cheapest to build but offers minimal shielding from the elements.  Flat roofs are not recommended because they aren’t designed for drainage, and can cause roof water leaks.


Shed Roof

Similar to a flat roof, it is only one piece.  However, it’s installed on a sloped angle so the rain and snow drip off naturally.  A great option or “green” building, the opposite side of the house can accommodate large windows for natural sunlight.  Alternatively, 2 shed roofs can be installed on opposite sides of the house at different levels, allowing for large windows on the wall between both roofs.  Also known as a skillion roof, lean-to roof, or mono-pitched roof.


A-Frame Roof

This roof has 2 long sides which meet to form a peak at the top, similar to the gable roof.  However, the sides have a steeper slope and are much longer, often reaching down towards the bottom of the house in an upside-down V-shape.  This distinctive style is often seen on mountain cabins because it prevents snow buildup.

Saltbox Roof

Popular on the East Coast, it has 2 pieces similar to the gable roof, except that one side extends down much longer than the other side.  In the New England region, an addition was added onto one side of the house, and then the roof would be extended to cover the addition.  It soon became an architectural wonder.

Dormer Roof

This means it has a dormer window in the side of the roof.  Popular in East Coast and Midwest construction, where most houses have attics.



Pagoda Roof

Adapted from the Chinese and other Asian cultures, this style curves upwards at the corners.  Legends say it is for good luck because it repels evil spirits, but the design is actually very functional for columnconstructed homes.  While large overhangs deflect rain and sunlight, it allows the entry of fresh air and removal of smoke exhaust through the central roof column.  Also known as an upturned roof, it showcases distinctive artistic designs.


Butterfly Roof

This style, like the gable roof, also has 2 sides.  However, the sides meet in the middle going downwards, which is the reverse style of a gable roof.  The pro is that large windows can be installed on both sides of the house, capturing natural light.  The con is that water drains to the middle of the roof and is a potential source of roof leaks.



Curved Roof

This upside-down U-shaped roof is often used for metal sheds and barns, but is also seen on specialty construction homes.  This single-piece construction prevents roof leaks because there are no seams at the peak.  Variations include a partial U-shape that slopes more gently.


Curved Panel Roof

This is a series of curved roofs (see above) that span the distance of the building.  Most often seen on metal commercial buildings.



Folded Plate Roof

This accordionshaped style is generally seen on commercial buildings rather than residential.  Also known as an M-shaped roof.


Double Tier Roof

This refined styled has two eves, with a smaller roof on top of a larger roof.  The purpose is to allow for attic ventilation, especially on a round roof.  It also evokes aesthetic charm.



Pent Roof

This refers to a short overhang inserted into a wall.  It is not a true “roof” but helps to provide shade and water runoff.  It also adds an architectural element of character on a multi-story house.



Hybrid Roof

Many top tier homes boast roofs that combine several different styles.  This classy look radiates charm and curb appeal, especially when designed by a renowned architect.



Contemporary Styles

Modern, eclectic homes may have unique contemporary roofs.  Examples include parasol roof, warped roof, or free-form roof.



Residential roofs in California are most often constructed from composition asphalt shingles (“comp”).  Red clay or concrete tiles are popular on Spanish style homes.  Fiber cement, a heavyduty roof, is known to be fire proof.  Less effective roofs include wood shingles/shakes (flame-retardant), tar/rolled (hot mopped onto flat roof), rock/gravel (usually on top of tar) and metal (aluminum or steel).


As you are learning about roofs, you will also begin learning the various components, such as trusses / rafters, ventilation, flashing, insulation, gutters, drain spouts, fascia (under eaves), sheathing, and attic access.


When we take a listing and enter it into the MLS, we need to identify the type of roof on the house.  Is it composition shingle, clay tile, or metal?  Hopefully you remembered to “look up” when you were at the property meeting with the sellers!  If not, look at the photos you took from the street view.  You may surprise yourself by also recognizing the roof’s architectural style.


Article as published in The San Diego Realtor® magazine, pages 20-21


Read more in our "Learn the Lingo" series:

1) Backyard & Outdoor Structures: Learn the Lingo
2) View From the Windows: Learn the Lingo
3) Architectural Styles: Learn the Lingo - Part 1
4) Architectural Styles: Learn the Lingo - Part 2
5) Learn the Lingo: Luxury Bathrooms
6) Learn the Lingo: Fences & Gates
7) Learn the Lingo: Vintage Features of Historic Homes
8) The Kitchen: The Heart of the Home Can Be Gourmet
9) The Gourmet Kitchen: Everything and the Kitchen Sink
10) Open the Door of Possibilities (Exterior Doors)
11) The Difference a Good Door Makes (Interior Doors)
12) Tiles
13) Sustainable and Eco-Conscious Home Features (Part 1)
14) Sustainable and Eco-Conscious Home Features (Part 2)
15) Sustainable and Eco-Conscious Home Features (Part 3)
16) Roof Architecture – Don’t Let it Go ‘Over Your Head’
17) Let There Be Light Fixtures ... And There Are Many!
18) A Discussion of Ceilings Will Have You Looking Up
19) Fireplaces: Literally the Hearth of the Home
20) Learn the Lingo of Walls
21) Apply Your Knowledge to Major Appliances
22) Don't Be Floored By this Topic: It's Right Under Your Feet
23) HVAC / Mechanical Lingo
24) Rural Properties - A Sustainable Life "Off the Grid"
25) Land Usage, and Showing & Selling Rural Properties
26) The Dramatic Effect of Stairs and Staircases - A Flight of Fancy?
27) Electrical Components - Get Wired for Understanding
28) Learn the Lingo: Plumbing Fixtures (Part 1 of 2)
29) Learn the Lingo: Plumbing Fixtures (Part 2 of 2)
30) Swimming Pool and Spa Lingo


Posted by

Regina P. Brown
Broker, Realtor®, M.B.A., e-Pro, GREEN
California DRE # 00983670


Text copyright © 2011-2018 R.P. Brown, All Rights Reserved

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Comments (7)

Winston Heverly
Winston Realty, Inc. - Atlantis, FL

Regina,  a nice read by which your blogs have been an asset to all of us active Rainers.

Dec 27, 2014 11:34 AM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

Regina - thanks for this informative post on roofs.  I thought there were only a couple of types.. I had no idea there were so many.

Dec 27, 2014 11:41 AM
Regina P. Brown
MBA Broker Consultants - Carlsbad, CA
M.B.A., Broker, Instructor

Thank you Winston Heverly for your kind words.  I'm glad you like it.  Wishing you the best of 2015! :)

Dec 27, 2014 11:44 AM
Regina P. Brown
MBA Broker Consultants - Carlsbad, CA
M.B.A., Broker, Instructor

Joan Whitebook yes, that's right.  It would be nice to share these roof architectural types with our buyers and sellers.

Dec 27, 2014 12:00 PM
John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Regina - Thanks for the very valuable information on the variety roof designs and construction.

Dec 28, 2014 01:52 AM
Michael Dagner
Brokers Guild Classic - Denver, CO
Your Denver Homes Realty Expert

Regina, so many roof styles and too little memory space.  Will have to bookmark this for future reference.

Dec 28, 2014 04:22 AM
Regina P. Brown
MBA Broker Consultants - Carlsbad, CA
M.B.A., Broker, Instructor

John, I hope you serve a geographic area where you get to see a variety of roof architecture.  It's fun to see which styles you can identify!

Michael, yes you're right!  Check out our pinterest page for more great terms with color examples, and look for our upcoming NEW edition of "Learn the Lingo" to be released January 1st.

Dec 30, 2014 07:41 AM