Not all roof shapes are suited to everyone’s requirements. To understand which roof shape will work best for your specific requirements, we first have to understand what the different roof types look like. The two main and most well–known shapes are the “Gable to Gable” roof and the “Hip to Hip” roof. Most of the other roof shapes are combinations of these two.
Gable to gable roof
This is the simplest and most basic roof shape, which also makes it the most versatile. It is by far the best shape to use for exposed roof trusses, as there are no complicated truss systems with many visible hangers and nails. It is also the preferred roof shape for attic roofs, as it maximizes the attic space and creates the opportunity to have big windows in the gable-end walls. A simple gable roof has two sloped rectangular planes that form a peak when viewed from the side -- similar to the letter, "A" -- and a ridge that spans from one side of the house to the other.
Hip to hip roof
This roof shape is preferred by many, as they feel it brings a kind of elegance to the roof by breaking the monotonous ridge line of the gable roof. The complex nature of a hip to hip roof, unfortunately, means that exposed trusses do not go well with hips because of the complicated hip system of trusses with visible hangers, nails etc. in the hip area. Attic trusses also do not go well with hips because of the loss of attic space in the hip area. A standard hip roof has four sloping planes.
Louvre hip or Dutch hip
A Louvre Hip or Dutch Hip roof is very similar to that of a normal hip roof. The difference comes from a vertical plane that is introduced approximately two-thirds up the hip line, into the hip end. A triangular louvre, which aids with roof ventilation, is then installed in this opening. The Dutch hip roof is also called a hybrid because of the gable and hip roof combination.
This is a normal gable roof, but with the difference that the roof covering stops at the inside of the gable wall, and the gable wall is built up to about 500mm higher than the roof plane. This method was used in the 17th century for the Colonial Cape Dutch style houses. The gables were built up to secure the ridge beam and the end parts of the thatch. The top of the parapet was plastered round or tapered to make sure the water runs off the parapet and does not penetrate into the wall. Another good example of parapet walls is the Cape Dutch style gables.
The Barn Hip or Half Hip
The Barn hip is similar to the gable roof and can work well with attics or exposed roof trusses. The barn hip is primarily a gable, with a small hip area approximately one-third of the total height, in the top part.
This type of roof has two pitches – a lower pitch on the bottom part of the roof, and a steeper pitch on the top part of the roof. Typical pitches would be 17.5 degrees and 35 degrees. The Polynesian shape can be used for gable to gable or hip to hip roofs. The Polynesian hip construction is more complicated than the standard hip roof and therefore less economical.
The flat roof is frequently used on modern and mid-century style homes and can be a striking design if you like the modern look. Flat roofs have little pitch, although a minimum gradient of 3 - 5 degrees is required for water drainage depending on the roof covering material.
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