Dormers can be a great way to expand the living space as well as increase the value of your home when renovating. Dormers are a great addition to any house but especially homes with living space under a roofline like a cape home, or the attic space of an American Four Square or a bungalow.
What Is A Dormer?
A dormer is a structure that extends vertically from the roofline of a home. It houses a window or windows and is roofed with any number of roof styles.
The purpose of the dormer can vary. It is most often used to raise the head room and increase usable floor space in a house like a cape style home. Many cape renovations involve adding a ¾ or full extended dormer on the back of the house.
But the usefulness of dormers extends past adding living space. Dormers can bring natural light into an otherwise dark area. Often dormers are added in attics to allow for natural light and ventilation.
A dormer can also increase the curb appeal of a home. They are a pleasing addition to many home designs. And, they can add architectural interest to a bland home.
Where Does The Term Dormers Come From?
The term dormer comes from the Latin word dormitorium. And if it reminds you of the word dormitory it should. The Latin meaning is “sleeping rooms”
Dormers were often added to the attics of many homes to house the staff that made the house run. Dormers were added to provide natural light and ventilation to the staff’s sleeping quarters.
Common Types of Dormers
Doghouse or Gabled Dormer
The Gable dormer is the most popular dormer. They feature a peaked roof and because of its similarity to a doghouse, it also goes by the same name. Architecturally the gabled dormer fits with many different style homes, whether it is a Victorian, bungalow, cape or a colonial.
A shed dormer is identified by its flat pitched roof. It is the least expensive dormer to install. It works well on capes, colonials and bungalows.
With a hip roof dormer, the sides slant back as the front rises. Often you will see a hipped roof dormer with a home that has a hip roof. Very commonly seen on the hip roof of an American four square, but will go well with a bungalow any other home with a hip roof.
Identified by its curved roof that blends into the rest of the roof, it literally looks like an eyebrow. Not as common as the gable, shed or hip dormer it can be found on modern beach houses and garage conversions.
Similar to a gable dormer except it is topped with an arch rather than a pitched roof. Often found on Victorian or French homes.
The Full or ¾ Dormer
A common remodel project for a cape-style home or a home where an attic is being converted to living space is to add a full or ¾ dormer.
In the home below you can see the roof on the back part of the roof has been lifted to create a full shed dormer. This can significantly increase the space of the second floor, giving headroom to a large area that would go unused.
Similar to the full dormer is the ¾ dormer. The difference being the dormer only runs about 3/4s of the length of the house. Leaving small areas of the original pitched roof on each end.
It is quite common to see a full or ¾ dormer on a cape style home. And is a perfect addition when you cannot or don’t want to add to the footprint of a home.
What Does It Cost to Add A Dormer?
Costs to add a dormer can vary greatly depending on the size, style and where you are in the country. A simple shed dormer with a window could be as little as $6,000 to $10,000. A dormer to house a bathroom could run about $25,000 to $40,000.
A full dormer on an average-sized cape could run $100,000 or more.
Don’t forget that on top of the cost of a dormer you will have the cost of any interior improvements as well.
If you are considering adding a dormer it is best to call a local contractor to give you a quote.
Adding a dormer to your home can certainly increase a home's value. It can add much-needed living space, provide natural light and ventilation to an attic remodel or spice up the front of a plain home.
They are particularly useful in attic spaces and should definitely be considered during a remodel.